Mr Orbán was fiercely attacked for the motives behind his remark. I do not know enough about Hungarian politics to say whether such attacks are justified. But, regardless of the precise facts about Mr Orbán, I would guess most people in western – let alone eastern – Europe would quietly agree with his general proposition. One of the biggest anxieties about the current immigration is its high Muslim element. Is it wrong to have such an anxiety, let alone to express it publicly, let alone to want to have a system of immigration based on it?
I tried, in the [last 25],years, to learn more about Islam. [...] ,As editor of this paper, I commissioned, at the end of the 20th century, a special supplement about Islam, friendly in tone, designed to help readers learn more about it. I still think it was a worthwhile thing to do.,
But in my dealings with British Muslim leaders and representatives for this work, and in other contacts at this time, I became uneasy. There were several unattractive things I noticed. One was the exclusion of women from any role in governance, thought or worship. Another was an absolutism about the Israel-Palestine issue which involved, in many cases, an unmistakable hostility to Jews. A third was an assumption that something that was considered bad – blasphemy, immodesty, homosexuality, mixed bathing – should be banned. The idea that one could disapprove of something, and yet believe that it should be permitted, seemed barely to exist.
Finally, there was an unsettling attitude about politics, law and power. It seemed to me that most Muslim leaders saw their role not in integrating Muslims in Britain, but in asserting difference and increasing their muscle. Many,favoured sharia law trumping British law. They would not support Muslim membership of the Armed Forces if those forces were deployed against Muslim countries. They wanted it to be illegal to attack Islam, let alone denigrate its prophet; and they waged constant “lawfare” to try to silence their critics. They tended, I thought, to see the advance of their cause as a zero-sum game in which the authorities had to cede more ground (sometimes it is literally a matter of territory) to Muslims.
Then came September 11 2001. In the name of Allah, more than 2,000 people were murdered in New York and Washington.,
Then came, in 2005, “7/7”, which destroyed the myth that no British-born Muslims would harm their fellow-countrymen. Since then, we have had, among many other things, the savage killing of Drummer Lee Rigby. Today, we have the recruitment of some young British Muslims to an,entity which calls itself Islamic State.
That name itself is the fiercest, most raw expression of the problem which was already bothering me. We would not, in modern times, want to live in a country called “Christian State”, and few Christians would suggest it. Most Muslims, luckily, do not admire the bloodthirsty regime trying to plant its flag in the most troubled corners of the Middle East, but significant numbers do see a faith-run, faith-defined state as the ultimate goal in this life. They therefore do not believe in secular law, freedom, pluralism or, except in limited form, the rights of unbelievers.
So the sad fact is that nothing in the past quarter-century has undermined the basic argument – as opposed to my tasteless expression of it – which I put forward then. Indeed, the opposite.
It would obviously be wrong, both morally and factually, to say that Muslims are worse than anyone else. It would be wrong not to acknowledge the contribution most of them make to our society. But it would also be wrong to deny that, in current conditions, a large Muslim community in a non-Muslim country produces more political disturbance, more communal tension, more intolerance of other faiths (and of non-faiths) and more terrorism. Few non-Muslims want to live near a mosque, see women veiling their faces or have Muslim practices introduced into state schools. Few non-Muslims want lots more Muslim immigrants.
Should a British political leader say this and enact laws on such a basis? Actually, I think not – not in such sweeping terms. If he did, individuals would be unfairly treated, and our nastier fellow-citizens would feel emboldened to persecute and try to drive out Muslims already here. But there are policy ways of addressing the problem – better “civics” in schools, more vigilance about what Islamic charities do, stronger loyalty tests for those arriving, much more study of what is said in mosques and who pays for them, policies which recognise that a Muslim state-funded school or a student Islamic society is, in reality, a much more dangerous proposition than a Christian or Jewish one. David Cameron is thinking in this way when he emphasises the role of non-violent, as well as violent extremism, in poisoning minds.
An assimilated Muslim is not a contradiction in terms, but neither is he or she the norm in Britain today. With the Muslim world in ferment and on the move, the risks grow daily.
I disagree. An assimilated Muslim is a contradiction in terms, which is why he or she is not the norm in Britain today, or in any other non-Muslim country at any time.