British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared last Friday that “no distinctive culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.” He listed “respect for this country and its shared heritage,” along with “belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all,” as among the things that “we hold in common” and that give “us the right to call ourselves British.”
Philip Johnston of the Telegraph termed this a “volte face” and noted that “just eight years ago” Blair “was a multiculturalist champion.” The speech, wrote Johnston, “was the culmination of a long Labour retreat from a cause it once enthusiastically embraced”—a retreat made necessary by the force of events: “In recent weeks, Jack Straw, Ruth Kelly, John Reid and Gordon Brown have all played their part in a concerted revision of the Cabinet’s stand which began in earnest after the July 7 bombs in London last year.”
Blair himself explained: “It is not that we need to dispense with multicultural Britain. On the contrary we should continue celebrating it.” Breaking new ground as the first non-Muslim Grand Mufti of Britain, he affirmed that “of course the extremists that threaten violence are not true Muslims in the sense of being true to the proper teaching of Islam.” He did not, however, inform his audience where this “proper teaching of Islam” could be found, or call upon any of the mainstream Sunni schools of jurisprudence to repudiate the doctrine, which they all hold, that the Islamic community has the responsibility to wage war against the non-Muslim world in order to impose the rule of Islamic law.
But Blair could not be expected to speak about this, even if he knew about it: discussion in Britain of the elements of Islam that give rise to violence and fanaticism have thus far been dismissed as “racism,” despite the patent fact that Islamic jihad supremacism is a religious and political ideology, and not a race at all. That’s why the end of Blair’s speech had an ominous tinge: “The right to be different. The duty to integrate. That is what being British means. And neither racists nor extremists should be allowed to destroy it.”
Clearly by “extremists” he meant jihadists, but by “racists” it is likely that he meant the most vocal opponents of the creeping Islamization of Britain. After all, the Blair government attempted to pass an “incitement to religious hatred” bill that would have criminalized “abusive or insulting” behavior toward a particular religion. Certainly jihadists have characterized honest discussion of the violent elements of Islamic theology and tradition as abusive and insulting, truth notwithstanding; Blair’s bill would make deviations from his polite fictions about “the proper teaching of Islam,” no matter how scholarly and respectful, into criminal offenses.
As Johnston notes, however, the force of events has already compelled the Labour leadership to qualify its support for multiculturalism, and has led Blair to affirm British values to the extent that he did Friday. It is likely that this process is not over, and that reality will force new concessions from these leaders. They will increasingly see that Blair’s watery vision of mutual tolerance is not enough to ensure national self-preservation, and that multiculturalism must be discarded altogether in favor of an unapologetic assertion of British and Western civilization as worth defending, and as something superior in numerous particulars to the alternative offered with increasing stridency by the Muslim immigrants in Britain. At that point, if it is not too late, it will be impossible to criminalize discussion of the violent elements of Islamic theology and tradition, for discussion of them will be an obvious national necessity, inextricable from the defense of the nation.
We may hope that Britain may then reemerge not just as a geographic location for anything at all and nothing in particular, but as a dynamic exponent of Judeo-Christian civilization. At that point it will be finally understood that the defense against the jihad will be what truly gives British subjects the right of which Blair speaks: “the right to call ourselves British.”