Losing the plot

“Poor Melanie Phillips. Her new book, Londonistan, which argues that the London attacks of 7 July 2005 were the culmination of a sinister Islamist conspiracy to infiltrate Britain and bring our civilisation to its knees, has hit the shelves just a few weeks after the government’s report into the bombings revealed that, in fact, they were the work of four ordinary blokes with no clear links to al-Qaeda….

“In another piece of bad timing, one of the main endorsers of the book – the Iranian author Amir Taheri, who shares the view that radical Islam poses a potent threat to the world – was exposed, at the end of May, as the source of a mistaken story about extremist antics in Iran. Taheri claimed in a column that, in an eerie echo of Nazi Germany, a new Iranian law will force religious minorities to wear coloured badges ‘to indicate their non-Islamic faith’. Canada’s National Post reported on it, as did Phillips in her blog, where she described the law as ‘horrific’, a ‘global obscenity’. But the story, in the words of Maurice Motammed, Iran’s only Jewish MP, was ‘totally false’. The National Post has now published a grovelling retraction.

“Most journalists would be mortified if their book was published just as an official account ripped strips off many of their central claims and as one of their supporters was shown to be unreliable. But Phillips is not most journalists. Something has happened to her in recent years. This once fine writer has become obsessed with radical Islam, to the extent that she will not let the facts dent her deeply held conviction that an evil army of crazed Muslims has launched ‘an attack on the historic core of western liberty’, and that the need to confront this army is ‘no less critical than when [Britain and the US] stood shoulder to shoulder against Nazi Germany’.”

Brendan O’Neill in the New Statesman, 12 June 2006

It’s always good to read a demolition of Mad Mel. But O’Neill – editor of Spiked, the online successor to the Revolutionary Communist Party’s Living Marxism – undermines his own case. His take on 7/7– “What Phillips presents as the handiwork of ‘clerical fascism’ looks increasingly like Britain’s Columbine, a murderous stunt executed by four bored and overgrown adolescents who had nothing better to do” – dismisses concerns about “jihadist” terrorism as just another moral panic. This might serve the ex-RCPers’ speciality of winding people up by provocatively adopting controversial positions, but the reality is that the 7/7 bombers were clearly motivated by the desire to punish ordinary Londoners for the crimes of western imperialism, and they found ideological inspiration in a perverted interpretation of Islam. It is necessary to point out that this is an interpretation rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Describing the bombers as “bored and overgrown adolescents who had nothing better to do”, however, is just silly.