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Friday, February 17, 2006

It Took a Cartoon

Rich Leonardi

It took a cartoon. More specifically, it took a protest over a cartoon. Where the 7/7 subway bombings by domestic Moslem terrorists failed to agitate Londoners, it appears that an obnoxious protest by Moslems in front of the Danish Embassy on February 4 has awakened them from their slumber.

Young Moslem Britons carried placards with slogans like “Kill Those That Insult the Messenger” and chanted catchy little ditties like “Denmark, USA, 7/7 on its way.”

Judging by the papers and some recent polls, Londoners have had enough. Both the Telegraph and the Times led their February 12 editions with lengthy pieces about the heretofore unchecked growth of radical Islam within the city’s borders. There are 1.6 million Moslems calling London home and filling 2,000 mosques, many of the latter little more than fronts for radical Islamic political movements. The Times published an exposé entitled “How Liberal Britain Let Hate Flourish.” It also published the results of a recent poll. Four out of five Londoners believe that Parliament is “too politically correct” in its response to radical homegrown Islam, and nine in ten believe more 7/7-style attacks are likely. Two-thirds believe relations between Moslems and everyone else in the country will get worse.

This mirrors the shock many are feeling toward MI5, the country’s intelligence bureau. According to reports, the agency more or less sat on incriminating evidence against Abu Hamza, until recently the head of a terrorist recruiting center disguised as the Finsbury Park Mosque and just last week sentenced to seven years in prison.

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government, which despite its courage in confronting radical Islam abroad has shown little nerve to do it at home, is out of gas. The papers now speculate when the prime minister will step down to clear the way for his drab left-wing chancellor Gordon Brown. Tory leader David Cameron’s youthful, cheeky glibness seems entirely unsuited to the task. He spends most of his time scoring political points by picking apart the flaws in Blair’s proposed counter-terrorism measures.

The Times also included the results of recent past surveys. Seven percent of Britain’s Moslems believe the suicide bombing of civilian targets is acceptable. (If that sounds small, consider that it translates to 100,000 people; the number doubles when the targets are Israelis.) A full third believe that “western society is decadent and immoral and Moslems should bring it to an end.” Something tells me that “evangelizing the culture” isn’t what many of them have in mind.

Yet authentic evangelization is precisely what Britons need if they are to win the long, hard fight against militant Islam in their midst. When I was in England, one Anglican church I briefly visited celebrated in its weekly bulletin the results of a survey which revealed that “eight out of ten people in Britain go into a church or place of worship each year.” In the United States, Catholic commentators spill pots of ink over declining weekly Mass attendance rates. Our friends across the pond get excited if someone stumbles into a church once a year.

English Catholic author and journalist Joanna Bogle recently wrote a piece for Crisis magazine lamenting the decline of the country’s Christian sensibilities. “How,” she wrote, “can a nation have a sense of culture and identity when it has no cult, no belief system? For centuries, the beliefs of the British people centered on Christianity.... Today, we are expected to believe that all of this can be consigned to history, and that a post-Christian society can survive and thrive with everything intact but the inner core absent."

But Britons won’t get much help from church leaders in stemming the tide of radical Islam. During my stay in England, the official Anglican Church was too busy apologizing for slavery and debating the merits of “women bishops” to offer anything instructive. And the priest celebrating the Vigil Mass I attended at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral droned on and on during his lengthy opening prayer and homily about the need for “tolerance and inclusion.” It was noteworthy that he was accompanied by an armed guard who stood just to the right of the altar at all times.

While one would like to take some comfort from the Times poll, Britain’s problems with domestic Islamic terrorism are likely to get worse. Will there “always be an England”? Only if a good number of that newly-awakened “four in five” have the stomach to make some hard choices and “stay up late” to see them through. Polling, like talk, is cheap.

  • © Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange

    Rich Leonardi, publisher of the blog Ten Reasons, writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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