By Melanie Phillips
ike most people, I did not see 9/11 coming. But the moment the Twin Towers collapsed, I realised the West was facing something different from ordinary terrorism or war by one state on another.
This was more akin to a cancer in the global bloodstream. It had to be fought with all the weapons, both military and cultural, at our disposal.
‘This is where the world divides,’ I wrote. ‘Are you for us or against us? Are you prepared to do everything it takes to stand against terror, or are you going to succour it by word or deed?
‘Liberal values will be protected only if Christianity holds the line as our dominant culture. A society which professes neutrality between cultures will create a void which Islam, with its militant political creed, will attempt to fill.’
But I knew the West would flinch from this fight.
It had lost its moral compass. It no longer recognised the difference between good and evil or the validity of preferring some cultures to others, but had decided instead that all such concepts were relative.
It would most likely take the path of appeasement rather than the measures needed to defend itself from the attempt to destroy it. And so it has proved.
As far back as 1989, I’d grasped that the drive towards multiculturalism (the doctrine which held no culture could be considered superior to any other because that was ‘racist’) could well be a threat to liberty. At the time, the Church of England was proposing that the blasphemy law, which applied only to Christianity, should be replaced by a new offence of insulting or outraging the religious feelings of any group in the community.
I had no doubt that this would become a weapon enabling Islamic militants to destroy freedom of expression. In fact, such a challenge was already being mounted.
Just weeks earlier, Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini had issued his notorious fatwa calling for the murder of the author Salman Rushdie for the purported offence to Islam given by his novel, The Satanic Verses. In fear of his life, Rushdie was forced to live in hiding.
The Church’s shameful response was not to withdraw its ludicrous plan to widen the scope of blasphemy laws, but to carry on and, in effect, surrender to a medieval lynch mob.
The Rushdie affair outed other waverers, too. You’d have thought that all decent people in Britain would be united in outrage at a foreign tyranny putting a bounty on the head of a British citizen.
But when Rushdie’s book was publicly burned, a number of Labour MPs took part in this horrifying auto-da-fe, despite its disturbing historical echoes.
They were nervously glancing over their shoulders at their Muslim constituents, worried they might lose their seats.
I was aghast, too, at the ambivalent attitudes of some Conservative MPs, who called on Rushdie to make a gesture to pacify the Muslim world in order to break the deadlock over Americans then being held hostage in Iran. Most of all, I was appalled by the British government’s extraordinary decision not to prosecute anyone for threatening Rushdie’s life, even though two prominent Muslims had stated they would sacrifice their own lives and those of their children if the opportunity arose to kill him.
Happy memories: Melanie Phillips pictured with her father Alfred in Richmond Park, London, back in 1957
Almost a quarter of a century on, the Rushdie affair still stands out as a defining moment in Britain’s surrender of its will to survive.
Inevitably there was more to come, and in 1996 I got whiff of another looming disaster when a state primary school in Birmingham, where 70 per cent of pupils were Muslim, started teaching Islam in RE classes.
I duly noted that ‘Islam is the spectre at the woolly liberals’ feast’ — because unlike other minorities, many Muslims expected their host culture to adapt to meet their requirements.
This was very pertinent to me. I come from immigrant stock. My parents were from poor Jewish families who arrived in Britain from Russia and Poland at the beginning of the 20th century. My father’s father was given the name Phillips because the immigration officer couldn’t pronounce his Polish name.
The family lived on impoverished streets in East London, which were home to so many immigrant Jews, as they are today to fresh generations of incomers.
Conscious of being outsiders in British society, they kept their heads down and tried to assimilate — which made them very different from some of today’s immigrant communities, whose mission sometimes seems to be to force the rest of us to adopt their religion and culture, not the other way round.
Here is the fundamental dilemma. Because of our core liberal values, we feel obliged to try to accommodate a belief system that rejects them. By its very nature, the doctrine of multiculturalism has called into question whether those liberal values can actually survive.
After 9/11 and 7/7, this issue has become more urgent than ever. Yet the country has seemed to be in denial of Islamic militants who hate Britain and want to destroy it, and who might be thought to constitute an ‘enemy within’.
The appeasement instinct has turned into a real threat to our established way of life.
So, too, has another disturbing aspect of our drift into multiculturalism and relativism — a sinister but pervasive change in attitudes to racism.
My position is straightforward. Racial prejudice is abhorrent. But some three decades ago, a new dogma of anti-racism emerged with a perversely one-sided view of prejudice — that it can never be perpetrated by any group that designated itself to be victims of the majority.
One of the most dramatic examples of the oppressive and tyrannical nature of what was now called ‘political correctness’ was in the world of social work.
Here, anti-racist zealots had captured the social workers’ central training body and had built into the social workers’ diploma the dogma that society was fundamentally racist and oppressive.
Students reported that marks depended on displaying the ‘correct’ attitude on race — which meant identifying and dealing with ‘racist’ attitudes even where none existed.
This brain-washing propaganda was corrupting social work so badly that countless numbers of the deeply disadvantaged were being abandoned or thrown to the wolves.
In the Nineties I discovered that social workers were becoming too frightened to deal with black families for fear of being thought racist. It was therefore common for social workers to say it was normal — and, by implication, acceptable — for black families to beat their children.
I could scarcely believe this was happening in Britain.
Almost 20 years later, when a gang of Pakistani Muslim men was convicted in 2012 of decades of sexual violence against young, predominantly white girls living in children’s homes, it emerged that complaints to social workers had been ignored because they were petrified of being called racist.
A very real threat: Even after 9/11 and 7/7, the country has seemed to be in denial of Islamic militants who hate Britain and want to destroy it, and who might be thought to constitute an 'enemy within'
In our schools, this militant anti-racism spilled over into history teaching, where an agenda took over whose aim was nothing less than the dissolution of British national identity and the construction of a new, multicultural ‘narrative’.
Educationists objected in particular to teaching classic English authors or British history to ethnic minority children on the grounds that this was racist. I remember one education lecturer questioning whether there could be any shared values at all.
I was appalled. Did that mean that freedom of speech, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law or monogamy were no longer to be upheld as worthwhile?
Here was the very nihilism which, if unchallenged, threatened to destroy the West. If all common bonds of tradition, custom, culture and morality were destroyed, there would no social glue to keep society together. It would gradually fracture into disparate tribes with competing agendas, and eventually destroy itself.
To my mind, one of the ways in which we were sleep-walking towards this self-destruction was in attitudes towards Israel.
I was on the panel of BBC1’s Question Time once when from the audience came the view that Israel was the source of terror in the Middle East.
I replied that, on the contrary, the Palestinians were sponsors of terror and incited violence and hatred daily against Israelis and Jews across the world.
I wondered why people had no sympathy when Israelis tried to prevent themselves from being murdered.
As I spoke, I was aware of a low hissing from the audience. I looked at them and saw faces convulsed with hatred. I said Israel was the only democracy in the Middle East. The audience laughed.
The default belief in Britain is that Israel is the bully in the Middle East, and responsible for the absence of peace with the Palestinians.
Anti-Israel campaigns are conducted by trades unions, the Church of England and the medical profession. University tutors mark down students if they don’t reproduce Arab propaganda about the Middle East.
Yet the Arab and Muslim agenda is to exterminate Israel. Israel is constantly demonised for defending itself while support grows for those Arab terrorists who turned themselves into human bombs to murder as many Israeli innocents as possible.
When I wrote and spoke out about this, I found myself in a new pigeon hole. Formerly damned as ‘Right-wing’, I was now consigned to a fresh circle of hell as ‘Melanie the war-mongering Zionist Jew’.
The really striking thing was that this Israel and Jew-bashing bigotry was strongest on the supposedly anti-racist Left. What was going on was a kind of Holocaust inversion, with the Israelis being demonised as Nazis and the Palestinians given a free pass as the ‘new Jews’. Sadly, 9/11 fed this madness.
A common reaction in Britain was that the cause of Muslim rage was Israel’s ‘oppression’ of the Palestinians. But in swallowing and regurgitating lies about Israel and prejudice about Jews, people were swallowing the propaganda from the enemies not just of Israel, but of Britain and the West — while instead treating their defender, Israel, as the enemy.
All this is singularly myopic. Israel is the forward salient of the war to defend Western civilisation — and, although the British do not seem to realise it, that includes them.
My belief is that if Israel were ever to go down, Britain and the West would be next in line.
British liberals need to take their heads out of the sand and understand that supporting Israel is pivotal to the defence of Britain and the Western world.
Adapted from Guardian Angel: My Story, My Britain, by Melanie Phillips, published by emBooks and available for £6.99 at embooks.com