I’m leaving London tomorrow, perhaps for the last time, and I can’t say I’m sad. This isn’t my city any more.
I first thought my long absence was the source of my malaise. I’ve been feeling this niggling sense of unease, as though either I had changed or London had changed — as though we didn’t really know each other any more. I worked it out in the end. What’s wrong with London is what’s wrong with every major European city now. It’s Islam.
Visiting my tailor on Savile Row I saw nothing but hijabs and burkas. Some of them are from Saudi; rich men’s wives frittering away their afternoons in Mayfair. But the majority were not wealthy. They are women covering up as the British Muslim population becomes more radicalised. Britain now sends more fighters to ISIS than any country besides Belgium. Wander the streets of W1 or SW1 — or anywhere in East London — and that doesn’t strike you as peculiar.
Though it beggars the imagination, some of you are reading this and in the back of your minds accusing me of being dramatic. Me, the most fabulously gay conservative media powerhouse on the planet, dramatic!
But this can’t be chalked up to melodrama, or inexperience. I’ve always been a globetrotter, whether it is spending time in America, flying to Berlin just to buy a Mariah Carey CD (totally worth it), or going on an African big-game safari hoping to bag a trophy (and maybe see some animals).
No, there is no exaggeration, travel hangover. There is a pall hanging over my city, a sense of foreboding. A fear hanging heavy in the hair that something unspeakable could happen at any moment, and that when it does, the cry of Allahu Akbar will be heard. It’s the third chapter in a triptych, following the Blitz and Whitechapel during the reign of the Ripper.
I am a gay man. I have seen the aftermath of Orlando. I have watched videos on the internet of what happens to gay people in the Middle East. Not just the roof-hurling horrors of ISIS, but the death penalty imposed in a dozen Muslim countries for homosexuality. My people hanging from cranes. And I’ve seen journalists, politicians and celebrities look the other way because they’re frightened to offend.
Now the sinister cloaks of those who would see me hang fill the streets I grew up in. One hundred per cent of British Muslims think my lifestyle is unacceptable. Over half of them want my sex life to be made illegal.
My first meal back in the city, my personal trainer and I sit next to a handsome couple having a very earnest discussion about the recent terror attacks in France and Germany. The woman kept arguing like a liberal. “Surely it won’t happen here, this is London.” The man replied with dispassionate logic: “It is the same people with the same beliefs willing to do anything for their cause.”
I’m used to being the one eavesdropped on, but this time I was listening intently. Everyone is watching Nice, and Munich and Orlando. Everyone is talking.
What I’ve learned from my friends is that versions of this conversation are happening across London and indeed throughout the rest of Europe. There are variations. In some cases both parties understand that Europe’s terror is right around the corner for the United Kingdom unless immediate steps are taken.
Leaving the European Union was the first sign that Britain might be awake to the danger. Although of course this will not solve the problem of Muslims already in the UK who are ready and willing to join their European brothers in bloodshed.
The people of London are feeling a deep distrust of the government, whose response to the sex crimes of Muslims is to suggest that refugees need to be re-educated on how to treat women. No word on the well-being of our goats.
The citizenry are right to be distrustful. The government is on a multi-decade losing streak when it comes to decisions on the Religion of Peace. Just this month we learned 900 Syrian refugees have been arrested in the UK for exactly the offenses you’d expect: child abuse and rape. Why are they here?
The mood here is obvious. It’s written on the faces of everyone from my Uber Lux driver to my waiter at brunch. People know that they are being lied to by politicians and the media.
They know that the shockingly regressive social attitudes of British Muslims threaten to tear the country apart.
Until such time as the British Government moves to fix the problems within the British Muslim population, it is incumbent on the British with their trademark practicality to take what steps they can to make life safer. It is already happening with armed guards for British tourists in France.
If you are scared of being called a racist for speaking out against Islam, think about what people will call you in a generation if you don’t take a stand now.
As we look across the English Channel to the terror attacks in Europe, the question is not “Will it continue?” or “Could it happen here?” The questions are: “How often will it happen, and what will we do about it?”
I came home from an America that doesn’t feel fear, despite 9/11. They are fools. But we are fools, too, not to recognise what is happening to our streets, our towns, our country. I don’t know if I’ll be back.