Is it just my imagination or was there a widely publicised report a few weeks ago by a professor called Alexis Jay describing in clinical detail how at least 1400 mostly underage girls were groomed, drugged and raped over a period of years in the northern town of Rotherham by gangs of men from predominately Kashmiri-Pakistani Muslim backgrounds?
The reason I ask is that earlier this week, I was publicly called a liar, an Islamophobe and a racist for mentioning this fact on a BBC TV debate programme called – laughably – Free Speech. “Boo! Hiss!” went the studio audience. “Not true” went the silly girl panelist sitting to my left. “List one contemporary problem facing Britain that’s NOT the fault of Muslims? Are there any in your mind?” said someone on Twitter with evidently strong and somewhat unnerving radical Islamist sympathies.
It’s normally at this point in the proceedings that the moderator comes to your rescue. I know Jonathan or David Dimbleby would have done. Grumble though I do on occasion about the leftist bias of their respective programmes Any Questions and Question Time, the fact remains that the Dimblebys are bright, scrupulous, supremely well-informed professionals. No way would they allow it to go unchallenged if one of their panelists said something that was perfectly true only to have the rest of the panel and (almost) the entire audience to shout him down as a racist, Islamophobic liar.
But the same, unfortunately, could not be said for the moderators on this particular programme, which was evidently designed as a kind of looser, more youthful version of Question Time, aimed at the 16 to 34-year old demographic. They pointed the mics willy nilly at panelists and members of the audience with little regard to the sense – or nonsense – of what was being said.
Certainly, there was no evidence of any presiding intelligence shaping the show or the direction and balance of the debate. For all the difference the Blue-Peter-level moderation made, we could have been talking about Miley Cyrus’s twerking moves or Kim Kardashian’s bum, rather than about highly contentious, very serious and potentially dangerous issues like so-called “rape culture” and the radicalisation of young British Muslims.
Afterwards various viewers who had been appalled as I was by this car crash of debate asked why I’d volunteered for it. “Why go on James? It’s like stepping into the cretins’ den,” said one. Other comments from sympathisers included: “I had to turn it off,”; “You must have the patience of a saint after last night’s “Free Speech”,” It’s not a debate, more a left-wing hate-session against anyone daring not to conform”; “Have watched you on the BBC last night. I have to say that even growing up in communist Poland I have rarely seen such a shameless set up and left wing propaganda show. I admire your courage really.”
And the answer is: definitely not for the money. (£150 in case you wondered). No, the reason you do these things is partly in the naive hope that this time it will be different – that for once you’ll find a BBC debate programme where your function isn’t to play the token right-wing nutcase for the torture-porn delight of an audience of rabid lefties. And also because someone has to put the alternative viewpoint across, otherwise all you’re going to get is a bunch of people spouting the usually right-on, progressive cant and just agreeing with one another. If no one does this, then the enemy will have won.
So that’s why I did it but, God, I almost wish I hadn’t – not least because the vision it gave me of Britain’s future was so utterly, incredibly dispiriting. The thing that particularly depressed me was the general quality of this young audience’s and panel’s insights into the problem of fundamentalist Islam in Britain. I got the impression that most of them didn’t read a newspaper at all – but that if they did it was only ever the Guardian. And that they’d all bought into the notion that if anyone was to blame for terrorism, radicalism and separatism, it certainly wasn’t Britain’s innocent, much-put-upon Muslim “community.”
I sat, amazed, as first my panelists than the audience members trotted out the same fatuous leftist dhimmi cliches. Apparently the two main reasons so many Muslims in Britain are becoming radicalised are 1. “foreign policy” and 2. “Islamophobia.” The only person who even remotely attempted to challenge this line was the one other sensible person on the panel, a Conservative MP called Rehman Chisti, whose father was an Imam and who was the first member of his poor, immigrant family to go to university. Everyone else, though, was totally on board with this nonsense.
A bearded Islamist in a Sharia sweatshirt was reverentially applauded as he spoke up about how his fellow British Muslims were moved to fight because they all were part of the “Ummah” and couldn’t bear to see their brothers and sisters in religion being raped and killed in Syria and Iraq.
Since clearly no one else was going to, I had to point out that much of this killing and rape is Muslim on Muslim action – Sunni v Shia. But I might as well not have bothered for it seemed to sail over everyone’s woefully ill-informed heads. And anyway, as the Islamist solemnly informed me, the Sunni v Shia conflict was also the West’s fault. “Foreign policy” he said – an insight which the entire audience applauded. (But not as uproariously as they applauded when anyone had a go at the murderous, evil, baby-eating Israelis).
There was but one glimmer of hope in this otherwise ugly, disgraceful affair. Quite out of the blue, a young white woman at the back of the audience raised her hand and attracted the attention of one of the moderators, Rick Edwards. She said she lived in Bradford, that she herself had friends who had been raped by these Muslim gangs and that the police had not taken their complaints seriously for fear of being accused of racism.
You might have hoped that this would have been a watershed moment in the debate: here was someone confirming, from personal experience, that – contrary to all the top-of-the-head bilge and politically correct clap-trap being spouted by most of the other speakers – there really is a serious problem with cultural cohesion in Britain to which the authorities are turning a blind eye.
And it’s not as though there isn’t copious evidence to back up the young woman’s claims. This was made abundantly clear in the Jay report on the Rotherham rape gangs mentioned earlier. You’ll find further proof in today’s reports on another alleged rape gang – one in Birmingham this time – whose identities the local police sought to keep secret on the ludicrous grounds that to let the public know their names might jeopardise their Human Rights.
Well, at the risk of being Islamophobic and racist, I’m going to give you the names and you can decide yourself whether any of these men have anything ethnically and religious in common. They are: Alam Shah; Mohammed Javed; Naseem Khan; Omar Ahmed; and Sajid Hussein.
Now – if you can stomach it – have a look at the footage from the TV debate programme. First, note the monstering I got both from the audience and three of my fellow panelists when I pointed out the ethno-religious identity of the rape gangs operating around Britain. Then, watch presenter Rick Edwards’s response to that courageous young woman when she spoke up the truth about what one of those gangs had done to her friends in Bradford. Maybe I’m imagining it, which is why I’m asking you to look and judge for yourself, but the distinct impression I got was that far from welcoming her contribution, Edwards found it embarrassing, off-message and not something on which he cared to dwell.
So this, it appears, is where we now are on the massive problem of Islamism and multiculturalism-licensed separatism in Britain. Despite copious evidence of home-grown terror plots, jihadism, hate-preaching in Wahhabist and Deobandi mosques, parallel sharia courts (which deny British citizens, women in Muslim areas especially, their right to equality before the law), Trojan-Horse-style takeovers of schools, rape gangs and the like, it would seem – on the evidence of Free Speech – is that whether you’re a Cambridge-educated TV presenter like Rick Edwards, a Labour MP like Lisa Nandy, a trendy gay Muslim filmmaker like Mobeen Azhar, a bright, sassy, articulate Afghan refugee like Nelufar Hedayat or any member (bar one) of a typical BBC TV yoof debate audience, the correct response is as follows:
1. Bury your head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
2. If pushed, blame the (supposedly non-existent) problem on Islamophobia and “foreign policy”
3. Ensure that anyone who dares to claim otherwise, however reasonably and factually accurately, is made to look like a rabid, dangerous extremist.
If this is what the future of “free speech” in Britain looks like, then we should all be worried indeed.