Gordon Brown, the new prime minister in London, is determined to learn the hard way that terrorism is real, that terrorists are not impressed by well-meaning softlings and fearful mollycoddlers.
Mr. Brown moved into No. 10 Downing Street a fortnight ago and even before the missus learned where to keep her brooms, mops and wash buckets, the new P.M. was hard at work sweeping all traces of Tony Blair’s war on terror into the rubbish bin. (That’s what our English cousins call the garbage can.)
No more calling Islamist killers “Islamist killers,” or radical Muslims “radical Muslims.” Mr. Brown sent the word to all departments: “Don’t say terrorists are Muslims.” The word “Muslim” must not be used in discussing terrorism. He has not yet said what to do when Muslim terrorists kill and take credit for the killing in the name of Islam. Perhaps we can refer to them as “Not Presbyterians.”
“There is clearly a need to strike a consensual tone in relation to all communities across the United Kingdom,” the prime minister’s spokesman explained. “It is important that the country remains united.” Mr. Brown, who refused to utter the words “Muslim” or “Islam” in a long television discussion of “not-Presbyterian terrorism” last week, seems unaware of the implications of his make-believe. If you unite the country by joining forces with those determined to kill you, all you’ve accomplished is making it easy for killers to make headless corpses.
Mr. Brown’s epiphany followed Tony Blair’s farewell warning that Britain — and by implication the West — risks losing the struggle with terrorists who are not Presbyterians unless mainstream society grows up, puts away childish notions and confronts reality. “The reason that we are finding it hard to win this battle is that we’re not actually fighting it properly. We’re not actually standing up to these people and saying, ‘It’s not just your methods that are wrong, your ideas are absurd.’ ”
George W. Bush, who has been pushing the mantra that Islam is “the religion of peace” since the not-so-peaceful events of September 11, offered a similar lecture to the Muslims of America. “We must encourage more Muslim leaders to add their voices, to speak out against radical extremists who infiltrate mosques, to denounce organizations that use the veneer of Islamic belief to support and fund acts of violence,” he told a congregation at Washington’s Islamic Center. The congregation responded with barely polite applause.
A late education is better than no education at all, but the president’s tedious repetition of the mantra did his cause, and the cause of moderate, law-abiding Muslims, no good. Whether Islam is a religion of peace is not for a Methodist president or a Presbyterian prime minister to say. Nobody ever called the prophet Muhammad “the prince of peace,” nor did he ever preach a Sermon on the Mount with its beatitudes of benevolent tolerance and gentle kindness, and if his message is one of peace, there’s ample opportunity for his followers to show us why and how.
The jihadists have been making hay while the intimidated moderates keep a respectful (and fearful) reticence, but there are signs that some of them are finally finding a voice. Only nine months ago, the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain warned that if the police and the media continue to “demonize” Muslims, the British would have to deal with 2 million Muslim terrorists in their midst. Last week, in the wake of Islamist attempts to inflict wholesale carnage in London and Glasgow, he urged “every sector of our society, including all Muslims,” to assist police in bringing the guilty to account.
A new poll, taken for the Daily Telegraph, reveals that considerable numbers of British Muslims would like to see the imposition of Shariah law, consider themselves Muslim and not British, think the London subway bombings were the work of British intelligence, and regard al Qaeda and the suicide bombers as worthy of admiration. This is similar to findings among Muslims in the United States.
The moderates in the Muslim communities must lead the reformation of their religion, and it’s easy to understand why many feel reluctant to speak out. Presidents and prime ministers in the West betray these moderates by avoiding reality with gassy slogans.
Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Times.