My 'positive' posting this week: I have been in Shropshire for a few days, and it was so nice, particularly at this time of year, to be somewhere that really felt like England, and Britain, as I once knew it. I was in Shrewsbury yesterday afternoon, strolling around, and it struck me again what a pleasant town it is – nice old churches, an Abbey, a castle, ancient timbered houses, genuine, old-fashioned tea-shops (instead of endless ubiquitous Starbucks and Cafe Nero's, etc.), a nice Victorian railway station where you can get trains to all sorts of places, a good local market, good old-fashioned schools, the river Severn with lovely meadows and gardens by it; and mostly fairly decent, well-behaved, good-natured, recognisably British people, talking English and behaving in culturally comprehensible ways, everywhere. I actually felt at home again, for once, and found myself wishing I could live there. Ok – nowhere is perfect, and I daresay Shropshire has its share of social and other problems (in fact I know it does), but it's nice to reminded that England, as I understand it, still exists, out there, if you only know where to look. Unfortunately of course it only makes the contrast of Oxford, let alone London, all the more glaring.
A quote from the Sunday Telegraph the other day:
'The problem in the UK and Europe is fundamental,' says Andrew McCarthy, an American federal prosecutor. '(The problem) is that you haven't recognised that you are at war.You continue to treat Islamic terrorism as if it were a problem of law enforcement. It is not. You are not dealing with criminals. You're dealing with an enemy who is at war with you, and who wants to destroy your society.'
People who complain about Guantanamo Bay – especially pontificating New Labour politicians sticking their noses into other peoples' business – would do well to take this point on board. Personally I would much rather the Guantanamo detainees were charged and tried properly, but in the current circumstances of a ruthless war against enemies with no regard for any kind of legal principles, it's obvious that they are too valuable as a source of intelligence to be risked at the hands of 'human rights' lawyers. For example, it turns out one of the July bombers in London was known to a Guantanamo detainee – if someone had had managed to show his photo to the detainee before July, many lives might have been saved. In war-time you sometimes have to do things you wouldn't consider in peace-time – we did it in the war against Hitler; now we need to do it in this war against an equal moral evil. Hopefully the institutions of liberal democracy can keep some kind of check on things – after all, in any Muslim state there would be no fuss about a place like Guantanamo, because (a) no-one would know about it and (b) if they did, they wouldn't dare criticise.
But sadly, a large proportion of our liberal, chattering classes will never realise we're at war until a terrorist actually shoves his beard in their face and detonates his bomb! So as usual we have to fight with one hand behind our back. No sane person likes, or wants, war, but as George Orwell so memorably said, 'Sometimes war is the lesser evil'.
Another interesting if ominous article in the S. Telegraph, by the historian Niall Ferguson, anticipates multiple cold wars in the near future, is we allow rogue states like Iran and North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons. As he says. 'Iran is the world's biggest sponsor of terrorist organisations. It openly aspires to exploit the instability of Iraq to establish hegemony – if not a new Persian empire – in the Gulf region and beyond. If you need an illustration of the term "rogue state", look no further.' The problem is, as he points out, that with the current situation in Iraq, and the increasing hostility of public opinion in the west in general and in the US in particular towards any further military action, …the West – what's left of it – seems paralysed, watching Ahmadinejad with the same appalled fascination that a large and docile cow might regard a rearing cobra'. There are not the ravings of some crazed 'right-wing' fanatic – they are the considered thoughts of a respected and knowledgeable historian. Yet so many people want to go on sticking their heads in the sand. Ferguson claims that parallels with the 1930's are overtaxed, but that actually in this case the parallel is appropriate. He also points out, alarmingly, that Ahmadinejad …'is a devotee of the Hidden Twelfth Imam, who Shi'ites believe will return to earth as the Mahdi (Messiah) for a final decisive showdown with the Forces of Evil…..To a millenarian, mutually assured destruction is just another word for the long-awaited Apocalypse. And that, in essence, is why we don't want Iran to have the Bomb. But are we doomed to grasp this only when the mushroom clouds are rising over Tel Aviv and Teheran?'
Yes, is what I am inclined to answer, while the liberal 'intelligentsia' and media of the west continue to deny reality and undermine attempts to pre-empt the great disaster of our times.
The latest 'human rights' debacle concerning the Afghan hijackers is just about the ultimate insult to this country and its people. These men hijacked a plane, using armed force, and landed it in the UK. Naturally they were arrested, but later they were released, have been housed, clothed and fed at the British taxpayers expenses, and after legal proceedings costing millions of our money, they have been allowed to claim 'asylum' for themselves and their families. This is a grotesque miscarriage of justice, and sends out a signal to world that the way to get residence in the UK is to commit crime and abuse our hospitality with guaranteed impunity. The judge in the case was merely interpreting the Human Rights Act – a piece of legislation that was forced on us by the EU without public consent. This is one in a long line of such abuses, which were predicted when this appalling legal nonsense was imposed. I am quite certain the vast majority of British people are absolutely furious about this matter, and feel that they and their country are being screwed for everything they can get by unscrupulous foreigners. The only possible answer is for us to repeal the act and withdraw from the idiotic pre-emptive EU 'human rights' rules, however long it takes. We don't need Europe to instruct us on 'rights' – we had them centuries ago, from Magna Carta onwards, and they were achieved by the political and legal struggle of generations of British men and women – they will do for me.
Another excellent quote from Douglas Murray's Neoconservatism – why we need it :
'As anyone walking through a town centre today can testify, a large proportion of the people our education systems are producing are not very nice.'
'The education system in Britain has, for a generation, cultivated the nurturing of (self-)esteem over the nurturing of knowledge and expertise'.
….'to elevate the the pedestrian and encourage the base.. is not just to do a disservice to a generation: it is to abandon them, from the beginning of their lives, to thwarted existences of bafflement, ignorance and rage.'
It's almost uncanny how it captures exactly the feelings I have when I am forced to go shopping in central Oxford – let alone London! We have created a nation of thugs and slobs, largely by destroying our education system and lowering every possible standard under the deluded principle of 'inclusion'. And now we have to live with the consequences.
This week's positive posting is – surprise, surprise – about Islam. As readers may have gathered from other postings, I like many others in the west, have recently had an increasingly negative image of Islam – quite understandably, I would say, in the light of recent events. However, I have been looking around to try to find some Muslim voices who seem to be saying something fresh, and challenging the 'traditional' version. One of those is Irshad Manji; another is Afshin Ellian. And now a Channel 4 programme by Tariq Ramadan called 'The Muslim Reformation' was genuinely impressive and courageous in its espousal of the concept of 'itjihad' ( a concept I first heard of from Irshad Manji – 'mental struggle/re-interpretation'). Ramadan is arguing (like the other two) that there needs to be a new interpretation of Islam to fit the modern world, and he is convinced that it will come from European Muslims – which makes a lot of sense, as Muslims in the Islamic world are, as he put it, 'trapped by corrupt governments and reactionary clerics'. The sort of things he was saying were genuinely encouraging, like challenging the 'traditional' interpretations of passages from the Koran justifying the killing of non-Muslims and brutal punishments like mutilation and beheading, etc. Also it was particularly encouraging to see groups of Muslim women in Europe challenging their routine second-class status (I had no idea that more than half British mosques completely exclude women!) and demanding the right to re-interpret religious teachings themselves. On the other hand, the majority of the (male and self-proclaimed) Islamic scholars he spoke to had the usual inflexible and intolerant views, and one particular guy (with a very British accent) actually informed Ramadan that his desire for reformation was the sign of 'a colonised mind' and 'cultural imperialism' (so much for the influence of the idiocies of so-called 'post-colonial' and 'cultural' studies). The best answer to him was that of the Muslim M.P., Mr. Malik, who said Muslims in Britain should stop 'wallowing in victim mentality' and saying that voting was 'against their religion' and get engaged with the political, democratic process. I admire Ramadan's optimism and obvious sincerity, and the programme was a rare and refreshing example of a Muslim for once not blaming the rest of the world for all Muslims' troubles. But I have to say I think he and the tiny number of other Muslim reformers have a titanic mountain to climb. Still, at least they've started the attempt.