June 5, 2017, "Terror and the Teddy Bear Society," Wall St. Journal, Ted Dalrymple, commentary. 6/6 print ed.
"Even the arrests after each attack give comfort to the enemy, which can act with impunity even if known."
"The only man I ever met whose ambition was to be a suicide bomber was
an inmate at the British prison where I worked as a doctor in the 1990s
and 2000s. He was a career criminal of very nasty propensities whose
father was Arab and mother English. He had reached his 30s, the age at
which criminals usually turn away from crime in favor of something
better—in his case the killing of as many infidels as possible, along
Coming to religion is one reason, or pretext, for
abandoning crime. In the prison there was much more Islamic evangelism
than Christian. I would find Qurans and Islamic pamphlets in drawers,
insinuated there by I knew not whom, but never Bibles or Christian
I interpreted religion as the means prisoners used to
rationalize giving up common crime while at the same time not feeling
defeated by, or having surrendered to, the society around them—for they
knew conversion to Islam gave that society the shudders.
The problem for the security services, however, is that there
is no invariable profile, social or psychological, of the Muslim
terrorist. Nor is there a kind of economic lever that can be pulled so
that, with better material prospects, young Muslims will be less
attracted to terrorism. There have, it is true, been no-hopers among the
terrorists, but there have also been medical students and doctors.
There was nothing (except himself) impeding the recent Manchester bomber
from having a normal or even a highly successful career. As Prime
Minister Theresa May rightly said after the most recent atrocities in
London, what the terrorists have in common is an ideology. She rightly
called it evil, but it is also stupid: It makes the Baader-Meinhof Gang
look like Aristotle.
An ideology, however stupid, is not easy to
destroy; believing six impossible things before breakfast is almost par
for the human course. One obvious thing to do would be to strangle the
foreign funding of so much Islamist activity in Britain. That is no
doubt complicated in many ways, but no British government, solicitous of
trade relations, has dared even try. The British economy is precarious,
and it is difficult to be strong when your economy is weak.
we have gone in for what a Dutch friend of mine calls “creative
appeasement.” Authorities make concessions even before, one suspects,
there have been any demands for them. Thus, a public library in
Birmingham, one of the largest known to me, has installed women-only
tables, a euphemism for Muslim women only.
Whether there was ever a
request or demand for sex-segregated seating from Muslims is probably
undiscoverable; truth seldom emerges from a public authority. But the
justification would almost certainly be that without such tables, Muslim
women would not be able to use the library at all.
The Birmingham airport has set aside a room for wudu,
the Muslim ablutions before prayer. No other religion is catered for in
this fashion (nor should they be, in my opinion), so the impression is
inevitably given that Islam is in some way favored or privileged.
it would be difficult to find out whether they received requests or
demands for such a room or merely anticipated them; in either case,
weakness is advertised.
This is not a local problem alone. Many
European airports now set aside a room for “meditation.” The icon used
to indicate it almost always carries more of an Islamic connotation than
any other. A friend told me that when she went into one such room, she
was told by a Muslim to remove her shoes, ecumenism being, of course, a
My female Muslim patients who had grown up in
Britain told me that the school inspectors had never intervened when
their parents prevented them from attending school, often for years.
the other hand, white working-class parents were bullied by those
inspectors when their refractory 15-year-old daughters refused to go. A
few years ago it came to light that police in Rotherham had for decades
systematically turned a blind eye to the mass sexual abuse of
children—at least 1,400 victims—by Muslim men. This type of willful
neglect by the authorities came as no surprise to me. On the contrary,
it is precisely what I would have expected.
From all this the
terrorists surely draw a great deal of comfort. It gives them the
impression of living in a weak society that will be easy to destroy, so
that their acts are not in the least nihilistic or pointless, as is
often claimed. They perceive ours as a candle-and-teddy-bear society (albeit mysteriously endowed with technological prowess): We kill, you
light candles. The other day I passed a teddy-bear shop, that is to say a
shop that sold nothing but teddy bears. I am sure that terrorism is
good for business, but the teddy bears are more reassuring for the
terrorists than for those who buy them to place on the site of the
Another source of comfort for terrorists is that
after every new atrocity, the police are able to arrest multiple
suspected accomplices. That suggests the police knew the attackers’
identities in advance but did nothing—in other words, that most of the
time terrorists can act with impunity even if known. Here,
then, is further evidence of a society that will not defend itself
This is not just a British problem. The April murder of a
policeman on the Champs Elysées in Paris was committed by a man who had
already tried to kill three policemen, who was known to have become
fanaticized, and who was found with vicious weapons in his home. The
authorities waited patiently until he struck."
is the pen name of
a British physician."