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Burleigh – 2008 National Meeting

Michael
Burleigh
The Philadelphia Society
National Meeting, April 12, 2008
Arlington, Virginia


The West
and Religion prompts a few thoughts about culture. The main threats to western
Judeo-Christian civilisation in my country are: family breakdown, rampant drug
and alcohol abuse, welfare dependency, widespread subscription to irrational
conspiracy theories, with many still believing that MI6 killed Princess Diana
despite a three month inquest, and an almost uniquely vulgar popular culture.
You may have heard of a TV reality show called “Big Brother”. Ironically,
this is made by a company called Endemol, whose boss is the Old Etonian
descendant of Bazalgette, the great Victorian engineer who built London”s main
ring sewer system. 

Then we
have the BBC and the Left humanities departments in the university- the
illiberal liberals as I would call them. Both still subscribe to the divisive
public creed of multiculturalism, despite this being disavowed by all three
major political parties, notably the Tories. British academics have started to
ban the military from campuses, while greedily scooping up donations from Saudi
Arabia which fund subversive “Islamic Studies”. The BBC recently ventured
boldly into unknown territory. It made a quasi-anthropological series, not about
pygmies in Papau- but called “WHITE”. Now there are obviously many white,
and Black and Asian, people on our televisions. What the BBC meant was the white
working class who it admitted it had
totally neglected because it did not like its views. Predictably, the series
culminated- after programmes devoted to pigeon-fanciers and the like- in play
about a girl from a dysfunctional working class family finding meaning and
structure in her life, yes, you guessed it, by converting to Islam. 

Which
brings me to the malign interaction between aggressive secularists and
finger-jabbing radical Islamists and their impact on the churches. One response,
that of Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, has been to make common cause
with the imams, by suggesting we modify common law to incorporate sharia, which
as you can imagine is the path to (expanding) enclaves of legal separation, that
in turn anticipate the inauguration of a caliphate. Such ├Čunclarities├«-
perhaps due to the Archbishop”s lifelong immersion in Greco-German theology-
provoked a storm of outrage and condemnation by the leaders of all three major
parties. We already have such enclaves already. In Britain they are becoming
“no-go areas” for non-Muslims. In France they are the notorious “banlieues”;
in the Netherlands the “dish cities” where satellite TV is tuned to North
Africa. I suppose the popular response to the Archbishop was based on a diffuse
sense that we are cultural Christians, even if church attendance is increasingly
something that Pentecostalist Africans or Polish Catholics do. Of course,
“cultural Christianity” depends on successful transmission through the
generations. As “New Age” cults have discovered that is no easy matter.
Leaving aside an ageing clergy, Christianity will find this especially so if
religion is excluded or marginalised in school curricula, and banned altogether
from mention in the draft EU constitution. It will become like the folk customs-
the song of the washerwoman- which Winston Smith dimly remembers in George
Orwell”s 1984, and then as incomprehensible as Egyptian hieroglyphs. 

Now,
lest I leave you in despair, there are some signs of life. In Britain the
Conservatives are taking culture seriously, or at any rate, more seriously than
the Thatcher governments of the 1980s which focused on economics and foreign
policy. The BBC is likely to find its annual poll-tax (the license fee of about
US $200) being gradually diverted to other public service providers. Some also
urge them to do the same with university funding- perhaps by encouraging
research based think tanks through tax breaks to donors. These are as urgent
challenges as Marxist trades unions in the 1980s. 

Some of
the recent successes of our security services and police against terrorist
conspiracies resulted from information initially supplied by concerned Muslims-
notably the unravelling of the Heathrow airport planes plot which is currently
in the courts. Former Hizb ut-Tahrir extremists who have seen the errors of
their ways- like Ed Husain, author of a book called The Islamist- have banded
together in the recently launched Quilliam Foundation to prevent young British
Muslims following the path they pursued earlier. 

Finally,
while the Netherlands clearly has a special problem, elsewhere the evidence is
that second and third generation European Muslims adopt local norms of family
size- which in several European countries means 0. Ironically, it has been the
sudden influx of 1 million Catholic Poles (who in the rural Lincolnshire town of
Boston are 25% of the population) that has meant that “population movement”
(the preferred euphemism for immigration) can be discussed honestly and without
cheap charges from the Left of racism. For the first time there has been
discussion of such taboo subjects as to whether immigration has any net benefit.
Some have concluded that the benefit is equivalent to a weekly Mars Bar for the
indigenous inhabitants. Constant supremacist self-assertion by radical Islamists
has also led to discussion about whether we want the cry of the muezzin in
predominantly non-Muslim East Oxford, or a 35,000 seat mega mosque- funded by
Wahhabists- next to the 2012 Olympic stadium in London. So after many wrong
turns, the road ahead seems slightly clearer, although as you friends say over
here—way to go.  

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