fighting words: A wartime lexicon.
Don’t Mince Words — The London car-bomb plot was designed to kill women.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, July 2, 2007, at 1:11 PM ET
The scene of the attack at Glasgow Airport
Why on earth do people keep saying, “There but for the grace of God …”? If matters had been very slightly different over the past weekend, the streets of London and the airport check-in area in Glasgow, Scotland, would have been strewn with charred body parts. And this would have been, according to the would-be perpetrators, because of the grace of God. Whatever our own private theology or theodicy, we might at least agree to take this vile belief seriously.
Instead, almost every other conceivable explanation was canvassed. The June 30 New York Times report managed to quote three people, one of whom attributed the aborted atrocity in London to Tony Blair’s foreign policy; one of whom (a New Zealand diplomat, at that) felt “surprisingly all right about it”; and one of whom, described as “a Briton of Indian descent,” was worried that “if I walk up that road, they’re going to suspect me.” The “they” there was clearly the British authorities, rather than the Muslim gangsters who have declared open season on all Hindus as well as all Jews, Christians, secularists, and other kuffar or infidel filth.
On the following day, July 1, the same newspaper informed us that Britain contained a “disenfranchised South Asian population.” How this was true was never explained. There are several Muslim parliamentarians in both houses, often allowed to make the most absurdly inflammatory and euphemistic statements where acts of criminal violence are concerned, as well as several districts in which the Islamic vote keeps candidates of all parties uneasily aware of what may and may not be said. True, the Muslim extremist groups boycott elections and denounce democracy itself as profane, but this does not really count as disenfranchisement.
Only at the tail end of the coverage was it admitted that a car bomb might have been parked outside a club in Piccadilly because it was “ladies night” and that this explosion might have been designed to lure people into to the street, the better to be burned and shredded by the succeeding explosion from the second car-borne cargo of gasoline and nails. Since we have known since 2004 that a near-identical attack on a club called the Ministry of Sound was proposed in just these terms, on the grounds that dead “slags” or “sluts” would be regretted by nobody, a certain amount of trouble might have been saved by assuming the obvious. The murderers did not just want body parts in general but female body parts in particular.
I suppose that some people might want to shy away from this conclusion for whatever reason, but they cannot have been among the viewers of British Channel 4’s recent Undercover Mosque, or among those who watched Sunday’s report from Christiane Amanpour on CNN’s Special Investigations Unit. On these shows, the British Muslim fanatics came right out with their program. Straight into the camera, leading figures like Anjem Choudary spoke of their love for Osama Bin Laden and their explicit rejection of any definition of Islam as a religion of peace. On tape or in person, mullahs in prominent British mosques called for the killing of Indians and Jews.
Liberal reluctance to confront this sheer horror is the result, I think, of a deep reticence about some furtive concept of “race.” It is subconsciously assumed that a critique of political Islam is an attack on people with brown skins. One notes in passing that any such concession implicitly denies or negates Islam’s claim to be a universal religion. Indeed, some of its own exponents certainly do speak as if they think of it as a tribal property. And, at any rate, in practice, so it is. The fascistic subculture that has taken root in Britain and that lives by violence and hatred is composed of two main elements. One is a refugee phenomenon, made up of shady exiles from the Middle East and Asia who are exploiting London’s traditional hospitality, and one is the projection of an immigrant group that has its origins in a particularly backward and reactionary part of Pakistan.
To the shame-faced white-liberal refusal to confront these facts, one might counterpose a few observations. The first is that we were warned for years of the danger, by Britons also of Asian descent such as Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, and Salman Rushdie. They knew what the village mullahs looked like and sounded like, and they said as much. Not long ago, I was introduced to Nadeem Aslam, whose book Maps for Lost Lovers is highly recommended.
He understands the awful price of arranged marriages, dowry, veiling, and the other means by which the feudal arrangements of rural Pakistan have been transplanted to parts of London and Yorkshire. “In some families in my street,” he writes to me, “the grandparents, parents, and the children are all first cousins—it’s been going on for generations and so the effects of the inbreeding are quite pronounced by now.” By his estimate and others, a minority of no more than 11 percent is responsible for more than 70 percent of the birth defects in Yorkshire. When a leading socialist member of Parliament, Ann Cryer, drew attention to this appalling state of affairs in her own constituency, she was promptly accused of—well, you can guess what she was accused of. The dumb word Islamophobia, uncritically employed by Christiane Amanpour in her otherwise powerful documentary, was the least of it. Meanwhile, an extreme self-destructive clannishness, which is itself “phobic” in respect to all outsiders, becomes the constituency for the preachings of a cult of death. I mention this because, if there is an “ethnic” dimension to the Islamist question, then in this case at least it is the responsibility of the Islamists themselves.
The most noticeable thing about all theocracies is their sexual repression and their directly related determination to exert absolute control over women. In Britain, in the 21st century, there are now honor killings, forced marriages, clerically mandated wife-beatings, incest in all but name, and the adoption of apparel for females that one cannot be sure is chosen by them but which is claimed as an issue of (of all things) free expression. This would be bad enough on its own and if it were confined to the Muslim “community” alone. But, of course, such a toxin cannot be confined, and the votaries of theocracy now claim the God-given right to slaughter females at random for nothing more than their perceived immodesty. The least we can do, confronted by such radical evil, is to look it in the eye (something it strives to avoid) and call it by its right name. For a start, it is the female victims of this tyranny who are “disenfranchised,” while something rather worse than “disenfranchisement” awaits those who dare to disagree.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Photograph of Glasgow Airport by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.