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City Journal Summer 2007.
Summer 2007
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NEW BOOK FROM THEODORE DALRYMPLE:
The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism.
NOT WITH A BANG BUT A WHIMPER:
The Politics and Culture of Decline

by Theodore Dalrymple
Not With a Bang But a Wimper.
 
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Time Out Londonistan
Theodore Dalrymple

A modest proposal, or a radical plot?

In the week in which it was reported that Mohammed is now the second most popular name for boys born in Britain, and will probably soon be the most popular, the magazine Time Out London published an article by Michael Hodges suggesting that the total Islamization of the city would bring many advantages.

Time Out has long prided itself on being edgy, hip, and fearless, so the fact that it might be a somewhat slimmer publication under a new Islamic dispensation did not seem to worry it unduly. The author, after all, was only being fashionably transgressive in his article, probably satirical; the fact that his words might be taken seriously in the wrong quarters was of no account to him. Further, he did not stop to think what effect they might have on Hindus and Sikhs, of whom there are large numbers in London, and for whom a joke about an Islamic takeover would not be so amusing.

Opinion is divided as to whether Hodges’s article was, in fact, merely satirical. I think that it was: his suggestion that regular Islamic prayer would lessen osteoarthritis points to satire, as does his proposed transformation of pubs into juice bars, to the great benefit of public health. His eulogy of zakat, the Muslim 2.5 percent tax earmarked for the poor, could be taken as a plea for lower taxes, since all social democracies exact far higher taxes for the purpose.

The problem with deciding whether the article is purely satirical or not is that it so exactly reproduces some of the Islamists’ claims. Here, for example, it lauds Muslim race relations: “Under Islam all ethnicities are equal. Once you have submitted to Allah you are a Muslim—it doesn’t matter what color you are. End of story.” This is about as accurate a depiction of the actual situation in Muslim countries as the old Communist claim that everyone was economically equal in the Soviet Union. But it is a claim that Islamists make nevertheless, and the gullible often believe it.

A satire fails if people do not realize that it is a satire. No one would mistake Swift’s A Modest Proposal or Directions to Servants for serious suggestions as to how to defeat Irish poverty or run a household properly. But if the blogs are anything to go by, the overwhelming majority of people thought that Hodges was perfectly serious. So many concessions have already been made to Islamism in Britain that joining an irresistible tide might seem a sensible precaution, or an astute positioning for the future. At least one Islamic blogger from Britain congratulated Hodges for his bravery in saying what so few of his compatriots would say: that what Britain needs, in common with the rest of the world, is Islam. And the magazine itself did not make the intention of the author any easier to decipher by placing it among other, less provocative articles about Islam in London.

So is London’s future Islamic? I do not think so, even if Mohammed does become the commonest British name. Islamism’s intellectual resources are so slight as to be negligible, and its pretensions ridiculous. To state its claims is to refute them: perhaps that was Hodges’s intention.

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More by Theodore Dalrymple:
To Have or to Be?
Cruel When Not Kind
Why Europe Sleeps
More . . .
If you liked this story, you may also be interested in:
Is Islam Compatible with Capitalism?
The Discriminating Philistine
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National Post
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