Magazine article The Spectator

Cultural Surrender

Magazine article The Spectator

Cultural Surrender

Article excerpt

When I was a teenager I used to upset my father by telling him I thought it would be really glamorous to die young in a car crash.

The stupid thing was, I believed it. The corollary of feeling immortal is that you have no real understanding of the finality of death.

That's why you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of 40-plus suicide bombers.

In My Brother, the Islamist (BBC3, Monday), a likeable Dorset tree surgeon called Robb Leech set out on a quest to discover why the blond, perfectly normal-seeming stepbrother Rich with whom he'd grown up in Weymouth had ended up as a member of the group Islam4UK. That's the nowbanned radical group led by the obnoxious Anjem Choudary which you see doing tasteful, multicultural things like burning the US flag outside the American embassy on the 9/11 anniversary and gathering in Luton to yell 'babykillers' at the Anglian regiment returning from a tour of duty in Iraq.

Though I'm sure it wasn't his intention to use his stepbrother as a pretext for infiltrating this vile organisation, Robb nevertheless landed himself an apparent scoop.

For the first time on television we got to see Islam4UK - or Al Muhajiroun or whatever they call themselves now - not just at work (shouting through megaphones; burning flags; upsetting passers-by) but also at what constitutes for them play.

The things that Islamists can do for fun are actually quite limited: if the Prophet didn't do it, nor can you, so while you're allowed archery and riding, pretty much everything else is haram (i. e. , forbidden). In one of the most pathetic, but also slyly charming scenes, we saw Rich (or Salahuddin, as he now styles himself) and his beardie mates cruising the streets of London in the small hours during Ramadan in search not of sex, drugs or rock'n'roll but of a groovy extremist mosque in which to pray.

I say 'slyly charming' because what you could see very clearly beneath the menacing beards and scary black headscarves and Osama Bin Laden-style combat jackets were some lonely, confused but generally polite, affable young men, who'd found the camaraderie and sense of purpose which comes from being part of a gang. It's just that instead of getting laid and getting wasted, as most sensible young people do, they'd sublimated these urges into a holy mission to impose the rule of Allah on the whole world.

What neither Robb nor the documentary could quite resolve was the gulf between the obvious personal decency of these young men and the totalitarian aggression and intolerance of their (overtly stated) cause. …

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