I've written before about how Islam has slowly encroached into Britain's national imprint, through using the language of "freedom of expression" to defend the interests of its extremists.
As I wrote in that article:
"Islamofascists have been able to preach their violent, undemocratic and pernicious ideas under the protection of "free speech"; at the same time, they have also been allowed to conduct behaviour that could land any British non-Muslim in prison, while claim the right to religious expression; and most subversive of all, have denounced and threatened anyone who criticises their faith, ideas or behaviour with violence"
There are regular stories in the press about this, and another one this week (highlighted by Nick Cohen) displays to what extent the BBC, Britain's national broadcaster, and the Liberal Democrats (part of the government), have succumbed to the will of extremist Islam.
It is as though the very institutions of Britain and its ruling politicians have given up on the idea of real, universal, freedom of expression: freedom of expression is dying as an idea in Britain because no-one in authority believes it is worth fighting for, at least when it comes to Islam.
This seems to be how "freedom of expression" is defined in Britain these days: the state will defend your freedom of expression, unless your point of view questions something about Islam. Thus Islam holds the unique and vaunted position in The UK of being the only religion people are terrified of offending.
In this way, it has become the "default" religion of The UK, by virtue of its unassailable status.
A state within a state?
From a practical point of view, then, extremist Islam has been given almost free rein in The UK. While the police and intelligence services may closely monitor the more radical parts of Muslim society in Britain as part of the "War On Terror", on a day-to-day basis, the authorities do not interfere with the actions of the Muslim community.
On the surface, this may seem a good thing, but this also means that the authorities have been turning a blind eye to cultural practices that are clearly illegal in British law, and would get any non-Muslim in conversation with the police if they repeated the same behaviour.
When I talk about "cultural practices", I'm talking about domestic violence that goes unreported by battered wives; arranged (and underage) marriage that is got around in the Muslim community by being organised in Pakistan rather than in Britain; marriage between relatives, that creates children with deformities and cognitive dysfunction; there was the famous case of the "rape ring" in the Greater Manchester area, which suggests an endemic culture of misogyny; there is the incendiary rhetoric that goes on in the mosque and in the community (the police are paid to monitor this, however); and finally, the idea that all Muslims' first loyalty is to their faith, their family, and only lastly their country.
While the danger of the last point can be over-stated (if you compare this to the "Red Scare" back in the day), the effect that extremist Islam has had on British culture in the past ten years has been noticeable and undeniable. The policies of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey have been called "creeping Islamisation", but in a different way the same could be said of life in Britain.
Ten years ago, for example, there was no stigma attached to criticising (or simply discussing) some aspects of Islam. In the light of the 9/11 attacks, shining a strong spotlight on Islam seemed like only the most natural thing in the world.
In Britain, this "critical eye" seemed not to last very long, though. Because Britain had had a culture of tolerance, its defenders said, it was unfair to overly-blame "every Muslim" for the terrorism of its extremists. This is a fair point, but at the same time every "ordinary" Muslim has a moral responsibility to stand up to the extremists and pick apart their false arguments and dangerous rhetoric. This has not really happened.
So on one hand the Muslim community has shown weakness as a whole towards its own radical brethren, and thus allowed the radicals to hijack the faith and hold the rest hostage. On the other, some in the British establishment have held up the historical "culture of tolerance" as a sign that Britain didn't really have "a problem" with Islam and its Muslim population; unlike, say, France.
This is complacent and it misses a crucial point, though. Historically, the wave of Muslim South Asians who came to Britain after the Second World War to fill in a weakness in the British economy and labour force: in other words, the arrival of these populations to Britain was a sign of Britain's fundamental weakness and failure of its Imperial model. The empire had collapsed in on itself, almost literally, from a population point of view.
I'm not saying this was a mistake; simply a sign of the times. However, it is possible that the relative weakness of the British state after the Second World War was simply storing up problems for later. While those South Asian immigrants who arrived were subjected to local prejudice, racism and (sometimes) worse for decades, from an official government point of view, they were allowed to live, culturally and religiously-speaking, much the same way as before.
And here begins "the problem" that the British establishment refuses to accept it created. The British government, by the Sixties and Seventies, believed it was creating something like a "multi-cultural" nation. But it some crucial cultural respects, especially in regards to the Muslim community, it wasn't: it was creating mono-cultural ghettos in towns and cities with sizeable Muslim populations.
When "multiculturalism" goes wrong
This form of so-called "multiculturalism" was mostly a sham when it came to the Muslim community, because they either tended to be encouraged to move to post-industrial towns in the North, or to poor inner city areas in larger cities, such as Birmingham and Leicester, to name two. And when immigrants are not encouraged to integrate, but allowed to stay together, the result is a closed-off community. When you introduce religion into the mix, you have a potential time-bomb on your hands, as Britain has seen post-9/11.
By the Nineties, "multiculturalism" had become part of the establishment's "PC" campaign, so that by the late Nineties, the Muslim community was one of many parts of Britain's "multicultural tapestry" that became "Cool Britannia". Britain was "cool" because it allowed different cultures and religions to freely exist without government sanction, or so it thought.
This brings us to the present day, where the British tolerance for "the other" has become almost a fetishisation in parts of the establishment, while the Muslim community has become increasingly dysfunctional. I say dysfunctional, but what I really mean is that the extremists have seized the banner for the whole of the Muslim community. A combination of weakness within the Muslim community, and the British establishment's weakness for allowing "culture" to trump freedom of expression (or even the proper application of the law), have brought us to the current situation.
It is not "multiculturalism" that has brought about this situation: it is the state actively allowing (even encouraging) mass mono-culturalism in some parts of Britain for decades, then congratulating itself on its own "tolerance".
Real multiculturalism does exist in some cities in Britain: places where there are dozens of nationalities living in the same neighbourhood. This is what multiculturalism really means: when people exchange their cultures freely while living in a third country, for example. But this tends to be where Muslims do not make up a noticeable chunk of the local population.
When you have a weak state and a weak community, you allow the social conditions for extremism to breed, take root, and finally control others through fear.
This is what has happened in Britain over the last ten years.