Friday, July 07, 2017

Douglas Murray on immigration, Islam and identity

In an incendiary new book, neo-conservative Douglas Murray holds forth on immigration, Islam and identity. Here, the writer tells Katie Law why he is predicting the imminent death of Europe

4 May 2017

(Photo: Matt Writtle)

Douglas Murray hopes his new book, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, won’t be seen as incendiary.

Given that it opens with the line “Europe is committing suicide”, it’s hard to see how it won’t. Murray is a gay, English Right-wing journalist who has written books about Lord Alfred Douglas, Neo-conservatism and Lord Saville’s Bloody Sunday Enquiry. More controversially, he is an overt critic of Islam and of mass migration into Europe who does not mince his words. “You only have two options: to say what you think or be quiet. The second has never come naturally and what people don’t want to say is often the most interesting thing to write about,” says Murray, taking a sip of his cappuccino.
Broadly speaking, his thesis is that the unprecedented levels of migration into Europe coming at the same time as the continent has lost faith in its beliefs and identity will result in its downfall. The combination of guilt about our past, declining birth rates and the demise of traditional Christian values, together with the abject failure of multiculturalism, means Europe as we know it will cease to exist within the lifespans of most people alive today. 
Murray contends that by being a tolerant society that is inviting in “the whole world” we risk welcoming in millions of people from other cultures, “some of whom hold less liberal views than the majority of people in the countries they have come into”.
This might not matter if they were coming into “a strong and assertive culture” but they’re not. They’re coming into one that is “guilty, jaded and dying. I find it such a galvanising subject because I think it’s the subject,” he says. 
Murray, 37, writes regularly for The Spectator, is a prolific debater and a director of Right-wing think-tank the Henry Jackson Society. He chooses his words carefully, and comes across as a clever, rather dapper, young fogey. 
The younger son of a civil servant and a schoolteacher, he grew up in Hammersmith and won scholarships, first to St Benedict’s in Ealing, then to Eton before reading English at Oxford.
Drawing extensively from census and poll results, government reports and academic studies, from writers as diverse as Rousseau, Stefan Zweig, Michel Houellebecq, Oriana Fallaci and Salman Rushdie, and from interviewing refugees in camps across Europe, his conclusion amounts to a devastating indictment of the state he believes Europe is in.
“Cities like London have made the assumption that the more people we have, the more diverse we are, the more liberalism will thrive,” he says. But, he insists, this isn’t necessarily so. “What if when you’re gay and you find that religious sensibility trumps sexual rights? A 2015 YouGov poll showed that something like 14 per cent of people across the country think homosexuality is morally not legitimate, which by the way is OK — you can disagree with somebody’s life. But what’s interesting is that in London it was double that. “Londoners say ‘we’re so proud of our diversity and tolerance’, but what if that diversity ends up making us intolerant? Fifty-two per cent of British Muslims in a poll last year said they thought homosexuality should be illegal. I don’t mind if people are not on board with gay marriage, but illegal, today..?”  
Has his own sexuality coloured his opinions? “I’ve been out for my whole adult life so it’s not something I think about, but I can’t say that I like Islam’s attitude towards it.” He recalls being invited in 2009 to debate on sharia versus British law with radical Islamist Anjem Choudary. “The police told me not to turn up, but in the end I thought: ‘To hell with it, it’s my city’. The crowd, from the [now banned] Al-Muhajiroun, were shouting in the street, ‘Get back in your filthy closet, you dirty kuffar’. I’ve had worse, but they did us a favour; it’s why freedom of speech is a good idea because people say what they really think.” 
Female genital mutilation is another case in point. “What by now, in the era of diversity, should be easier than an agreement not to mutilate young girls’ genitals with knives? That’s a slam-dunk. It’s been illegal since 1984 but there hasn’t been a single conviction.”
He cites many other examples of an intolerant  culture getting the upper hand, from blasphemy laws to “honour” killings, not to mention women’s rights. 
Meanwhile, he claims that Western European governments continue to brush the migrant problem under the carpet. “I was in Paris last October where thousands of people were living in tents in an underpass. Two days later I saw that the police had put up wire mesh to stop them going back and they had simply set up a few hundred yards down the street instead. This is Europe. It’s what the Greek authorities do, the Italian authorities and the Germans. You can’t blame them. But we all flatter ourselves that it’s not what we’re doing. The reality is that these people do not become nice European citizens with a good job and prospects.” 
This is not of course what anyone wants to hear. “It’s a huge problem. There are people on the far-Right who say odious things like ‘let them drown’. But if you’re on a Greek island and a boat packed with young men comes along, of course you give them a hand. It’s the human response. On the other political side there’s this fantasy that we will make them all Europeans. There are campaigns and actors and politicians who can afford to say we must take them in. But they don’t pay the consequence any more than the person who says ‘let them drown’ would.” 
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who took in a Syrian family last year, was an exception. “No one points out the moral absurdity of someone saying ‘I would take people in’ during the crisis and then, a year later, you ask them: ‘Where is your Syrian family, your orphans?’” Murray snorts. 
Still, talking to refugees in camps from Lampedusa to Calais has made him more compassionate. “It tests your views all the time, which is a reason you have to do it. Personally, that’s the point. It’s hard, particularly if you get on well with them. You think maybe we can make an exception for this person or that family.”
At the end of his book Murray suggests potential solutions, from leasing land in Libya so that asylum applications can be processed there, to making more concerted efforts to deport illegal migrants. A “mild Brexiteer” himself, he doubts whether leaving the EU will have any impact on migration.
“Our fates are intertwined and we’re not going to be able to cut ourselves off. Maybe if we were a sovereign nation outside the EU we’d stand a chance but we suffer from the same ‘thought problems’ as they do. I’m sure the migration issue will come up in the election but it won’t be dwelt upon because there’s no party with an answer. Everyone’s in the same fudge.”
Does he ever fear for his own safety? Up to this point Murray has been a model of articulate fluency but here he falters. “I can’t talk about it easily. I’ve not had an easy time because of what I’ve said,” he pauses. “And I’ve had to be very careful about where I go.” 
He describes friends in Paris who have to wear bullet-proof vests, others in Sweden who are under full-time police protection. Nor will he talk about his partner, except to say that they have been together for eight years. 
“I’m wary of naming people in my life because people who aren’t tolerant of me can sometimes extend that intolerance to others,” he says, wearily. “You just get used to it. There are nutters across every political and religious spectrum, it goes without saying. But we all know there’s a clear boundary on one issue and most people won’t go near it. If there was any other religion apart from Islam that posed the societal questions that I think Islam does, we would be able to deal with it. It’s one of the themes in the book: that we aren’t able to because we don’t understand it. We don’t understand what it means to the people in question. We talk about it as a set of liberties or rights and these are people for whom it is their everything. Heaven, hell, death, life, love, God — everything.” 
The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam by Douglas Murray is out today. (Bloomsbury, £18.99) 

No comments: