If you read only one opinion piece today, it has to be Theodore Dalrymple's "Terror and the Teddy Bear Society," in this morning's Wall Street Journal.
Dalrymple was formerly a physician in U.K. prisons, where he met prisoners who had converted to Islam, including one who aspired to be a suicide bomber. Here are some snippets from the column:
Coming to religion is one reason, or pretext, for abandoning crime. In the prison there was much more Islamic evangelism than Christian. I would find Qurans and Islamic pamphlets in drawers, insinuated there by I knew not whom, but never Bibles or Christian pamphlets.
I interpreted religion as the means prisoners used to rationalize giving up common crime while at the same time not feeling defeated by, or having surrendered to, the society around them—for they knew conversion to Islam gave that society the shudders.
The problem for the security services, however, is that there is no invariable profile, social or psychological, of the Muslim terrorist. Nor is there a kind of economic lever that can be pulled so that, with better material prospects, young Muslims will be less attracted to terrorism.
There have, it is true, been no-hopers among the terrorists, but there have also been medical students and doctors. There was nothing (except himself) impeding the recent Manchester bomber from having a normal or even a highly successful career.
As Prime Minister Theresa May rightly said after the most recent atrocities in London, what the terrorists have in common is an ideology. She rightly called it evil, but it is also stupid: It makes the Baader-Meinhof Gang look like Aristotle.
It is not easy to destroy an ideology, Dalrymple notes, even one that is stupid. Cutting off foreign funding for Islamist societies in the U.K. is a promising idea. But it could disrupt trade relations and has not been tried. The U.K. instead has adopted a policy Dalrymple calls "creative appeasement." How does this work?
Authorities make concessions even before, one suspects, there have been any demands for them. Thus, a public library in Birmingham, one of the largest known to me, has installed women-only tables, a euphemism for Muslim women only. Whether there was ever a request or demand for sex-segregated seating from Muslims is probably undiscoverable; truth seldom emerges from a public authority. But the justification would almost certainly be that without such tables, Muslim women would not be able to use the library at all.
The Birmingham airport has set aside a room for wudu, the Muslim ablutions before prayer. No other religion is catered for in this fashion (nor should they be, in my opinion), so the impression is inevitably given that Islam is in some way favored or privileged. Again, it would be difficult to find out whether they received requests or demands for such a room or merely anticipated them; in either case, weakness is advertised.
This is not a local problem alone. Many European airports now set aside a room for “meditation.” The icon used to indicate it almost always carries more of an Islamic connotation than any other. A friend told me that when she went into one such room, she was told by a Muslim to remove her shoes, ecumenism being, of course, a one-way street.
My female Muslim patients who had grown up in Britain told me that the school inspectors had never intervened when their parents prevented them from attending school, often for years. On the other hand, white working-class parents were bullied by those inspectors when their refractory 15-year-old daughters refused to go.
. . .
From all this the terrorists surely draw a great deal of comfort. It gives them the impression of living in a weak society that will be easy to destroy, so that their acts are not in the least nihilistic or pointless, as is often claimed. They perceive ours as a candle-and-teddy-bear society (albeit mysteriously endowed with technological prowess): We kill, you light candles.
P. S. Nobody can compete with Theodore Dalrymple, but in my humble way I was on the same wavelength yesterday with a blog post that questioned whether an Ariana Grande concert is really the best way to combat terrorism.
P.P.S. In a similar vein, the English journalist Ed West writes in The Spectator that "British Values won't help in our fight against terrorism:"
And ‘British values’ will not make the slightest difference. Many concepts are only really articulated once they are disappearing; ‘chivalry’ was glorified by Sir Thomas Malory in his Morte d’Arthur only in the 1460s when the medieval code of ransoming aristocratic prisoners had complete gone and they were routinely beheaded; in The Likes of Us, Michael Collins recalled how local government types began talking of ‘community’ just as the old terraced streets were being ripped apart and replaced with lonely, isolating tower blocks which had no such thing.
The reason we keep on hearing about ‘British values’ uniting our nation is precisely that they don’t; communities that genuinely do have a sense of group feeling don’t need to go on about a set of values that supposedly binds them. Why would they? This is not just about immigration; since the Second World War at least western societies have had a huge growth in values diversity, people being freer to chose their lifestyles; the internet has accelerated this. But these sort of values-diverse societies can only really run smoothly on the understanding that no one tries to blow the others up.
Gentle Reader, I hope I have not ruined your morning.