Friday 23 February 2024

Britain we have a problem


When do we realise that we have a problem in Britain and that it is necessary to talk and write about it honestly and openly? This week. No, I don’t think so. It isn’t bad enough yet.  Still, I will write anyway.

The story about the SNP’s Opposition Day debate being hijacked by Labour looks initially like a nothing story. Parliament has all sorts of weird and wonderful rules does it matter if this or that precedent was broken? Well, you could say the same about football having all sorts of rules. One of them is to do with not being allowed to use your hands. If you break that rule you don’t have football anymore, you have rugby. Well so too it matters that parliamentary procedure is adhered to because if you cease playing the game called “democracy” you end up playing another game called “tyranny.”

The SNP gets three Opposition Day debates a year. I might disagree with the SNP on most issues, but I can still see that the Speaker and the Labour Party treated it unfairly.

But I don’t have all that much sympathy with the SNP, because why was it using one of it’s very rare Opposition Days to debate Gaza? Foreign policy is outwith the control of the Scottish Parliament and even if the SNP won all of the seats in Scotland it could not form a British government, so it is not at all obvious why the SNP should be interested in Gaza apart from it being the favoured holiday destination of Humza Yousaf’s family.

The SNP is a single-issue party, and that issue is not a ceasefire in Gaza. It may be that the SNP is cynically trying to attract the Muslim vote in Scotland, but it is hard to see it changing the result in any Scottish seats at the next election, nor will calling for a ceasefire in Gaza in any obvious way advance the cause of independence.

It is here I think that the SNP can be most criticised. It was playing a game. It hoped to embarrass Labour by putting forward a motion for debate which would lead to lots of Labour MPs rebelling. Keir Starmer sought to avoid this by putting forward his own motion. He may or may not have persuaded the speaker to allow this by talking about MPs being threatened. This is where it ceases to be a game.

The SNP must have been aware that MPs particularly in parts of England with large Muslim populations were being threatened. “If you vote against a ceasefire in Gaza this bad thing might happen.” That’s quite a serious threat. A number of MPs have been murdered. We all know that there is a constant threat from terrorism, which makes this sort of blackmail credible. Under those circumstances why did the SNP choose to use one of its Opposition Day debates to discuss an issue that is outside its own remit and over which the UK parliament has next to no influence?

Even if the British government sided with Hamas and broke off diplomatic relations with Israel it would have almost no influence on events in the Middle East. So, it hardly matters one way or another whether an Opposition Day debate says one thing about a ceasefire in Gaza or another.

But it would matter if you were an MP who voted the wrong way who ended up dead. It would matter to you. But it would not matter to the SNP, so long as Humza Yousaf and his wife are happy.

Gaza ought to be a non-issue in British politics. We have no influence over wars in the Middle East anymore than in Myanmar. Neither weekly demonstrations nor BBC disapproval will change the outcome or save a single life. Instead, it is as if Gaza has become not only the main issue, but the only issue. But the problem for British politics is not in Gaza. It is here.

The problem is not merely that some MPs have been intimidated. That is a huge problem and is completely intolerable in any democracy. A far worse problem is that Islamic extremism has succeeded in intimidating large numbers of British Jews, our police force and has been allowed to express itself freely with no fear of any negative consequences whatsoever.

The sorts of things that have been written on signs and chanted by demonstrators each week during demonstrations would be completely unacceptable if they were said about any other country than Israel and any other people than the Jewish people. Try saying such things about any other conflict involving anyone else and you will find yourself very quickly arrested.

But no one dares to object to these demonstrations let alone stop them, because the police are scared that something worse will result. Well, I’m sorry the worse has already arrived. MPs are scared to vote the wrong way over Gaza.

We lost the Labour candidate in Rochdale who was apparently a moderate, a centrist and an ally of Jewish people because he was heard to agree with an absurd anti-Semitic conspiracy theory perhaps because he thought he needed to say it in order to attract votes. If this is what the moderates say, what do the extremists say?

It’s not Houston we have a problem. It’s Britain we have a problem. The problem is that we are not honest about the problem. Do you think Apollo 13 would have got back if they had been dishonest about the problem?

Large numbers of British citizens have been radicalised by the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7th and Israel’s response which has killed many times as many Palestinians. For these people it is not a conflict in a far away country of which we know nothing. Instead, it is the most vital issue to them right here and right now.

But the problem is just this. Muslims in the UK make up around 6.5% of the population. If such a relatively small part of the population is capable now of intimidating MPs over an issue that has nothing to do with Britain, what would happen if 6.5% doubled to 13% and then doubled to 26%? At what point would we have to break off diplomatic relations with Israel, condemn it for existing and supply weapons to Hamas just to stop our MPs from being murdered by their constituents?

There is a desperate need for honesty. The problem is that honesty will always be called by Islamists “racism” and “Islamophobia”. They call it this deliberately precisely in order that we remain silent.

But religion is not race and if something is dangerous it is not a phobia to be scared of it.

We cannot remain silent. In times past both in Scotland and in England we were a theocracy. Try disagreeing with John Knox and you would end up the way of Mary Queen of Scots. Try disagreeing with Mary Tudor and you would be burned at the stake. We spent the succeeding centuries developing tolerance and freedom of thought as well as freedom of religion.

We cannot allow our politics to be intimidated by religion. Believe what you please, worship how you want, dress as you want, but we are in genuine trouble if we vote according to religious dogma.

The fundamental issue with regard to Gaza is Islamist. When Jordan annexed the West Bank no one cared. When Egypt annexed Gaza no one cared. When it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire there were no demonstrations anywhere about freeing Palestine. It is only when Israel took over Muslim lands that there is righteous fury, not because the Palestinians lost their lands, they lost them equally to Jordan and Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, but because Jews took a tiny little chunk of the Dar al-Islam. This is why there is such fury in these demonstrations in London and such indifference about whatever Saudi Arabia does to Yemen.

It is justified to criticise Israel, but it is anti-Semitic to criticise Israel only, while you ignore other wars where they don’t care at all about civilian casualties. There are numerous such wars going on right now that don't make the BBC news.

To solve a problem, you first have to be honest about what it is. We have a conflict between our own democratic British values and Islam. The vast majority of Muslims hold their opinions about Gaza because of their religion and this motivates many if not most of them politically. Well, this means we have political Islam. But political Islam is identical with Islamism. Which means that Islamism is intimidating our MPs and is deciding the outcome in a number of our constituencies.

I don’t wish to be nasty to Muslims. I find Islam to be an interesting and rewarding field of study. But I don’t want our democracy to be overly influenced by Islamism, because then like the “democracies” of the Middle East it will rapidly cease to be a democracy at all and become instead a theocracy. 

Above all we need to be honest. Islam is fundamentally theocratic. It is a religion of the law. It is this that Christianity opposed when Jesus broke the Sabbath when he plucked the ears of the corn. It was with this action that he set us free. Everything that we value about our country followed from this one action.

Well, if you import enough theocrats eventually you will end up with theocracy. You can continue to kid yourself that there is a meaningful distinction between Islam and Islamism, or you can instead decide to be honest about the problem. We have different world views and different ideas about theology in Britain. If we are not very, very careful one side or the other will not only try to control how our MPs vote it will try to control everything else too. At that point we might be faced with the same choice as occurred to some pagans worshiping a meteorite some centuries ago. You can assimilate, fight, or flee.

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