Douglas Murray is headline news right now – for all the wrong reasons, as he readily accepts. The author of The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, Murray has emerged as the leading critic of our political and cultural establishment, which has lost the will to defend liberal values and, as he puts it, is engaged in an act of societal suicide by surrendering to mass migration and by wallowing in self-loathing.
Some reviews of his book are worth repeating:
This is a brilliant, important and profoundly depressing book. That it is written with Douglas Murray’s usual literary elegance and waspish humour does not make it any less depressing. That Murray will be vilified for it by the liberals who have created the appalling mess he describes does not make it any less brilliant and important … Read it. –Rod Liddle, Sunday Times
His overall thesis, that a guilt-driven and exhausted Europe is playing fast and loose with its precious modern values by embracing migration on such a scale, is hard to refute. –Juliet Samuel, Telegraph
This is a vitally important book, the contents of which should be known to everyone who can influence the course of events, at this critical time in the history of Europe. –Sir Roger Scruton
Douglas Murray glitters in the gloom. His pessimism about multiculturalism is so well constructed and written it is almost uplifting. Liberals will want to rebut him. I should warn them that they will need to argue harder than they have ever argued before. –Nick Cohen
I told Murray of his media profile when I met him last Wednesday, a week and half after the terrorist attack in Manchester and, of course, before the latest London atrocity. Great to meet you, I said. Sadly you are very relevant right now; it’s a pity we cannot retire you. I think he knew what I meant.
I wanted to discuss a chapter in his book where he ponders our culture, or at least what’s left of it. Was it possible to win this battle against Islamist extremism in a post-Christian world, I asked?
For Murray, however, this is not just a clash with Islamist extremism (one which he thinks we are completely unprepared for) but also a question of values. What are those values, and can they stand without Christian roots?
Christianity is in retreat and has been pushed from the public sphere and public life. In truth, we are going to this gunfight with a penknife, I lamented, far into our discussion. A pencil sharpener, he replied.
For Murray, what our attitudes are towards church buildings, will tell us much about our future: “What is the attitude of Parisians to Notre Dame? Is it that it’s a place where tourists go, or is it a place where the peoples of Paris go in hours of need? It seems to me to be a central concern and what our attitude is to these sorts of places, towards our past, will have a lot to say about our future. It’s my view that we’ve been trying to create a system of values, which flies, in free air.”
Murray, an atheist, is more speculative about our ability to thrive free from Christian values. He says having values fly in free air “may not work. I’m not saying it won’t, but it certainly has a big question mark over it at the moment.”
In the face of Islamism, Murray wants Christian leaders to assert the truth of their doctrine. He recalled a time when he debated with Richard Harris who said the Quran should be read at the next Coronation. Murray explained the predictable discussion on Radio 4 Today, where he was trying to get Harris to say, ‘the Christian faith is true’. This is part of the problem, we agreed – the Christian churches are too reluctant to assert their beliefs and values.
Since we were discussing values and culture, I asked, is European culture superior to all others? Murray believes it is superior, but for us.
It is “a superior culture to us to have come from it and for our continent. I don’t think it would be an enormous advantage if we became increasingly like the culture of Bangladesh, for instance, or China or any number of other places.”
The discussion turns to Europe’s critics and those who think Europe and Britain are rotten to the core. Murray explains there is a difference between a critic and an enemy. He believes that ‘people who only ever talk about your negatives, are obviously an enemy and must not be listened to as a consequence, or at least not be listened to seriously.”
Who are the enemy, I prod? Murray believes ‘there are people including the Islamists, and some Muslims from the wider community, there are other people of other backgrounds, there are even people from here who speak as an enemy of our society.’
Murray is not a fan of Manchester mayor Andy Burnham who engages in ‘vote hawking’ and ‘will just say anything. It would appear that if 40,000 members of the KKK moved into his constituency he would happily move towards their point of view on public pronouncements.’
And he had interesting views on Jeremy Corbyn, who he believes ‘feels sympathy for absolutely anybody who wants to blow the British people up.’
We discussed the political reaction of the establishment, immediately after a terrorist attack, to the terrorists, compared to their view of the people.
Murray observed with dismay that the immediate reaction after the bombs go off is to ask “How can we make sure that the British people don’t reveal themselves to be a lynch mob?
“It was the same after 9/11; it’s been the same for years, they basically think we the public are a lynch mob in waiting, and that we have to be restrained.’ Murray finds this ‘fascinating because it means that at the same time as arguing quite rightly that the Muslim communities should not be held collectively responsible for a suicide bombing, they hold the entirety of the rest of the country responsible for something that hasn’t even happened!’
This, Murray says amounts to, “collective responsibility for a pre-crime.”
So we are in a pretty hopeless position in terms of the political response to terrorist attacks. But Murray’s concerns go deeper. It is not just the Islamic extremists that are a threat, but it is a question of values. Politicians are in no position truly to convince people to follow the values of Europe, which is one of the reasons why the churches must remain true to their beliefs.
Murray believes things will get infinitely worse here and that civil society is not prepared for it. The Westminster elite don’t seem to understand that Islamism ‘is a belief about absolutely everything. It’s about the meaning of life, the meaning of worth, love, death, faith… it’s about the whole thing. And, we think that if we could just mix this clause in the counter-extremism legislation, tweak Prevent a bit, or rename it or rebrand it, that would do it.’
He explains how politicians are no match for the extremists, ‘on the one hand you have Amber Rudd telling you something and on the other hand you have Allah, it’s possible that a number of people will go with the Allah option.’
I tell him I think the humanists should back off attacking Christianity. He broadly agrees. They should stop boring on about the bishops in the House of Lords, and on the question of faith schools, he says, “it’s preposterous to think that if after the Paris, November 2015 attacks… all these idiots immediately responded saying ‘This is why we’ve got to stop faith schools’ – really? You think if we cracked down on an Anglican school in Portsmouth then the Parisians won’t be massacred? You’ve got to be joking to be so frivolous.”
He observes, …”If one were to strip it all back, get all the bishops out of the House of Lords, get rid of the faith schools – to make this an entirely secular country with a 1905 French style Act, stop the Queen being the head of the Church etc…not one life gets saved…”
We explore any possible solutions. We pretty much agree that internment is both unlikely to happen and not a great idea anyway, and in any case Murray is sceptical of legislative solutions.
I raise the issue of Thump’s travel ban (currently stayed in the courts) that I defended on Question Time. We agree it should be the host country that gets to ask, what’s in it for us? What are we getting out of immigration?
Crucially, however, Murray thinks we need less Islam. “But if we go the way we’re going on this, we will do what the Muslim Brotherhood want us to do, to say that the answer to everything is Islam…and we’re sort of doing that. ‘How dare you say that we shouldn’t have more Muslims, we should have lots more!’…’How dare you say that this type of Islam is wrong, we should have much more of that type of Islam!’
In truth, Murray thinks the solution is “…less Islam, in everything, in our public discussion.”
“Less Islam.” Well, I thought. I will not be seeing you on Question Time any time soon.
(Image: Kevin Walsh)