O’Sullivan’s inadequate response to Islam

John O’Sullivan points to the disturbing degree of British Muslim support for and accommodation to terrorism, as revealed in a recent poll. He says it adds up to “the classic picture of a population that provides a warm sea for the terrorists to swim in.” But he goes nowhere with this insight. He even reverses course and concludes that everything’s just fine, because the majority population of Britain rejects terrorism, and therefore the worst case scenario is “a series of terrorist bombings, perhaps separated by long intervals, into the uncertain future,” which, he seems to suggest, the British can easily live with. This former editor of National Review seems to regard the routine occurrence of domestic suicide bombings by Muslims as an acceptable prospect for Western society. I guess O’Sullivan didn’t want to trouble his summer vacation (which included a National Review cruise in the British Isles with a bunch of complacent neoconservative types including Norman Podhoretz, Paul Johnson, Mark Steyn, and the Animal House conservative) with any serious thoughts, such as that the Muslim presence in the West may actually represent a threat to us and our entire civilization and that we may actually have to do something about it.

WHY TERROR WILL LOSE by John O’Sullivan New York Post July 26, 2005

July 26, 2005—LONDON

QUESTION: What happens in the realm of politics when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Answer: An innocent Brazilian gets shot by nice London “bobbies.”

The irresistible force is Muslim terrorism in Britain, and the immovable force is democratic British public opinion.

Two commonplaces of anti-terrorist scholarship are (a) that a terrorist movement is hard to defeat in proportion to its support among the population, and (b) that terrorism cannot gain its objectives against the firm convictions of a majority of the population in a democracy.

What therefore happens if terrorism has the support of a substantial minority of the population for causes that are strongly opposed by the majority? We may be about to find out from Britain, following the second spate of attempted bombings.

Take, first, the terrorism of radical Islamists. It is conventional to say—I have advanced this point myself many times—that it has the support of only a tiny percentage of British Muslims. This comforting statement, however, is undermined by the recent YouGov survey of British Muslims for the London Daily Telegraph. Among its findings are:

* Six percent of British Muslims believe the bombings in London were justified—and another 6 percent “don’t know” whether they were justified or not. Six percent sounds a small number, but it represents 100,000 people.

* Ten percent of British Muslims feel “not at all loyal” to the country and a further 6 percent feel “not very loyal.”

* Fifty-six percent of Muslims “can understand” why the bombers behaved as they did.

* Thirty-one percent feel that Western society is decadent and immoral and that Muslims should seek to bring it to an end “by non-violent means.” One percent (or 16,000 people) believes it should be brought to an end “if necessary by violence.”

* Forty-one percent think that most Muslims would be reluctant to tell the police about anything suspicious.

In reply to almost all of the questions, moreover, quite large percentages give the answer “don’t know”—11 percent, for instance, don’t know whether they would seek to bring Western society to an end, and if so whether they would do so “by violence.”

So the overall picture is very disturbing indeed: Most British Muslims are hostile to radical Islamist terrorism. But large percentages sympathize with the opinions of the bombers, are hostile to Britain and would be reluctant to cooperate with the authorities in fighting terrorism. And minorities—small but far from “tiny”—would actively assist the terrorists.

That is the classic picture of a population that provides a warm sea for the terrorists to swim in—IRA terrorism was waged for more than two decades by an estimated 2 percent of the Catholic population that had the active support of about 10 percent and the occasional tolerance of another 20 percent.

Yet it is worth reminding ourselves that IRA terrorism failed to gain its objectives because the democratic majority of the entire Northern Irish population (i.e., all the Protestants and about a third of the Catholics) were bitterly opposed to them. Indeed, terrorism has almost never prevailed where it was opposed by most of the local population—Greece, Malaya, the Philippines, Argentina, Uruguay and today Israel. Democracy is the immovable object against which it founders.

London is, so to speak, an object lesson in this truth.

A bomb in the subway will frighten people away from it for a while. More Londoners are now riding bikes or taking taxis to work. But economic research (at the University of Chicago) suggests that those who need to use the subway will soon return to it. They calculate that the tiny risk is worth the large convenience.

And last weekend the subways and the department stores were packed with both Londoners and tourists following the motto: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.”

Common sense suggests that there are limits to this stoicism. If a nuclear bomb killed hundreds of thousands, there would be a fierce reaction. In those circumstances, however, fear would probably be trumped by revenge. They are almost the only circumstances in which I can imagine a large-scale anti-Muslim pogrom.

Short of such a catastrophe, the bombers may murder, maim, inconvenience and even temporarily frighten Londoners. But if bombing could not alter British policy on Ulster, it is not going to change policy on Iraq, or foreign policy in general, let alone transform British social life in line with radical Islamist ideas of sexual apartheid, anti-alcohol prohibition, anti-Semitism and religious intolerance.

That being so, the worst case scenario is that the irresistible force of Islamist terrorism will meet the immovable object of democratic majority opinion and produce a series of terrorist bombings, perhaps separated by long intervals, into the uncertain future.

That future can be shortened if the majority of peaceful Muslims exert strong pressure on their radical co-religionists to avoid extremism, inform the police of suspicious behavior, reject the preaching of intolerance and keep a watchful eye on their children. The YouGov-Telegraph findings offer us hope here—77 percent of British Muslims think the London bombings were unjustified, 73 percent would tell the police if they knew about terrorist planning and 81 percent feel either very loyal or fairly loyal to Britain.

But it will be a delicate and complicated task to reassure British Muslims that they are equal citizens in British society while pressing them to police their own communities and taking the anti-terrorism measures that will inevitably impact more on Muslims than on other Brits. And, sometimes, as last Friday, one of those measures will go wrong—the police, anxious to prevent the murder of hundreds, will make a mistake and kill one innocent man.

It is one small reason for hope that, so far, most British Muslim commentators have placed the blame for this tragedy firmly on al Qaeda.

John O’Sullivan, former adviser to Lady Thatcher and former Post editorial-page editor, is editor-at-large of National Review and a member of Benador Associates.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 26, 2005 06:42 PM | Send

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