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Illustration by Miles Cole  

There are no frontier posts on the Left of politics, no pale to go beyond. You can move further and further away from the centre, move so far, in fact, that you turn the circle and join the fascists and it still doesn't matter. Whatever you do, your "leftist" credentials will protect you from criticism, as surely as a Foreign Office passport protected British colonists in the age of empire. 

The borders of politics' right flank are better policed. When David Cameron allied himself with nativist Polish and Latvian parties which were not fascist but possessors of Eastern Europe's traditional difficulties with Jews, liberal journalists, your correspondent included, pounded him. If he had gone further and spoken at a conference that featured prominent neo-Nazis, we would have destroyed him. Honourable critics would not say that Cameron was a neo-Nazi. We would allege instead that he was indifferent to racial conspiracy theories, misogyny and homophobia and the damage they wrought — a self-interested, small-minded politician who could not see that some ideologies were so poisonous that society must confront and quarantine them. Think what you will about Cameron, but he is never going to go that far. One of the most cheering developments in British politics has been the emergence of conservative anti-fascism in Britain led by Nothing British about the BNP and the Centre for Social Cohesion. Conservatives and liberals alike police the pale of right-wing politics while the Left remains an unguarded land wide open to invasion. 

The Conservatives' main complaint about the borderless Left used to be that it allowed huge double standards. Polite society embraced ex- or actual communists and Trotskyists and treated them with a consideration they would have never extended to ex- or actual Nazis. (The Mosleys are the one exception I can think of to this rule. Mainly for snobbish reasons forelock-tugging biographers and television producers hailed Sir Oswald as a Keynesian avant la lettre and Lady Diana as a brilliant star in that ever-twinkling constellation of Mitford sisters.) The old hypocrisy about left-wing totalitarianism irritates many but no longer matters, because communism died in the 1980s. The refusal of 21st-century left-wing and liberal opinion to separate itself from radical Islam is, however, a living disgrace with disastrous consequences for Europe. 

You can see them everywhere if you are willing to look. In January, for instance, Harriet Harman and Ed Miliband attended a "Progressive London" conference packed with the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which believes in the establishment of a totalitarian theocracy. George Galloway, who saluted the courage of Saddam Hussein, was there too, inevitably, as was Tariq Ramadan, the shifty academic who thinks there should only be a "moratorium" on the stoning to death of adulterous women rather than an outright ban. Imagine the fuss if, say, William Hague and Michael Gove had gone to a conference on the future of right-wing politics in London and joined members of the BNP, a far-right politician who had saluted the courage of Augusto Pinochet and an academic who argued for a "moratorium" on black immigration to Britain. The BBC would have exploded. It, along with everyone else, kept quiet, of course, about Harman and Miliband because they were from the Left and therefore could never be beyond the pale.

Nominally left-wing politicians' appeasement of religious reactionaries is so routine that it takes a convulsive event to reveal the extent of liberal perfidy. The reaction of University College London to the news that its alumnus Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day should have provided the shock therapy. The connection between British-bred extremism and mass murder was there for all to see, except that the authorities did not want to look. 

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April 10th, 2010
12:04 AM
The left no longer includes a significant number of craftsmen and foremen from industry who wish to improve he conditions of the working class. Consequently the left no longer includes those who are strong in body and spirit as result of undertaking physically tough work in harsh conditions. The left largely comprises the middle class government employee who are the children of parents from a similar back ground. Consequently the left have no drive to improve the quality of life of the working class instead they are driven by cultural and indentity politics. Most labour middle class politicians are not physically tough. If one looks at labour politicians immediatly post WW2 , far more Tories appear to have been awarded awards for gallantry. The left increasingly is like the guilt wridden child of wealthy parents who complain they are not allowed to stay out out late but also complains their allowance is not large enough: espouses socialist views but then gets beaten up by working class toughs whom they have angered by their patronising ways. The left is guilt wridden by it's affluent and easy life yet full of self hatred because of it's physical and spiritual enfeeblement. The left seeks an escape in identity politics. Perhaps the left respects the certainty and strength of character in Islamism in a similar way it did with communism in the 30s because of it's own enfeeblement; the way the bullied sometimes venerates the bully.

March 27th, 2010
3:03 AM
The left has dropped all pretensions to liberalism and is now in bed with Islamic fascists. Its not so much their guilt feelings but the left and the fascist right's affinity for totalitarianism. As a muslim apostate I find it disgusting how leftists defend Islam and Islamic supremacy and Islamic racism.

March 26th, 2010
7:03 PM
The point about fear and cowardice is well taken. But fear is not inherently cowardly, nor is realism. Islamic imperialist reaction is a real threat. But it is a long war, decades or centuries. And it may be necessary to lose some battles to win the war. The west may sacrifice Israel, the Jewish state, to appease militant Islam, for a while. And, for a while, it may work. Not forever, but long enough to regroup and win the war. That is tough on Israeli Jews, and has little to do with morality over expediency. But at least that is an honest and open position. The question is, does this make me an Islamophobe, anti-Zionist, or both?

March 26th, 2010
1:03 PM
As always Cohen makes some telling points, except as always Cohen does not go far enough. It's obvious that in the years that Cohen has been regaling us with the horror stories of the Left's alliance and apologetics with the jihadists, he still fails to understand the religious dynamics and roots of the Jihad. Cohen still speaks of Islamists and extremists as divorced and removed from what he elsewhere calls "traditional Islam", and has dismissed those (ie usually rightwingers) who say Islam is inherently extremist as "dumb". Fact is Islam is inherently extremist, Cohen's denials to the contrary, this talk of Islamist and extremist is a Western construct, it is a false duality re extremists and Islam. There are moderate Muslims, plenty of them, but Islam is not moderate. How hard is it recognise this difference? Anybody (that is hardly anybody) with a basic knowledge of real Islam, its dogma and history knows that much, that Islam is inherently radical. A terrible truth, but one Cohen can no more face than the Left that he criticises for hopping into bed with the jihadists. I challenge Cohen to do something he never has, actually read up on the academic history and seriously scholarly writings on Islam (and apologists and liars like Karen Armstrong and J Esposito do not count). I'm not holding my breath though...

Stephen Fox
March 20th, 2010
9:03 PM
As you are a self-confessed Christian and Guardian reader, Humphrey Reader, I understand that your comments on Islamic extremism must necessarily be phrased in non-judgmental tones of gentle tolerance. But I take issue with the elision you make between bigotry, as demonstrated by your 'nutcase bishop' story, and Islamism. I actually could not care less what either bigoted Christians or Muslims think of me, or anyone else. What I object to is being murdered or threatened with murder. Currently, I know of no Christians killing or threatening to kill others for not sharing their faith. The same is not true of Islamists. Mr Cohen makes the difference perfectly clear. You seem to agree with his proposition, but in so mild a fashion that you might equally well disagree.

March 18th, 2010
2:03 PM
it is not a libel to say that Murray is an islamophobe. He's on record in 2006 saying that all immigration from muslim countries must stop, and he even suggested that muslims granted asylum should be removed from the country. In an article which bemoans left-wing Europeans having become blind to exremism, to ally one's self with Murray in this way is strange to say the least.

March 18th, 2010
1:03 PM
'What is the fifth word in the phrase "jefu wiboquw ewono ebun gip"?' I don't know, but it makes more sense than this article.

March 12th, 2010
8:03 AM
Cameron: is this supposed to be funny? windter : denying immigration to someone is hardly on a par with stoning them to death.

Humphrey Reader
March 9th, 2010
8:03 PM
I don't know about Mr Cohen's 'anti-Muslim fanaticism' but I think there's little doubt there are strands in Islam that are highly illiberal (as there are in most if not all religions, mine (Christian) included). A pity, given the Islamic Enlightenment of mediaeval times which gave us 'algebra' amongst many other things - what happened to that? Islamic deniers of evolution need to be answered, fearlessly, in the same way as Christian ones - with the facts. Bigotry needs to be challenged whatever religious clothing it may be wearing. And that goes for Islamic bigotry just as much as Christian. Sorry, but I think a lot of Guardian readers, in their heart of hearts, know perfectly well this is true. At least, this Guardian reader does. The other problem of course is that religious extremists of whatever allegiance are always news. 'Christian nutcase bishop claims Cumbrian floods are God's judgement on homosexuality' - that's news. 'Christian teacher quietly and selflessly devotes life to kids with severe behaviour problems' - we have one such in our congregation - not news. Unfortunately.

March 2nd, 2010
11:03 AM
"The remainder of this piece is available in the magazine, out in the shops now" Nah, it's alright, I read his two latest books, and read his ob column - I've read it before

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