The coverage here during the last few days of the Tommy Robinson affair in Britain appears to be having at least a small impact in certain circles in Merrie Olde England. Dispatches have come in from some of the tonier addresses in the UK explaining, in that marvelous tone of condescension which no one from beyond the shores of England can ever quite pull off, that those of us who sympathize with Robinson have got it all wrong; that we simply do not grasp the exquisite nuances of British jurisprudence, specifically the kingdom's laws about the coverage of trials – for if we did understand, we would recognize that Robinson's summary arrest and imprisonment did not represent an outrageous denial of his freedom of speech, his right to due process, and his right to an attorney of his own choosing, but were, in fact, thoroughly appropriate actions intended to ensure the integrity of the trial he was covering. Those of us outside the UK who think that British freedom has been compromised and that the British system of law has been cynically exploited for ignoble purposes are, apparently, entirely mistaken; on the contrary, we are instructed, Britain's police are continuing to conduct themselves in a responsible matter, Britain's courts are still models of probity, and Britain's real journalists (not clumsy, activist amateurs like Robinson) persist in carrying out their role with extraordinary professionalism and propriety, obeying to the letter the eminently sensible rules that govern reportage about court cases in the land of Magna Carta.
"It is true," acknowledged one correspondent, "that in previous years the UK police wrongly hesitated to prosecute Muslim grooming gangs. And it was a shocking scandal, which the Daily Mail did much to expose and excoriate. But that has changed."
Hesitated? Changed? Talk about English understatement. For decades – not years – police, social workers, local politicians, and journalists all over Britain knew that thousands of non-Muslim girls throughout the country were being repeatedly raped by Muslim gangs. The perpetrators were not arrested – partly because police and others in authority were apparently terrified of being called racists.
British police. While U.K. authorities go out of their way to avoid arresting Muslim criminals, they are quick to take into custody Britons, such as Tommy Robinson, who criticize Islam. Photo: Wikipedia.
In addition, they might have feared a massive explosion of Muslim outrage. Also, in a country where class still plays a crucial role, most of the victims were from working-class families, and may thus have been seen by at least some officials who cherish Islamic cultural enrichment as the spawn of lowbrows.
Instead of arresting rapists, the police -- in at least a couple of cases -- have actually arrested people who did nothing other than to try to rescue their children from the clutches of rapists.
To be sure, the Daily Mail finally began to break the news about all this, thereby forcing the hands of police departments and courts. But to suggest that the policies that made these atrocities possible have changed – or that anywhere near all of the Muslim rapists are now facing trial or already behind bars – is an absurd and grotesque lie.
These decades of cover-ups by British officials are themselves unspeakable crimes. Yet how many of those who knew, but who did nothing, have faced anything remotely resembling justice? Apparently none. Clearly, all too many Britons who should be furious not only at the grooming gangs, who have committed monstrous acts on a scale that staggers the imagination, but also at the civil servants who looked away, are instead in high dudgeon over Tommy Robinson, one of the few people who have dared publicly to call the brutal, violent abuse of children by its proper name and to react to it in a manner proportional to its villainy. One Englishman explained that all those upstanding police and courthouse personnel in his country have "thoroughly investigated" the grooming-gang cases, and their efforts have involved "great resources of police time and great expense." By reporting live on Facebook from outside the courthouse, he stated, Robinson risked destroying all their hard work by broadcasting information of which, by law, jurors in this trial, and potential jurors in other rape-gang trials, should be kept unaware.
Poppycock. Robinson did not do anything outside this courthouse that other reporters do not do on a regular basis. The information he supplied, including the names and ages of the defendants, came straight off the BBC website. The critic who expressed such tender concern about "police time" actually argued that Robinson, by reading off all those Muslim names, might have formed unfortunate "preconceptions" in the minds of potential jurors that would make it impossible for them to give future Muslim defendants a fair trial. Is he suggesting that in order for any of these thugs to get tried fairly, the entire British public should be kept in the dark about the reality of Muslim grooming gangs? "Robinson was not just on the street, he was sending a running commentary to the internet," complained one correspondent. "If any other journalist was found doing that, he or she may also have been sent to prison under a gag order until the trial ends."
Does anyone truly believe that some well-known BBC or Sky News talking head would ever have been plucked up from outside the courthouse in Leeds, shoved into a paddywagon, dragged before a judge, and tossed unceremoniously into the clink without so much as being allowed to phone a lawyer? So much concern – legitimately so – about the sacred right of the rapists to a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence and an opportunity to retain the lawyers of their choice – but so much readiness to excuse the denial of the same right to Robinson! "A trained professional journalist," we hear, does not report information about a trial live from outside a courthouse "but sends a report to the newspaper, whose editors and/or lawyers can then check it before it is published." More poppycock. Granted, as any viewer of British TV news knows, a "trained professional journalist" in Britain observes all kinds of rules of professional conduct: he calls Muslims "Asians," he describes any critic of Islam, or anyone who attends a rally protesting the unjust incarceration of a critic of Islam, as a member of the "far right," and he identifies far-left smear machines as "anti-racist groups."
Some British correspondents also expressed concern that reckless rhetoric about the Robinson case might end up causing "an insurrection" in Britain, which "would lead to immense casualties." News flash: there have already been immense casualties. Question for these critics: Are those child rape victims unreal to you? What about the countless UK victims of female genital mutilation, "honor" killings, and other "honor"-related punishments, not to mention various less-than-neighborly activities by Muslim gangs? Yes, there have been casualties, and if Britain keeps on in the direction it is currently going, the number of casualties will only rise. "Demography is destiny," as the saying has it.
One note dismissed the statement by Robert Spencer, quoted by yours truly, that "the darkness of Sharia-compliant totalitarianism" is descending upon Britain. "Someone who utters such a sentence," we are told, "immediately loses the respect of most Britons that I know. In the UK, such lurid rhetoric is seen as characteristic of nutters."
Interesting to bring up the concepts of luridness and respect. Should one still respect the people who covered up child rapes for decades? If there is "lurid rhetoric," well, perhaps lurid events call for lurid rhetoric – especially for events which the powers that be have swept under the rug for years. As for the reference to Robert Spencer, a brave and learned scholar, as a "nutter": well, if head-in-the-sand aplomb amounts to sanity, then count me as a nutter.
One British observer complained that those of us who have criticized Robinson's treatment in recent days are guilty of "ignorantly malign[ing] the authorities." What is this species of Briton who appears to be more exercised by frank criticism of public officials than by mass child gang rapes? I have also been told that "an experienced English lawyer...would have advised" against publishing some passages of my recent articles. Mercifully, not everyone is subject to Britain's increasingly frightening laws.
Another note from the UK flatly denied that freedom in Britain today is on the decline: "Let's be clear, there has been no clampdown on free speech by the British judiciary, government or press in the Tommy Robinson affair." On the contrary, as demonstrated by any number of articles over the last several years, the UK has imposed an increasingly stringent clampdown on free speech about Islam by anyone.
"Reading some of your contributions," charged one communiqué, "you would think the UK has become an Islamist state." No, not yet. It is on its way, though, thanks to complacent people who are more worried about "scare stories," as one man put it, than about the real-life scary actions that these "scare stories" recount. "It's all becoming too hysterical and extreme," the missive charges, and accuses us of "whip[ping] up hatred." Ah yes, let us not rattle the teacups while the barbarians are raping our children. Let us not report honestly on a rape crisis – which often the rapists themselves say is rooted in the teachings of Islam -- lest it turn some readers against the religion.
Yet another letter-writer, while offering a number of similar criticisms, calls Tommy Robinson "a genuine racist." Of course, calling people racists is weapon #1 in any serious campaign to shut down criticism, including of Islam. All of us who have been writing critically about Islam for any length of time are accustomed to being called racists. One gets used to it. But apart from being a shabby card to play -- there are, after all, real racists in the world -- by all appearances, Tommy Robinson is not one of them. He has often pointed out that he grew up in a racially mixed community and that his lifelong friends include Africans, Caribbean blacks, and blokes with Muslim and Hindu backgrounds. His best friend is black. Race simply seems not to have been an issue for him. He left the English Defence League because of its racism.
If there is any bigotry here, it would seem to be on the part of those who view Robinson – whose courage, love of country, and sense of civic responsibility they are incapable of recognizing – as a boorish rabble-rouser who should leave the business of governance to those who possess the requisite breeding, education, manners, and wisdom.
The bottom line here is simple. The claims by these high-toned correspondents to the contrary, Britain is in serious trouble. While foreign truth-tellers are banned from entering the country, jihad preachers are still welcome. While authorities still go out of their way to avoid arresting, prosecuting, or jailing a Muslim criminal, they are quick to take into custody, or at least pay an intimidating visit to, any ordinary Britisher who dares to criticize the Religion of Peace. If people took the trouble to write letters of complaint in response to articles that are sympathetic to Tommy Robinson, it may be because they recognize that the news about the erosion of British freedom is finally getting out – not just to a relatively small circle of people in the U.S. and elsewhere, but to millions -- and they do not like it at all.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender (2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has lived in Europe since 1998.