All right, the competition is over. Britain wins.
For years I thought that Britain’s long tradition of open debate and individual liberty would enable it to stand up more firmly to the encroachments of Islam than other Western European countries. I worried more about the Netherlands, where Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh were murdered, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was hounded into exile, and Geert Wilders, a member of parliament, was put on trial — and still is on trial this week — for criticizing Islam in public. I worried more about Denmark, where Lars Hedegaard, a serious historian, was tried for criticizing Islam in the privacy of his own home, and where the Jyllands-Posten cartoon crisis caused riots. I worried about Norway, where people at the highest levels of government conspired to force an apology out of the editor of a tiny Christian periodical who had dared to reprint the Danish cartoons. I worried about France, where the suburbs of major cities were increasingly becoming sharia enclaves, and Sweden, where a cordon sanitaire was put around the one party that dared criticize that country’s own steady Islamization.
But I was wrong. It is Britain that is falling fastest to Islam. It is Britain, our mother country, home of the Magna Carta, that is most firmly betraying its own history and values. It has already banned Robert Spencer, a serious and cogent American critic of Islam, from its shores, even as it lets in the looniest of sharia preachers. More recently, three other critics of Islam – American Brittany Pettibone, Austrian Martin Sellner, and Canadian Lauren Southern – were turned away by British border authorities.
Now, Tommy Robinson has been arrested – not for the first time. Born Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, he is a lifelong resident of Luton who helped found the English Defence League, which he left in 2013 because he disapproved of its focus on race rather than ideology; since then, he been involved with Quilliam, a reformist Muslim think tank; with the Canadian alternative-media group Rebel Media; and with Pegida UK, the British chapter of a German anti-Islam organization. Robinson has been an outspoken critic of Islam, and has been imprisoned several times, sometimes for relatively minor physical disturbances and other misdemeanors – he has admitted that he is no saint – and sometimes simply for speaking his mind. I have never met the man, but I have watched hours of interviews with him and other videos in which he does speak his mind, interviews others, and covers various events, and I must say that he comes off consistently as a decent man who is free of prejudice but legitimately concerned about Islam.