Fifteen years ago, when the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was declared and both his defenders and detractors managed to miss what the business was really about, the Times’s Clifford Longley nailed it very well. Surveying the threats from British Muslim groups, he wrote that certain Muslim beliefs “are not compatible with a plural society: Islam does not know how to exist as a minority culture. For it is not just a set of private individual principles and beliefs. Islam is a social creed above all, a radically different way of organising society as a whole.”
Since then, societal organisation-wise, things seem to be going Islam’s way swimmingly – literally in the case of the French municipal pool which bowed to Muslim requests to institute single-sex bathing, but also in more important ways. Thus, I see the French interior minister flew to Egypt to seek the blessing for his new religious legislation of the big-time imam at the al-Azhar theological institute. Rather odd, don’t you think? After all, Egypt isn’t in the French interior. But, if Egypt doesn’t fall within the interior minister’s jurisdiction, France apparently falls within the imam’s.
And so, when free speech, artistic expression, feminism and other totems of western pluralism clash directly with the Islamic lobby, Islam more often than not wins – and all the noisy types who run around crying “Censorship!” if a Texas radio station refuses to play the Bush-bashing Dixie Chicks suddenly fall silent. I don’t know about you, but this “multicultural Britain” business is beginning to feel like an interim phase.