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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Standing up for the Enlightenment

In this week's Spectator Diary, Douglas Murray, author of Neoconservatism and director of the Centre for Social Cohesion writes about a dinner date in New York:
Though only ten years older than me, Ayaan Hirsi Ali continues to refer to me as some impossibly young child, still refusing to allow me to pay for meals until I am more advanced in years. We go to a terribly smart restaurant which pretends to have no room, so we loiter in a corner until another member of staff comes over, conceding that at least one of the empty tables might be going spare. We leave very late and hurtle back through the New York streets, high on laughter and friendship. Sometimes people complain to me that I seem too angry when I talk about Islamist terrorists. But this wonderful and brave woman is one of a number of friends who have to spend their lives under 24-hour protection because of what they think, say and write. If that didn’t anger me, then what would? I mind it - mind it deeply - and cannot pretend otherwise.
The pseudoliberals of the left who like to paint as racist those who "get it" where the threat of radical Islamism is concerned ought to pay some attention to Douglas Murray and the sort of people with whom he associates. 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the former Dutch MP of Somali background who has been under threat of death from Islamic extremists for her part in the film Submission, which concerned the condition of women in the Islamic world, and which cost its director Theo van Gogh his life at the hands of a Muslim extremist in November 2004.  She was forced to leave the Netherlands and Europe after attempts to strip her of Dutch citizenship in 2006.  She now resides in the United States.  If future generations of historians are obliged to identify the point at which the lights went out in Europe, the driving out of Ayaan would be a candidate.

Murray also refers to the Canadian feminist and Muslim activist Irshad Manji, a self-described "Muslim refusenik" and critic of radical Islam.  She also faces daily risks to her security, but is nevertheless free to operate in North America, where she resides.

By contrast, Murray refers also to a confrontation on the BBC TV Question Time programme with the Conservative Party's new "Communities spokesperson" Sayeeda Warsi:
I am registered as a voter in Ealing Southall and have a problem. Though a member of the party, I could not vote Conservative. The candidate put up by ‘David Cameron’s Conservatives’ had been a Conservative for a matter of hours and been parachuted in over any number of dedicated, and equally ethnic, party workers. I might have reined in my objections if it hadn’t been for the earlier elevation of Sayeeda Warsi to the shadow Cabinet and the Lords. After a recent run-in with her on the BBC’s Question Time she attacked me for referring to Islamic terrorists. I thought she only minded me identifying terrorists with Islam, but - like the new Home Secretary - it turned out she minded me identifying terrorists with terrorism. And she refused, on air, to condemn the killing of our troops in Iraq. That was enough to drive me from the fold, and emails from our troops since the programme reinforce my feelings. I couldn’t abstain, though I didn’t much like the other candidates. I decided I must vote on a point of principle, and found myself ticking the box for Labour - perhaps the only voter to go over to Labour because of the Iraq war.
When a self-proclaimed neocon is obliged to vote for Gordon Brown's Labour Party, and Conservative front-benchers refuse to condemn the killing of British troops what hope is there for Britain, Europe and the West?  The truth is, very little unless true liberals - those who will stand up for Enlightenment values - organise to turn the tide of illiberalism, intolerance and fear.