It was a working-class neighborhood, with a good number of Irish and Cypriot immigrants. Your food choices were the inevitable fish-and-chips, plus the curry joint, plus a strong pitch from the Greek and Turkish kebab sellers. There was never much "bother," as the British say, in Finsbury Park. Greeks and Turks might be fighting in Cyprus, but they never lifted a hand to one another in London. Many of the Irish had republican allegiances, but they didn't take that out on the local Protestants. And, even though both Cyprus and Ireland had all the grievances of partitioned former British colonies, it would have seemed inconceivable—unimaginable—that any of their sons would put a bomb on the bus their neighbors used.Hitchens feels out of place when he returns to Finsbury Park nowadays. There's a greater unassimilated refugee flow, with immigrants from Algeria, the Middle East, and Asia (and many more women women who don't shed their chadors or burkas). But especially bothersome is Hitchens' feelings on the spector of Islamist violence. Here's his remarks on the growth of the Finsbury Park Mosque, plus some related implications:
Until he was jailed last year on charges of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred, a man known to the police of several countries as Abu Hamza al-Masri was the imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque. He was a conspicuous figure because, having lost the use of an eye and both hands in an exchange of views in Afghanistan, he sported an opaque eye plus a hook to theatrical effect. Not as nice as he looked, Abu Hamza was nonetheless unfailingly generous with his hospitality. Overnight guests at his mosque's sleeping quarters have included Richard Reid, the man in whose honor we now all have to take off our shoes at the airport, and Zacarias Moussaoui, the missing team member of September 11, 2001. Other visitors included Ahmed Ressam, arrested for trying to blow up LAX for the millennium, and Nizar Trabelsi, a Tunisian who planned to don an explosive vest and penetrate the American Embassy in Paris. On July 7, 2005 ("7/7," as the British call it), a clutch of bombs exploded in London's transport system. It emerged that one of the suicide murderers had been influenced by the preachings of Abu Hamza, as had two of those attempting to replicate the mission two weeks later.Hitchens also catalogs some interesting and publicly available cinematic and documentary films, particularly Undercover Mosque, a video detailing the Islamist movement's seething hatred toward the West. This is how Hitchens describes it:
In fact, the British jihadist is becoming quite a feature on the international scene. In 1998, six British citizens of Pakistani and North African descent along with two other British residents were arrested by the government of Yemen and convicted of planning to kidnap a group of tourists and attack British targets in the port of Aden (scene of the near-sinking of the U.S.S. Cole two years later). One of the youths was the son of the tireless Abu Hamza, and another was his stepson. In December 2001, Richard Reid made his bid on the Paris–Miami flight. By then, two or three Britons had been killed in Afghanistan—fighting on the side of the Taliban. The following year came the video butchering of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, whose abduction and murder were organized by another Briton—a former student at the London School of Economics—named Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. And the year after that, two British-passport holders, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, took part in a suicide attack on Mike's Place, a Tel Aviv bar.
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.
In the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, which killed 52 civilians (including a young Afghan, Atique Sharifi, who had fled to London to escape the Taliban) and injured hundreds more, I found that American television interviewers were all asking me the same question: How can this be? Britain is the country of warm beer and cricket and rain-lashed seaside resorts, not a place of arms for exotic and morbid cults. British press coverage struck the same plaintive note. One of the murderers, Shehzad Tanweer, was a cricket enthusiast from Leeds, in Yorkshire, whose family ran a fish-and-chips shop. You can't get much more assimilated than that. Yet Britain's former head of domestic intelligence, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller (and you can't get much more British than that, either), said last year that there are more than "1,600 identified individuals" within the borders of the kingdom who are ready to follow Tanweer's example (including those in whose honor we now all have to part with our liquids and gels at the airport). And, according to Manningham-Buller, "over 100,000 of our citizens consider the July 2005 attacks in London justified."
And there it all is: foaming, bearded preachers calling for crucifixion of unbelievers, for homosexuals to be thrown off mountaintops, for disobedient and "deficient" women to be beaten into submission, and for Jewish and Indian property and life to be destroyed. "You have to bomb the Indian businesses, and as for the Jews, you kill them physically," as one sermonizer, calling himself Sheikh al-Faisal, so prettily puts it. This stuff is being inculcated in small children—who are also informed that the age of consent should be nine years old, in honor of the prophet Muhammad's youngest spouse.I'm no expert on Islam, although I read the widely in the policy and security studies literature on the nature of the Islamist threat. Unlike what many of those sympathetic to Muslims might say, I'm personally not persuaded that Islam's "a religion of peace." For example, I assign in my World Politics course, "Terror, Islam, and Democracy," by Ladan and Roya Boroumand. They note, for example, that Islamist terrorism "is first and formost an ideological and moral challenge to liberal democracy." See also, Robert Leiken's 2005 Foreign Affairs article, "Europe's Angry Muslims," where he notes that Europe's Islamist radicals "endanger the entire Western world."