The Future of Islam and the West (2015), by Sean Gabb
The Future of Islam and the West
A Speech Given in London
on Friday the 27th February 2015
to “Dialogue with Islam”
Speakers (in order):
Dr Sean Gabb (Director, the Libertarian Alliance)
Jamal Harwood (New Civilisation, Islamic Political Magazine)
Dr Mustaqim Bleher (Author and translator of the Koran)
Tim Vince (Chair of Christian Heritage)
Note: This is the introductory speech that I gave on the 27th February 2015. Since no one tried to chop my head off for saying what I thought, I became bolder in my answers to the questions from the audience and in my disagreements with other members of the panel. I spoke far more bluntly about the supposed limits to freedom of speech. I even pointed out, by way of a lecture on Byzantine history and the Crusades, that, unless seriously weakened by some other force, or divided against itself, Christendom had always won its wars with Islam; and that anyone who spoke glibly back at me “about irreconcilable differences of paradigm” should be careful that he was not moving towards a conflict that had so far hardly begun and that his side would assuredly lose.
I say that no one tried to cut my head off. This is rather a silly remark. I found myself arguing with an audience of people who disagreed with just about everything I said, but who behaved with admirable restraint and good will, and who sat down with me afterwards to a most enjoyable dinner. Indeed, I found much common ground with Jamal Harwood. We agreed on the moral illegitimacy of corporate personhood in business organisations and of limited liability laws. We both denounced fractional reserve banking and praised a fully-convertible gold and silver standard. Our main difference was over the basis – in a free market – of time preference and risk in the determination of interest rates.
Turning to the other speakers, I doubt if Dr Bleher will be offended when I say that I found him more fundamentally German than Islamic in his manner of argument. And, while there are differences between the Libertarian Alliance and Christian Heritage, I thought Tim Vince an interesting speaker.
Before I left, someone with a big beard came and shook me by the hand, and thanked me for treating him like an adult human being when I said what I really thought.
I suspect, and even hope, that tonight was only the first round in a series of debates in which I and my colleagues can take the libertarian message to an audience that has not so far had the opportunity to give it serious consideration.
The topic of this evening’s symposium is The Future of Islam and the West. The time I have is not enough to do justice to so large a topic. Instead, I will focus on the future of Islam in the United Kingdom.
The summary of what I have to say is that, for a group of communities so enterprising and so generally intelligent as my Islamic fellow-citizens have shown themselves to be, I am not impressed by the nature of your dealings with the British State.
You were allowed to settle in this country for various reasons. One of them is that the British ruling class does not wish to be held accountable before a united and homogenous nation. In such a nation, while there may be differences of income and faith and opinion, the people will understand one another, and will trust one another. Below a possibly turbulent surface, they will be joined by bonds of shared blood and a common history. A trespass on the rights of one will tend to be seen as a trespass on the rights of all. Show me ten reasonably homogenous nations, and I will show you seven or eight, or even nine, liberal democracies, with equality before the law and a high degree of political accountability. Show me a multi-ethnic “community of communities,” and I will probably show you an empire – an empire without working accountability, because its constituent nationalities are too suspicious of one another to present a united front to the authorities.
The British ruling class does not want to govern a nation. It wants to rule an empire. I repeat, this is not the sole reason why mass-immigration from the Third World was encouraged. But it is one of the most important reasons. You differ from the natives of this country in appearance, in blood, in faith, and in many of your most basic assumptions about the world. I will not dwell on certain unfortunate acts in Woolwich, in Rotherham, in Paris, and in the territories controlled by the Islamic State. I certainly do not wish to accuse anyone here of sympathy with the perpetrators of these acts. At the same time, those perpetrators can be seen – whether justly or unjustly I do not care to discuss – as part of a continuum that embraces many people here in this room.
This makes you ideal tools of the British ruling class. You are in the nation, but not of the nation. No doubt, some acts committed by Moslems are truly offensive to the ruling class. But even these serve the overriding purpose of divide and rule.
I will confess that I regret the mass-immigration of the past three generations. But we are where we are. The present choice for all of us is whether we descend into inter-ethnic civil war, or whether we can find some basis for mutual toleration of our differences and some basis for identifying and advancing our common interests.
Here, I return to my opening point. You were allowed to settle here because you are different from us. It is hard to say on the whole that you are privileged settlers. Your religious gatherings are spied on by the authorities. Your private associations are viewed with great suspicion. There are plans to interfere with how you bring up your children. Your movements are watched. Your opinions are censored. You risk imprisonment if you step out of line.
And your collective response? Why, you complain bitterly about the restrictions placed on you. But I have never seen any of you base your complaints on the universal principles of freedom of speech and freedom of association. Indeed, when you were presented with laws limiting the freedom of speech and association traditionally enjoyed by the natives of this country, you accepted them. Many of you would like even stronger laws – to punish all mockery of your faith, and to shut down political parties that are hostile to your presence in this country.
I tell you in conclusion that, if you want a future for Islam in this country, you must argue for your entirely proper wish to be separate, and to be left alone in your daily lives, on a firmer basis than your own convenience. You must learn to demand freedom of speech, and freedom of association, as parts of the right to be left alone.
You must learn to demand this right for yourself. And you must learn to demand it for everyone else.