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January 2007 – Melanie Phillips on “A Slow Awakening to the Threat”

That the UK had become, by 2000, the European center for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamic terror and extremism is not disputed. The debate over how this came to be is ongoing. A bold attempt to answer the question was made this past summer with the release of the groundbreaking book Londonistan by Melanie Phillips, an award-winning journalist at the UK’s Daily Mail. On January 16, Phillips spoke to an audience of more than 250 at a JINSA event in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield.


That the UK had become, by 2000, the European center for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamic terror and extremism is not disputed. The debate over how this came to be is ongoing. A bold attempt to answer the question was made this past summer with the release of the groundbreaking book Londonistan by Melanie Phillips, an award-winning journalist at the UK’s Daily Mail. On January 16, Phillips spoke to an audience of more than 250 at a JINSA event in the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield.

Phillips said she wrote Londonistan to rouse Britain out of what she argued was a palpable state of denial over the jihadist “war” being waged against it. The story began in 1979 with the Islamic revolution in Iran. It was then that leading elements within radical Muslim circles began to believe that restoration of the Islamic caliphate was indeed within their grasp and set about achieving this goal.

Phillips informed her audience that it took less than two decades for Britain’s transformation into the “European center for the promotion, recruitment and financing of Islamic terror and extremism.” Britain secured this dubious distinction via a perfect storm of two seemingly disparate developments: a severe relaxation of immigration standards in the 1980s and 1990s during which the UK received a large influx of radical Islamists and immigrants susceptible to the message of radical Islam and a widespread repudiation of the supremacy of British cultural and social norms. This systematic undermining of the values, laws and traditions that defined what it meant to be British began in the 1980s and Islamist elements moved eagerly and rapidly into the resulting social and cultural vacuum.

Phillips cited some alarming facts to illustrate the rise of fundamentalist Islam in the UK.

  • London is home to al-Qaeda’s European headquarters;
  • Sixty percent of British Muslims would like sharia law to be established in Great Britain;
  • Numerous individuals residing in the UK would face arrest in their birth countries on charges of being a threat to the state;
  • The UK’s domestic security services are currently tracking 1,600 individual terrorists who have already expressed a willingness to die for their cause;
  • The UK’s domestic security services discovered more than 30 plots to attack in Britain using dirty bombs or other radiological devices;
  • The UK’s domestic security services currently monitor 200 organizations in Britain that have been deemed terrorist threats to British citizens.

Despite these facts, many Britons have convinced themselves that terrorist attacks in the UK are a reaction to anti-Muslim bias, Phillips contended. The terrorist elements in Britain are explained as disaffected youths driven to violence by racism and poverty. Such assertions are ludicrous, Phillips declared. The London subway bombers were young, British-born men well integrated into their surrounding communities. Their economic status ranged from solidly middle class to wealthy.

The reason such Islamic extremists engage in acts of terrorism is quite simply that “terror works,” Phillips believes. This was, in fact, the reason offered by Dhiran Barot, a British citizen, upon his 2004 arrest in England for plotting with at least two other British citizens to attack financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC.

The state of denial evident in Britain extends to Western Europe, the United States and Israel. “Defeatism, appeasement and cultural collapse are at the root of the problem,” Phillips observed. Traditional British values have been hollowed out and in their places fundamentalist Islam took up residence. As a result, multiculturalism is seen as more legitimate than national identity and supranational organizations like the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights are seen as more legitimate than British governing bodies. So, Phillips said, terror victims blame themselves and/or try to explain away terrorist behavior as aberrant, random acts perpetrated by “copy cats” emulating what they see going on in other parts of the world. A “1930s-style appeasement” is the result where logic is turned on its head as the British public desperately latches onto specious explanations for these horrific events.

Phillips said that many in the UK contend that once the Israel-Palestinian impasse is settled, Islamist terror will cease to exist. She described how the entirety of Britain’s non-Muslim population is divided and that even among those who acknowledge the threat posed by jihadist Islam, most prefer to stay silent. Even in “Middle Britain,” the equivalent of the American “red states,” isolationism is seen as the most effective response to jihadi terror.

Not all Muslims are involved in terrorism, Phillips took great pains to emphasize. She pointed out that many of the most troublesome Muslim immigrants to the UK were in fact expelled from their countries of origin including Saudi Arabia because of their radicalism. Phillips pointed out that the more moderate countries with Muslim majorities understand the dangers posed by jihadist elements in their population better than Britons. They recognize, for example, women who wear the veil are making a political statement that they are separate from society. While many in Great Britain wring their hands over whether or not to ban veils in certain circumstances, Tunisia and Turkey have already done so, she noted.

Phillips did find cause for hope, however. The West, including Great Britain, is waking up slowly to the threat, she believes. The watershed moment was not the infamous July 7, 2005 bombings but the foiled transatlantic plot to blow up 12 airliners en route to the United States from Britain in August 2006. Britons could no longer ignore the fact that this plan was far too sophisticated to have been hatched by disaffected youths enraged by their lot in life. The plot forced the public to confront the reality that homegrown terror attacks were not random acts of violence, but rather a war against the country. Phillips related that days after the foiled airliner plot, 38 “moderate” Muslim groups in the UK demanded that the government alter its foreign policy immediately as Britain’s Iraq and Israel policies were encouraging terrorist attacks. The British public responded to the veiled threat with deserved outrage.

Phillips, who was moved to cautious optimism by this “slow change toward sanity” on the part of her country, closed her address by recounting a December 2006 statement by Prime Minister Tony Blair: “No distinctive culture or religion supersedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.”

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