Londonistan Calling

Christopher Hitchens returns to his boyhood home in London’s Finsbury Park neighborhood and explores the recent radicalization of the UK’s Muslims.

The British have always been proud of their tradition of hospitality and asylum, which has benefited Huguenots escaping persecution, European Jewry, and many political dissidents from Marx to Mazzini. But the appellation “Londonistan,” which apparently originated with a sarcastic remark by a French intelligence officer, has come to describe a city which became home to people wanted for terrorist crimes as far afield as Cairo and Karachi. The capital of the United Kingdom is, in the words of Steven Simon, a former White House counterterrorism official, “the Star Wars bar scene,” catering promiscuously to all manner of Islamist recruiters and fund-raisers for, and actual practitioners of, holy war.


It’s interesting that it should be authors from Muslim backgrounds—Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, the broadcaster and co-author of the Policy Exchange report Munira Mirza—who are issuing the warnings. For the British mainstream, multiculturalism has been the official civic religion for so long that any criticism of any minority group has become the equivalent of profanity. And Islamic extremists have long understood that they need only suggest a racial bias—or a hint of the newly invented and meaningless term “Islamophobia”—in order to make the British cough and shuffle with embarrassment. Prince Charles himself, the heir to the throne and thus the heir to the headship of the Church of England, has announced his sympathy for Islam and his wish to be the head of all faiths and not just one. This may sound good, if absurd (a chinless prince who becomes head of a church because his mother dies?), but only if you forget that it was Prince Charles who encouraged the late King Fahd, of Saudi Arabia, to contribute more than a million pounds to build … the Finsbury Park Mosque! If you want my opinion, our old district was a lot better off when the crowned heads of the world were busy neglecting it


It’s impossible to exaggerate how far and how fast this situation has deteriorated. Even at the time of the Satanic Verses affair, as long ago as 1989, Muslim demonstrations may have demanded Rushdie’s death, but they did so, if you like, peacefully. And they confined their lurid rhetorical attacks to Muslims who had become apostate. But at least since the time of the Danish-cartoon furor, threats have been made against non-Muslims as well as ex-Muslims (see photograph), the killing of Shiite Muslim heretics has been applauded and justified, and the general resort to indiscriminate violence has been rationalized in the name of god. Traditional Islamic law says that Muslims who live in non-Muslim societies must obey the law of the majority. But this does not restrain those who now believe that they can proselytize Islam by force, and need not obey kuffar law in the meantime. I find myself haunted by a challenge that was offered on the BBC by a Muslim activist named Anjem Choudary: a man who has praised the 9/11 murders as “magnificent” and proclaimed that “Britain belongs to Allah.” When asked if he might prefer to move to a country which practices Shari’a, he replied: “Who says you own Britain anyway?” A question that will have to be answered one way or another.


A society should be able to simultaneously allow freedom of worship and vigorous dissent while drawing a bright line well short of violence. Or, indeed, encouraging the building of madrassahs.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Damned wogs.

  2. Steph says:

    We’re going to have to rescue Europe from these people just like we had to rescue them from Hitler.

  3. carpeicthus says:

    I, too, think that societies need to be wary about warlike conservatives.

  4. legion says:

    Clearly, the problem is people.

  5. Anthony C says:

    “For the British mainstream, multiculturalism has been the official civic religion for so long…”

    I’d just note that the words “press and political class” should be inserted between “mainstream” and “multiculturalism”. There’s mainstream acceptance of a multiracial society. Outside of central London the reaction to talk of multiculturalism is almost universally hostile. I think it’s fair to say that upwards of ninety five per cent of the population is of the view that if people don’t want to integrate to a reasonable degree and abide by British law and mores, they shouldn’t come here in the first place. It’s just that this stance tends not to percolate upwards to the people pulling the levers – or hasn’t until recently.

  6. Tlaloc says:

    Or, indeed, encouraging the building of madrassahs.

    So I take it you oppose the vouchers that the Religious Right keep pushing inthis country… ’cause religious indoctrination schools are a bad thing.

  7. mannning says:

    As our population of Muslims grows, so will our problems with the demands of the Islamic faith in the US. England is a bellweather for what we will face in the not too distant future. We are watching our fate evolve a la the UK, unless we do something to change course with respect to Islam. But, of course, no one is listening to the faint cries of “danger ahead” from numerous sources.

  8. mannning says:

    I agree that a society should be able to draw the line at violence, but that is the same as saying that a society should be free of Radical Muslims, or, for that matter, Muslims, period.

    Just how do we stop Muslim violence in the US when it occurs? The usual stunt today is for the police to flatly deny any connection of a crime with Muslims or terrorism, despite the welter of evidence to the contrary.

    A head-in-sand approach will ensure more of same. How does Joe Public know when he is threatened by Muslim violence? Who are the threats today, and where are they? No one is telling, because there is fear of citizen reprisals should the facts be known. Well, soon now the level will rise to the point where the media cannot hide it any longer from the public. What then?

  9. TheHat says:

    I, too, think that societies need to be wary about warlike conservatives.

    How incredibly cowardly!

    I am a warlike Conservative! I listen to the Islamic radicals and I believe them when they say convert or die. I choose option #3: Kill them first.