This month’s riots in the immigrant ghettos outside Paris are only the latest manifestation of a continent in decline. Expressly, Europe has abandoned its culture. Thus, it has lost the means by which to assimilate Muslims who have shown no inclination to emulate those who seek American citizenship and accept the pluralistic values our country represents. Not surprisingly, many in Britain have trumpeted the French contretemps with more than a bit of schadenfreude, and it is tempting for this Anglophile to join the fray. But to ignore the fatal faults in one’s friends is the antithesis of amity. Let there be no doubt that Great Britain faces a deadly threat from militant Islam. The July 7 subway bombings, which occurred within walking distance of where I lived this past summer, made this threat tragically obvious.
As they are wont to do, the British demonstrated a steely resolve in the wake of the bombings, and I was shocked at the lack of emotion, a shock that surely emanated from my being a native of a country ridiculed for its effusiveness. Yet the Britain of the Blitz — the Britain that has been immortalized in the minds of Americans — is showing cracks. A proper analysis of Great Britain’s attempts at integration of Muslims is far too great a task for a newspaper column, but the behavior of the mayor of that country’s capitol city is cause for distress.
On first glance, London’s gay community could have no better friend than Ken Livingstone.
A legendary member of the far-left wing of the Labour Party, the mayor has been an outspoken advocate for gay rights. He started the first Partnership Register in the United Kingdom. He regularly attends the London Gay Pride Parade. He has worked with his city’s police force to crack down on homophobic crime.
In spite of this flawless record on gay rights, Livingstone has repeatedly expressed support for radical Islamist cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Qatar-based imam whom the mayor hosted at City Hall last year. The sheikh runs the Web site Islamonline, which, according to the British gay rights group Outrage!, has labeled homosexuals “perverted” and “abominable.” Qaradawi himself has called homosexuality a “disease that needs a cure” and his site suggests that gays be executed via “burning or stoning to death.” Wives, if they misbehave, are to be beaten, but those concerned about the status of women ought not to be concerned, for the thrashing need only be “light.”
Livingstone has called Qaradawi a “leading progressive Muslim,” and has said, “his is very similar to the position of Pope John XXIII.” The Pope was certainly no friend of gays, but one thinks that Livingstone had another comparison in mind. John XXIII, you see, was a reformer who worked to repair the Church’s relations with Jews. An odd comparison, nevertheless, given the fact that Qaradawi has called suicide bombings in Israel “martyrdom operations.”
In a fit of oxymoronic stupor, Livingstone defended Qaradawi by calling him, “an absolutely sane Islamist.”
The sheikh has been banned from entering the United States since 1999. He was invited to a conference in Manchester this summer, but his invitation was later revoked. But Livingstone supported Qaradawi’s visit all along — especially after Islamists killed 56 people this summer.
Livingstone’s unrepentant embrace of Qaradawi is all the more repulsive in light of revelations made just after the July 7 attacks that gay people may soon be targeted for Islamist terror. Peter Tatchell, the UK’s most visible gay rights figure, has stated that he and two other British gay campaigners were informed by anonymous fundamentalists that they are on a “hit list” and are to be “beheaded” and “chopped up” in accordance with “Islamic law.”
“If the terrorists want to attack the gay community,” Outrage! campaign coordinator Brett Lock said, “they may well attempt to detonate a bomb in a crowded gay bar, restaurant, club or community center.” Gay people around the world who have always viewed these locations as places of refuge would be foolish to laugh off the hazard of an Islamist bomb attack on such establishments. Can one imagine a better target in which to murder and maim perverted infidels?
The European left, a natural supporter of homosexual liberation, has bent over backwards in its complete accommodation of Muslims, in spite of the fact that a vocal portion of this community takes a medieval view towards homosexuals. Livingstone has encountered no difficulty in reconciling these conflicting views. Earlier last month in The Morning Star, Britain’s Marxist daily, he simultaneously praised his multiculturalism policies and city officials’ decision to eliminate regulations hindering London shopkeepers from flying gay pride flags.
Livingstone holds the value of “multiculturalism” as the highest of all, even if that means respecting cultures that seek to destroy ours. The risk of offending a single Muslim is too onerous for Livingstone to condemn those who glorify terror. During the Cold War, the term “useful idiot” (ironically coined by Lenin) was applied to those in the West who excused away or completely ignored the atrocities of Communism. “Red Ken” Livingstone, as he is affectionately known, was a useful idiot then and is no less a useful idiot of the Islamofascists now.
To abandon a class of citizens in order to appease a group judged more politically valuable is more than perverse, it cheapens the ideal of liberalism itself. Democratic citizenship means nothing if we are willing to sell the rights of people down the river because a militant minority demands it.
Once again, a specter haunts Europe. And once again, Americans do not have the option of sitting out a battle taking place across an ocean’s expanse.
James Kirchick is a senior in Pierson College. He is an occasional columnist.