Monday 5 February 2024

Is there a distinction between Islam and Islamism?


The UK population in 2024 is approximately 67 million. It is predicted to reach 70 million in 2026 and 74 million by 2036. It’s an extraordinary growth from around 40 million in 1939. Much of that growth is due to migration.

We have developed a polite fiction that it is possible to double the population of the UK in 100 years while maintaining the essential character of the UK as it existed in 1939. This might have been possible if the UK population in 1939 decided to have twice as many children as it had done up to then. But we know instead that the birthrate declined with the invention of contraception and the decline of marriage.

On the one hand we must accept that all new arrivals are as equally British as those who lived here in 1939. But as the population of the UK continues to increase due to migration, it would also be reasonable to assume that it might take on some of the characteristics of those countries from which its citizens are migrating.

It would be nice to think that those characteristics which are historically typical of Great Britain would be put on like clothing by each new British citizen and sometimes no doubt this is the case. But why should we expect all of the people who arrive in Britain to take on typically British characteristics any more than any other migrating people in history took on the characteristics of the place where it arrived? The pilgrim fathers after all neither took on the language, culture or religion of the native Americans.  

Education may play a part. If one Polish child comes to a school with 100 pupils in rural Aberdeenshire, he is likely to become indistinguishable from the others in the school, but if 50 Polish children arrive, they may well decide to stick together speak Polish among themselves and keep their Polish characteristics rather than gain Scottish ones.

The more you increase migration the more you are likely to have people retaining their old values rather than adapting to the culture and values of where they now live. With millions now arriving each year it is clear that quite soon  much of the population of Britain will look back at the values, culture, and even the language of 1939 as if it were not only another time, but another place with which it has as little in common as the pilgrim fathers had with pre-Columbian America.

So, if increased migration means that people will to a lesser extent take on aspects of British culture, because there are sufficient numbers that they do not need to do so what characteristics will they have instead? They will retain those of where they came from.

But the typical characteristics that have historically developed in the UK are quite untypical in the world.

We live in a mature democracy where people generally accept that even if we disagree with the outcome of an election, we can only change it by means of democracy.

We have the rule of law and can expect to be treated fairly both by the police and the courts. Corruption is not a routine part of our lives. If you are stopped by the police and offer money you will be in worse trouble.

Our economy is a stable and trusted, market economy. Businesses can expect to function freely and there are a variety of ways in which ordinary people can achieve economic success and prosperity.

We still largely have freedom of thought and freedom of speech. We gave up theocracy requiring people to conform to religious beliefs by law many centuries ago.

But these characteristics are rarely present in the world from which most migrants arrive. But if migrants to a lesser extent take on British characteristics it will be unreasonable to expect them to take on those values which do not exist in the countries from which they came. If you come from somewhere that does not have democracy, free markets or the rule of law and you don’t take on British values, then you are more likely to retain the values of where you come from.

There is another polite fiction, that is perhaps necessary, but it is still a fiction that states that we should worry about Islamism and Islamists, but not Islam or Muslims. We should be very careful that we are correct in making this distinction as a large proportion of migrants since 1939 are from Islamic countries.

Journalists feel forced when talking of marches, stabbings, chemical attacks and terrorism to carefully distinguish between the Islamists who do these things and Islam that doesn’t. Whatever is bad is Islamist while Islam has nothing whatsoever to do with Islamism. It’s rather like arguing that agnostics have nothing whatsoever to do with agnosticism or that cannibals have nothing to do with cannibalism. This is not merely to avoid talking about the truth but to hide it.

Islamism is taken to mean Islamic fundamentalism, and this is contrasted with ordinary Muslims. But if I look around the world at those countries with majority Muslim populations there is no obvious distinction between these liberal Muslim countries who believe these things and those Islamic fundamentalist countries that believe completely different things.

In Muslim countries there is always to an extent a theocracy, sometimes to a very great extent. Even the most liberal Muslim countries such as Turkey and Morocco have become stricter in the past decades and much of ordinary life is governed by Islamic rules.  

It is hard to think of an Islamic society that is democratic in the way that Western Europe is democratic.

Freedom of speech does not fully exist. If I say or do something critical of Islam I may be jailed or worse.

Corruption in much of the Islamic world is routine and accepted.

There is no Islamic country that is prosperous due to free market capitalism like Britain, France, Germany or the USA. Saudi Arabia is not wealthy due to inventing something or being particularly good at business. It is wealthy due to the good fortune of discovering oil under the desert. That is the only difference between poor Jordan and rich Kuwait.

Whereas in the UK our relationship with the rest of the world is governed primarily by ideas of self-interest, helping friendly nations and maintaining the standard of living of the West, the motivation of many Muslims and the societies where Islam is the majority are motivated by religious belief.

Britain hasn’t fought a religious war for centuries. We didn’t fight against Napoleon because we disagreed with his religion. We didn’t fight the First World War because we disliked Germany’s form of Christianity nor the Second World War. Christianity plays no obvious role in our foreign policy. We opposed Russia though it is Christian while supporting Muslims in Kosovo and Kuwait.

But it is hard to think of an Islamic country that was willing to condemn the Hamas attack on Israelis on October 7th, 2023, and there are few Muslim voices in the world in who are in any way sympathetic to Israel.

Whenever the UK or the USA finds itself in conflict with an Islamic state it will be very hard indeed to find a Muslim British citizen who supports our military actions, no matter the circumstances, and the people most likely to turn up on mass demonstrations each week will be the far left who hate the West and British Muslims. They don’t care much if Houthis are involved in a civil war in Yemen, but if Houthis attack shipping in the Red Sea and we defend the ships we are automatically in the wrong, because the Houthis are Muslims and we are not.

The distinction between Islamism and Islam is a distinction without difference. We may pretend that this distinction exists, but it doesn’t. If it did, we would be able to point to Islamic countries which were not fundamentalist, but even the most liberal Islamic states are fundamentalist by British standards. You would struggle to find a Moroccan or a Turkish Muslim who disagrees about any of the central tenets of Islam with a cleric in Iran or Saudi Arabia.

It obviously doesn’t follow that every Muslim supports terrorism or Muslim conquest or wishes to turn the UK in to a Muslim state. Most Muslims just want to get on with their lives and are as peaceful as everyone else. Some Muslims don’t take their religion very seriously just like the rest of us.

But the idea that there is a distinction in Islam like there is in Christianity between Christian fundamentalists who take the Bible literally and ordinary Christians who don’t is to suppose that what happened to Christianity between the Middle Ages and now happened to Islam.

There is no Islamic country which allows the sort of open criticism and mockery of Islam which is commonplace in the West about Christianity. I can say what I like about Jesus and insult Christianity all I please and nothing bad will happen to me in any Western country. Try doing the equivalent in any Muslim country, try doing it indeed in parts of the UK.

It isn’t at all that Muslims are bad people. Many I am sure are highly moral and pious, but their values are radically different from what was once the typical values of British people. We may pretend that there is a distinction between Islam and Islamism, but the Muslims attending the marches in London, those condemning a teacher who showed a picture of Muhammad, forcing him into hiding and those who do not share our views about free speech at least in relation to Islam are ordinary Muslims. They are not extremists. Their views are shared all over the Muslim world. 

The problem with changing the demographics of the UK quite so radically and quite so rapidly isn’t just that you lose what was the essential character of Britain that took all of our history to develop, democracy, free markets the rule of law. It’s that you replace those values with the values of the people who arrive here and the countries from which they came. Gradual absorption of migrants might have allowed them to take on the characteristics of the majority, but if you increase the rate to today’s extent then even that will not be possible.

But it is the values of those countries from which migrants arrive that kept these countries poor and corrupt and lacking in freedom. It isn’t accidental that their history gave them a country they wanted to leave. But if they bring those values here in time, they will make our country no better than the country that they left. If you continue to import the third world into Britain then it is obvious you will turn Britain into the third world also, because it is not the land that makes Britain the country that it is, it is the people.

The problem is not so much knife attacks or indeed chemical attacks and other instances of terrorism. The problem is that while I might be happy to visit Morocco or Turkey or indeed Saudi Arabia, I would not want to live there, and I would not want my society to become like their society. This is neither to hate the people of these countries nor to oppose their way of life. It is merely to say I prefer a different way of living. I wish to maintain those characteristics of Britain that are different from Saudi Arabia, those characteristics that made us British.

But while Saudi values are exactly the same as they were in 1939, British values are likely to become unrecognisable as we transform the British population so radically that much of it no longer descends in any way from the people that made us who we are. In that case how can our population have any real connection with our history and the values that were created by it? It would appear more likely that our country would take on quite different values. 

Soon our country will be unrecognisable to the extent that those who lived in 1939 if they could see into the future would feel like strangers in their own country and might very well wonder what they were fighting for.


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