They have been burning churches and murdering Christians again in Niger. You’d think that they’d have more immediately pressing concerns than worrying about a cartoon, Niger regularly winning the award for being the worst country anywhere on God’s earth, and the poorest. But nope, it’s kill-a-kuffar time once more. Some 45 churches set alight and at least five people killed and 50 injured. Adherents of the Religion of Peace (© all UK politicians) included in their pyromania a Christian orphanage, which was thoughtful of them. There have also been massed rallies and protests and the usual effigy-burning business in the vast and dusty Islamic desert rat-holes next door, Mali and Algeria. Not to mention Senegal, and the fragrant delight which is Sudan, plus Niger’s red-hot rival for the worst-country-on-earth award, Mauritania.
Death to France! Death to infidels! Death to Christians! And that’s just Africa. There was more effigy and flag-burning plus the requisite homicidal screeching in good old Pakistan, and next door in Afghanistan, and of course in Iran. Even the Chechens got in on the act — a massed rally in the central square of Grozny with an estimated 800,000 people howling their loathing of France and cartoonists and the West in general, protests which spread over the border into another backwards enclave which the Soviet Union, to its immense credit, succeeded in briefly civilising, Ingushetia. Oh, and there was still more fury in the Philippines, the usual howling at the moon from the country’s Islamic minority whose political wing, the MNLF, was habituated to kidnapping and murder in the Sulu peninsula and Mindanao.
Smoke billows in a street as people demonstrate near the grand mosque in Niamey, Niger Photo: Getty
Everywhere you look in the Islamic world there is outrage and fury and screaming and violence. An anger not occasioned by the vicious executions of 11 people in Paris, but in response to the ‘Je suis Charlie’ stuff, and the magazine’s post-murder edition featuring Mohammed on its front page. The murders did not bother them at all and a substantial majority, by the look of things, will have wholly approved of them. It’s the cartoons which made them go on the rampage, killing people of a different faith.
So next time some jackass of a politician tells you that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or some hand-wringing, PC, public-school broadcaster on the BBC puts it all down to ‘extremists’ — point them in the direction of the millions of people in the Islamic world who rather fervently disagree with that flip and patently delusional diagnosis. If all those people are ‘extremists’, then we need to redefine the word ‘extreme’ so it means something closer to, say, ‘mainstream’ or ‘moderate, consensual centre’. In this, our own vile and incendiary Islamic preachers, such as Anjem Choudary, are much closer to the truth than are our politicians: this is not ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It is all about Islam.
A Bahraini protester takes cover during clashes with police following a demonstration against the arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman Photo: Getty
If you doubt it, look around you. It is as the former leader of one of the world’s more moderate Islamic countries, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, put it. It’s a clash of values, he said — and if the West wishes to sort it out, then the West should give in. I say moderate: under Yudhoyono, Indonesians have been imprisoned for the alleged crime of blasphemy, many for a term of five years. It’s that moderate vs extremist thing again — hard one to call, isn’t it?
So the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, deserves a bit of credit for his round-robin letter to our country’s mosques, which has succeeded in shoring up the familiar sense of acquired victimhood among British followers of Islam. Pickles suggested that British followers of Islam should ‘prove’ their identification with British values.
I suppose it’s a bit late in the day for that sort of thing — remember, 68 per cent of our Islamic community believe that blasphemers should be punished somehow — but better late than never. Forty years of being told that their cultural practices are every bit as valid as those of the Christian majority, however, has established a mindset which will take some shifting.
And so it has proved — self-appointed Muslim leaders have reacted with the usual mixture of petulance and confected outrage. The letter, they insist, is ‘patronising’. One spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain asked: why no similar letter to Christian church leaders demanding they disassociate themselves from the English Defence League? It is difficult to imagine a more lame or ridiculous riposte.
The EDL is habitually reviled by British politicians and church leaders alike — and reviled for nothing more than its thuggish opinions and rare, sparsely attended marches. The EDL has not murdered anyone, nor sent its thick-as-mince legions to fight for the Islamic State, nor blown people up in London, nor tried to decapitate British soldiers on the streets of Woolwich. Reprehensible (and, frankly, laughable) though the EDL may be, there is simply no comparison. And to make the comparison suggests strongly to me that the Muslim Council of Britain does not remotely get the point. But then we should remember the former leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, Iqbal Sacranie, once suggested that mere death was ‘perhaps too easy’ for Salman Rushdie. A little after he said that, we knighted him. And for a long while the MCB refused to attend the British holocaust memorial service.
We have indulged parts of our Muslim community in epic paranoia, victimhood, clamorous obsessions and pre-medieval cultural appurtenances for way too long. And so perhaps it is too late to venture, tentatively, that we got our approach all wrong.