Imam Livingstone, I Presume?

Hal G.P. Colebatch, American Spectator, September 22, 2006

When the British ruled India they set up well-policed areas in major cities known as Cantonments. Originally temporary encampments, by the beginning of the 20th century they had become permanent garrison bases.

In the London Spectator British journalist Charles Moore remarked recently: “It would be a grim revenge for the Raj if an Islamic cantonment were permitted to set up in our capital.”

The Islamic movement Tablighi Jamaat (proselytizing group) wants to build a mosque in East London for up to 10,000 people as part of an “Islamic Village” in time for the London Olympics of 2012, near the official Olympic stadium at West Ham. Tablighi Jamaat is secretive and publishes little about itself, but it is on the fundamentalist side of the Islamic spectrum and has links with Wahabism. It is based in Pakistan, where for a Muslim to convert to Christianity is a capital offense.

It is planned the Mosque and surrounding buildings will ultimately accommodate 70,000 visitors. What happens after the Olympics is another matter, but what seems on the cards is a permanent Muslim city in the heart of London—which already has large Muslim areas and a complex of mosques in the Finsbury Park area.

Britain as a whole is already well-supplied with mosques. There were a few in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the 1980s there were about 150 and by 1996 there were 613. Now there are well over a thousand, many of them converted Anglican churches. The Muslim website “British Muslim Heritage” says: “London probably has more mosques than any other city in the Western World, save Turkey … the modern Muslim Londoner is spoilt for choice with regard to mosques.” There are dozens in contiguous areas like Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

Tablight Jamaat’s spokesmen have claimed it is a moderate organization. However, it has been accused by the FBI of being a recruiting ground for al Qaeda, and two of the London tube bombers, including the leader, Mohammed Sidque Khan, are believed to have attended mosques run by it. French intelligence is reported by Le Monde to have described it as an “antechamber of fundamentalism.”

LONDON’S FAR-LEFT MAYOR KEN LIVINGSTONE says he is “very much in favor” of the scheme. It is fair to say that Livingstone’s entire career has been concerned with culture-war against British institutions and identity. Even Tony Blair, whose record on these matters is pretty bad, was desperately against Livingstone gaining political power in London.

Livingstone’s background is relevant here for other reasons as well. He has called Ariel Sharon a war criminal, told a BBC interviewer that it was “wrong to brand a British Muslim boy a terrorist if he got involved in Palestinian violence against Israel” and claimed that the “Jewish boys in Britain” had contributed to the “slaughter” of Palestinians. He was temporarily suspended from office for having taunted a Jewish journalist about Nazism.

When asked if there was a possibility he himself had Jewish blood, Livingstone replied: “I could be a self-hater, couldn’t I?”—which looks like a boast that he hates Jews. Where Rome’s mayor Walter Veltroni (who began as a communist) led 10,000 Italians in a torchlight protest outside the Iranian Embassy in Rome after Iranian President Ahmadinejad called for the annihilation of Israel, Livingstone did nothing.

When Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yousuf Al-Qaradawi—who has vilified Jews, claimed there are no civilians in Israel and reportedly said of the London tube bombings: “I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God’s justice”—visited London, Livingstone (against the advice of moderate Muslim leaders) received him as a personal guest, stating: “Here is the force that we need to engage with if we are to actually get a dialogue.” When the black chairman of the British Commission for racial equality, Trevor Phillips, said he was concerned about the failures of multiculturalism, Livingstone jeered that he expected Phillips soon to join the racist British National Party.

To round out one’s picture of the man and what he wants for the future of Britain and its identity and culture, Livingstone has called for the removal of two statues of 19th century military heroes, Sir Henry Havelock and Sir Charles Napier, from Trafalgar Square, allegedly because no one knows who they are. (Napier should be known to feminists at least. In India he put an end to suttee. Told that burning widows was a “traditional custom,” Napier responded: “We also have a custom: when men burn women alive, we hang them.”) Livingstone has told schoolchildren that President George Bush is “everything repellent in politics…venal…corrupt” and expressed sympathy for the IRA.

Hence, Livingstone’s support for the mosque-complex project may be seen as a significant to the culture-war against the fabric and structure of Britain’s and the Anglosphere’s traditions, values and history.

THE MOSQUE IS INTENDED TO BE A NEW “Islamic Landmark” in Britain. Comparable in size to Saint Paul’s Cathedral, it will dominate a great area of the London skyline and be massively illuminated at night. One way of putting this in perspective is to ask what the chances are of establishing a cathedral or synagogue with accommodation around for 70,000 Christians or Jews in Saudi Arabia. The first major London mosque was built in 1944 with a grant from the British Government in return for an Anglican cathedral being built in Cairo, where there was then a British Army. Would that happen in any Muslim country now?

It matters much in one sense whether the builders of this new “cantonment” have extremist associations or not, though one need not be too paranoid to imagine that it could create a vast haven and training area for extremists and no-go areas for everyone else including police (plans to give police powers to close mosques used by extremists were quietly dropped by the impotent Home Office last December). More importantly it would be a huge step further in incorporating part of the historic heart of Britain into the House of Islam, a process which according to Muslim teaching is irreversible.

According to the Daily Mail of August 7, almost a quarter of British Muslims—370,000 of 1.6 million—believe the 7/7 the London bombings were justified because of British support for the war on terror. This is almost double a previous figure of 13%. A third of Muslims said they disapproved of the freedoms allowed in Britain and would rather live under Sharia Law, and 45% believed the Jews were behind 9/11.

Following Pope Benedict’s controversial lecture the website Little Green Footballs published pictures of Muslims outside Westminster Cathedral (London’s Catholic cathedral) waving placards including “Islam Will Conquer Rome,” and “May Allah Curse the Pope” and chanting: “Pope Benedict you will pay, the Mujahadeen are coming your way.”

On the fifth anniversary of 9/11 the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain—which the government recognizes as the leading voice of British Muslims—Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, claimed that if “demonization” of Muslims continued, “then Britain will have to deal with two million [sic] Muslim terrorists, 700,000 of them in London.”


I have written previously on British moderate Muslims who have warned that Britain faces further Muslim extremism unless its government meets Muslim demands in domestic and foreign policy, including, according to some, instituting Sharia Law.

In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard said on talk-back radio recently that Muslim migrants needed to conform to Australian values by learning English and treating women with respect.

Anyone who has not been following recent developments would think such comments unexceptional. However, some Muslim community leaders are reported to be “infuriated.” The head of the government’s new Muslim advisory committee, Dr. Ameer Ali, warned of trouble unless the Prime Minister backed down, claiming: “When you antagonize the younger generation, younger group, they are bound to react.”

Howard replied: “There’s a small section of the Islamic population which is unwilling to integrate, and I have said, generally, all migrants have to integrate, and that means speaking English as quickly as possible, it means embracing Australian values and it also means making sure that no matter what the culture of the country from which they come might have been, Australia requires women to be treated fairly and equally and in the same fashion as men.

“And if any migrants that come into this country have a different view, they better get rid of that view very quickly.”

The Prime Minister was basically repeating views he had expressed several times earlier, particularly after serious riots and fighting between Australians and Lebanese Muslims in Cronulla near Sydney a few months ago after a series of racially-motivated rapes and other attacks on Australian women: “There is within some sections of the Islamic community an attitude towards women which is out of line with mainstream Australian society. It needs to be dealt with by the broader community, including Islamic Australia. There is really not much point in pretending it doesn’t exist.”

Former Federal Treasury Secretary and Senator John Stone has written: “We have seen, among many other such developments, the revelations over the gang-raping of ‘white Aussie sluts’ by young Muslim men of Pakistani origin; the increasing Muslim lawlessness in south-western Sydney; and the concerted raids on some eastern suburbs by car-load convoys of young Muslim men ‘responding,’ so they said, to the Cronulla riot of December 11, 2005. Incidentally, while I do not condone that riot, it is worth remembering that it was clearly provoked by the mounting anger over the behavior of similar young Muslim men at Cronulla and other beaches for some years previously.”

The Islamic Council of NSW spokesman said of Howard’s earlier statement: “Within any pluralist society such obscene voices exist. Within Australia we have seen Captain Francis De Groot and the New Guard, then the League of Rights and the Australian Nationalists Party and more recently the rise and fall of Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party.”

This is undoubtedly true. However, compared to the serious concerns aroused by the Cronulla riots—the first of their kind in modern Australia—and other matters, this is invoking straw men. Australia has about 300,000 Muslims, or about 1.5% of the population. Only 1% of these need be attracted to extremism to mean big trouble. (According to the British Daily Mail of August, 7, almost a quarter of Britain’s Muslims—370,000 of 1.6 million—believe the 7/7 London bombings were justified because of British support for the War on Terror. Another poll indicated more than 80% consider themselves Muslims rather than British.)

By comparison to the potentials here, the League of Rights and the Australian Nationalist Party are unpleasant but politically insignificant groupsicles. The League of Rights is unlikely to long survive the recent demise of its founder, Eric Butler. It mainly gives out cranky pamphlets about Fabianism. The One Nation Party, whose concerns combined immigration restriction, high protectionism and agrarian socialism, is also on its last legs. Its founder and former leader, Pauline Hanson, was previously the proprietress of a fish-and-chip shop who got into Federal Parliament by a fluke. Despite press hysteria it was never a significant political force and quickly imploded. Neither the League of Rights nor One Nation have used or advocated violence (though One Nation was the victim of repeated leftist disruptions of its meetings).

What of the New Guard and Captain De Groot? Here it is necessary to know a little Australian history. The New Guard was a group planning to fight any communist takeover of Australia in the 1920s and 1930s. However, there was never any occasion for it to actually do anything as Australia remained a peaceful parliamentary democracy. Captain de Groot was its one member who achieved a modest place in Australian popular history.

In the 1930s the Premier (that is, the political head) of the State of New South Wales was Jack Lang, a populist of fiery rhetoric who wished to repudiate the state’s international debt.

He was opposed by many people, including those who feared that repudiation would make future borrowing impossible. Lang was eventually dismissed by the state governor (the Queen’s representative in the Australian system), who called an election after the federal government cut off funds to New South Wales and the state could no longer function. In typical Australian fashion, despite some feverish rhetoric, there was no bloodshed. Lang went peacefully, and lived to a great age, somewhat mellowed and regarded as an icon of Australian rambunctiousness—a sincere if mistaken patriot.

De Groot was an ex-soldier of Irish birth who, mounted on a horse and wearing an old army uniform, mingled with the honor guard at the opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge on March 19, 1932. Just before Lang, as premier, was due to cut the ceremonial ribbon, De Groot galloped up, and cutting the ribbon with his sword, said: “I declare this bridge open in the name of the decent and respectable people of New South Wales!” Lang was infuriated. Other people laughed.

De Groot was a friend of Australia’s first Jewish governor-general, Sir Isaac Isaacs, for whom he made a ceremonial chair. He said his action was a protest against Sir Isaac not being invited to the ceremony. He was fined five pounds (about US$20) and his sword, presented to him for gallantry in the Great War, was confiscated but later returned.

To invoke De Groot—remembered now like Lang with amused affection in Australia—to imply that Australia has had its own tradition of political extremism only emphasizes how very little extremism or communal strife Australia has actually experienced up till now, despite the fact its entire non-Aboriginal population is made up of settlers (including some convicts) from different countries who have arrived since 1788. It also suggests a very strange view of Australian history: why is such unreal hyperbole being put by Muslim leaders as serious argument?

If Muslims in Australia wish to come up with a convincing rejoinder to Mr. Howard’s and John Stone’s comments they are, in the Australian phrase, going to have to lift their game.

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