Category Archives: Islam

The hackneyed all-our-thoughts formula

Usman Khan

Dalrymple points out that whenever high-profile murders take place in the West,

someone in high authority is bound to say something like All our thoughts are with the victims (or the relatives of the victims).

He points out that

this is a lie, and by no means a noble one: all the high authority’s thoughts ought not to be with the victims or with the relatives of the victims. The authority ought rather to be thinking of whether there are means to prevent similar attacks in the future. It is perfectly possible to express decent condolences without resort to obvious and insincere exaggeration.

Dalrymple’s first encounter with the Mohammedan world

It was, he writes,

as a callow youth half a century ago. I recognised at once that it was very different from the world I had known, but it never crossed my mind for an instant that it ought to be made similar to or identical with my world.

Nor did it occur to Dalrymple that at least some of the people that he met

thought that my world ought to be made similar to or identical with theirs simply because they believed themselves in possession of a universal religious truth.

As far as the young Dalrymple was concerned,

east was still east and west was still west, and never the twain would clash.

How to quickly sort the dead from the comatose

Founding exhibit of the National Museum of Kitsch

Looking for a plastic-cased alarm clock in the form of a mosque? There are, Dalrymple notes,

three colours to choose from: sky blue, apple green, and baby pink.

At the appointed time, Dalrymple explains,

a raucous muezzin begins to call, enough to waken the dead, let alone the sleeper. When I hear him—he switches suras if you allow him to go on long enough—I think of those Victorians who feared premature burial (I have a small collection of books on the subject).

These Victorians

invented many different methods of avoiding the terrible fate, including patent coffins with megaphones to alert passers-by to the presence of the living interred.

There were also

cords tied to the big toes of the pseudo-deceased, in the undertakers’ chapel of rest. The cords connected them to a bell, sensitive to the slightest movement, in the undertakers’ office — like the defunct servants’ call bells you sometimes see in old mansions.

But these methods, it seems to Dalrymple,

would quickly have been superseded by this mosque alarm clock.

 

An eschatological philosophy in a post-religious world

Marxism, writes Dalrymple,

served more than one psychological purpose.

It gave those who adhered to it

the comforting feeling that they understood the inner or hidden workings of the world; that they were far superior in this understanding to those who did not adhere to it; and that they were participating in something far bigger than themselves. It gave them an illusion of transcendence.

Dalrymple points out that although many Marxists claimed that communist Russia’s downfall did not affect their faith in the truth of their secular religion,

Marxism as an intellectual system was deeply discredited by the now-undeniable failure of the Soviet Union to deliver on any of its utopian promises.

On the contrary, Marxism

provided the pretext for the murder, as well as causing the miserable living conditions, of many millions of people; and it was as implausible to deny the connection of these with Marxism as it is now to deny the connection of terrorism with Islam.

Indispensable faculty in those who would produce great art

Joyce’s Ulysses on one of the shelves of the personal library of Theodore Dalrymple, Ardèche, 2017

Dalrymple points out that self-censorship

does not at the moment enjoy a very happy reputation. It is associated in our minds with an avoidance—a cowardly or dishonest avoidance—of difficult or dangerous subjects: the intellectual nullity of contemporary Islam, for example, or the nature of transsexualism.

However, he argues that the faculty of self-censorship is

indispensable in those who would produce great art.

It is the sense

not merely of what should be left out, but of what should not be said.

Without self-censorship, we enter

an arms race of vulgar sensationalism.

El Greco, El expolio, 1577-79, sacristy of Toledo Cathedral

Postcards from Bradford

Caelum, non animum mutant, qui trans mare currunt

Dalrymple writes that not since he lived and worked in South Africa

have I seen a city as racially segregated as Bradford.

There is no law to separate the races,

but stone walls do not a ghetto make.

An outpost of Islam

It is possible

in one part of Bradford to conclude that it is a typical northern British city, dominated almost completely by a white working class, and in another (reached by driving along a single major road that bisects the city) that it is an outpost of Islam, whose people have changed their hemisphere of residence, but not their culture or way of life.

Females excluded from this gathering

Rotten grandeur

Dalrymple explains that the city

reached an acme of prosperity in the second half of the 19th century, before its success evaporated, leaving behind a legacy of municipal pride and magnificence, of splendid public buildings in the Gothic and renaissance-revival styles. (It was on the head of a Bradford millionaire that Eliot sarcastically stuck a silk hat in The Waste Land.)

Even many of the terraced working-class homes

are elegantly and expensively faced in stone, so that large areas of the city resemble nothing so much as Bath with textile mills added.

Hanover Square

One part of Bradford, Hanover Square,

is a small masterpiece of Victorian town architecture: it was long the residence of Margaret McMillan, who some 90 years ago founded the British nursery-school movement and agitated for improvements in working-class education.

The streets of Bradford: strictly men only

Women prohibited from this march

Nowadays, Dalrymple notes,

there is not a white face to be seen in the square, nor that of any woman. It is strictly men only on the street, dressed as for the North-West Frontier (apart, incongruously, from their sneakers).

A group of them

perpetually mills around outside the house that functions as a madrassah.

‘Buckshot’ Forster, who represented Bradford in the House of Commons between 1861 and 1886, was among other things Gladstone’s chief secretary for Ireland

The Victoria Monument is today spoiled by the hideous modern building in the background

The W.E. Forster statue is today spoiled by a monstrosity of a shopping centre

Islam’s appeal to convicts

The many Muslims in the prison in which Dalrymple works are, he writes,

largely indifferent to their religion, except in one respect. The prison imam, a mild-mannered man of peaceful disposition, has little influence over them; and they are the reverse of pious.

However, they are

keen on the system of forced marriage which, rightly or wrongly, they associate with their religion, and are angry if their sisters are reported to be enamoured of someone not chosen for them. The system is convenient to them; it provides them with a sexual partner and domestic, while leaving them free to participate in debauchery.

A Muslim prisoner who testified for the prosecution in a case of honour killing

had to be removed because of the threats he received: he had let the side down.

Crime, Dalrymple points out, is overwhelmingly a young man’s game, but some prisoners

need a pretext to give up their life of crime. They don’t like to feel that they have been defeated by the ‘system’. This explains the attraction of Islam, particularly to black prisoners. Like other ageing men, they want to give up crime. At the same time, they remain hostile to the society in which they grew up.

It is not, therefore,

to their parents’ (particularly their mothers’) Pentecostal Christianity to which they are drawn, but to a religion that they know frightens the population round them. It allows them to give up crime while feeling that they have not surrendered to the criminal justice system: they can have their cake and eat it.

Another advantage is that

their womenfolk may follow them. It stabilises their relationships, which until then have usually been conspicuously unstable.

It is only to be expected that

those who undergo religious conversion also give up the life of crime (except for the kind of belief than enjoins violence to others as a religious duty).

Islam compels, or it is nothing

Mohammedans, writes Dalrymple,

have seen what happened to Christianity as soon as its ability to enforce was lost. They rightly suspect that the same will happen to Mohammedanism if it is no longer able to coerce: it will become intellectually meaningless. It will be reduced to a mortal personal belief, such as the belief in the healing power of crystals or the determining influence of the planetary position.

It is therefore nonsense to say, as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, says, that we all share the values ​​of tolerance. Indeed, says Dalrymple,

if we really shared those values, the problem we face would not have arisen.

Islam in British prisons

Dalrymple writes of a man he met whose ambition was to be a suicide bomber. The man

was an inmate at the prison where I worked. He was a career criminal of very nasty propensities whose father was Arab and mother English. He had reached his 30s, the age at which criminals usually turn away from crime in favour of something better—in his case the killing of as many infidels as possible, along with himself.

Coming to religion is one reason, or pretext, for abandoning crime, says Dalrymple. In the prison

there was much more Islamic evangelism than Christian. I would find Korans and Islamic pamphlets in drawers, insinuated there by I knew not whom, but never Bibles or Christian pamphlets.

Dalrymple interpreted religion

as the means prisoners used to rationalise 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.

So you want to be a suicide bomber

A convict tells Dalrymple of his wish to kill innocents. He is

more hate-filled than any man I have ever met.

The offspring of a broken marriage between a Muslim man and a female convert, he

has followed the trajectory of many young men in his area: sex and drugs and rock-and-roll. Violent and aggressive by nature, intolerant of the slightest frustration to his will and frequently suicidal, he experienced taunting during his childhood because of his mixed parentage. After a vicious rape for which he went to prison, he converted to a Salafist form of Islam and has become convinced that any system of justice that takes the word of a mere woman over his own is irredeemably corrupt.

The underlying emotion is hatred

Dalrymple notices one day that his mood has greatly improved.

He is communicative and almost jovial, which he has never been before. I ask him what has changed in his life for the better. He has made his decision, he says. Everything is resolved. He is not going to kill himself in an isolated way, as he previously intended. Suicide is a mortal sin, according to the tenets of the Islamic faith. No, when he gets out of prison he will not kill himself; he will make himself a martyr, and be rewarded eternally, by making himself into a bomb and taking as many enemies with him as he can.

Enemies, Dalrymple asks; what enemies? How can he know that the people he kills at random will be enemies?

They are enemies, he says, because they live happily in our rotten and unjust society. By definition, they are enemies—enemies in the objective sense, as Stalin might have put it—and hence are legitimate targets.

Dalrymple asks him whether he thinks that, in order to deter him from his course of action, it would be right for the state to threaten to kill his mother and his brothers and sisters—and to carry out this threat if he carried out his, in order to deter others like him.

The idea appalls him, not because it is yet another example of the wickedness of a Western democratic state, but because he cannot conceive of such a state acting in this unprincipled way. In other words, he assumes a high degree of moral restraint on the part of the very organism that he wants to attack and destroy.