• Jules Gomes

Cowardly Theresa May won’t save Asia Bibi. Britain’s fear of Islam is historic

“Pakistan is Britain’s largest aid recipient in the world. Why are we happy to pay out the money, but too scared to intervene against persecution?” asks Charles Moore in The Telegraph. Pakistan is a nuclear power. It spends £19million on its space programme. Last year it binged £4billion on eight new submarines. It is splurging £10billion on new weapons by 2024. Yet we play Santa Claus to Imran Khan and shove £400million every year down his stockings for Ramadan.

What do we get in return? A two fingers “Up Yours” jihadi salute in chaste Urdu. Radical preachers in our mosques. A bulletproof wall of stony silence protecting Pakistani Muslim rape gangs operating with impunity in our towns and cities. No gratitude. No co-operation. Only rightly deserved scorn for the insanity of our foreign aid policy.

Rather than have the upper hand even remotely, we cower in unadulterated cowardice as displayed by the Foreign Office in its handling of the Asia Bibi case—the Pakistani Christian who escaped the gallows for blasphemy. When Sir Simon McDonald, head of the Foreign Office, was asked about Bibi he fumed with righteous indignation. He most certainly did not think it right that the Foreign Office should seek to save Bibi: it might lead to threats to his staff in Pakistan.

On Wednesday, MP Zac Goldsmith asked PM Theresa May if she had personally intervened to block an asylum application from Asia Bibi, as reported by the Daily Mail. The Prime Minister prevaricated in vintage bureaucratese. “First—I might say this in answer to a number of questions—my Honourable Friend should not necessarily believe everything he reads in the papers.”

Is Theresa May so utterly naïve to think that Imran Khan will come to the aid of Asia Bibi?

May went on to defend Imran Khan—Pakistan’s Oxford-educated Prime Minister who is now a poster boy for Pakistan’s barbaric laws of blasphemy. In fact, Khan is asking Islamic countries to create laws against blasphemy similar to those against Holocaust denial in European countries. Is May so utterly naïve to think that Khan will come to the aid of Asia Bibi?

“We are working with others in the international community and with the Pakistani Government to ensure that our prime aim—the safety and security of Asia Bibi and her family—is provided for,” she harrumphed. “It is not the talk or the thought that counts, but the deed,” says the Talmud (I’ve added “the talk”). I can’t trust Tessie because the Loch Ness of Downing Street has left in her wake a pattern of appeasement to radical Islam (as I’ve shown in my column on her capitulation to Salafist Islam and her antagonism to conservative Christianity).

As high-ranking politicians and bureaucrats behave like Stockholm Syndrome patients, Moore’s question is even more pertinent. Why are we happy to pay out the money, but too scared to intervene against persecution?” Why are we not afraid of India and its militant Hindu leadership or of Hindus who constitute a significant proportion of the British population?

One possible answer lies in history and its lasting fallout on Foreign Office and Home Office policy-making. The inciting incident that left an indelible memory and was responsible for triggering Islamic resistance to Britain and conversely Britain’s fear of Islam is on the fingertips of every Indian pupil. Indians call it the First War of Indian Independence; British historians call it the Sepoy Mutiny or the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

British attitudes to the Muslims within the empire could be neatly divided into two distinct phases around the turning point of the 1857 Mutiny in India, notes Sean Oliver-Dee in The Caliphate Question: The British Government and Islamic Governance. Before 1857, British policies were “community-blind” and Muslims were considered harmless. They were even lauded as “the most gentlemanly and well-mannered of those seeking employment in the East India Company”.

What sparked off the 1857 rebellion was a rumour that the British had asked the Indian soldiers (sepoys) to bite cartridges greased with the fat of pigs and cows before they could fire the newly introduced Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle cartridges. While mutineers at Meerut rode to Delhi to restore Muslim emperor Bahadur Shah to the empire of India, British troops entered Delhi and attacked the prestigious Jama Masjid (main mosque). Muslims responded by calling for jihad against the British forces.

At first the British attacked both Hindu and Muslim rebels, but later focused their firepower on the Muslims. Muslim men, women and children were slaughtered in the hundreds. When the mosque was finally captured, the British cooked pork inside the mosque and allowed their dogs to roam in its sacred precincts.

The war was a turning point in the history of Indian-British relations. It resulted in the death of the last Mughal ruler in India and the transfer of power from the East India Company to the British Crown. While this left a profound sense of guilt on the British which would eventually lead to the fear and appeasement of Muslims, it fomented a Muslim counter-resistance that would violently haunt the British for decades during colonial rule in India.

Before 1857, British policies were “community-blind” and Muslims were considered harmless.

While Muslims suffered most at the hands of the British, Muslims also retaliated most violently against the British troops—with the conviction they were fighting a Holy War and with the blessing of the ulema—Islamic scholars. The edict of 1857 calling for jihad against the British carried the signatures of 34 ulema.

“These valiant sons of the soil destroyed the British dream for ruling over the golden bird (India),” writes Islamic scholar M. Burhanuddin Qasmi in Darul Uloom Deoband: A heroic struggle against the British tyranny. “The aim of the organization was to prepare for armed insurrection against the British,” he adds. This was in contrast to the non-violence of Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders from other religions in the freedom movement.

The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 had major consequences for Britain’s relationship with Islam. “For the British, the effect of 1857 was to make them conscious of Muslims as Muslims and to endow them, at least in British thinking about them, with a corporate political character which in British eyes Muslims had not previously possessed,” observes P. Hardy in The Muslims of British India.

Within a decade, the British were to usher in a period of “balance and rule with the Muslims occupying one of the pans of the balance,” he stresses. Even in reports assessing the rebellion, British officers were keen to downplay the role of Muslims and Islam in the mutiny. Some reports even blamed the Hindus for the mutiny in an unabashed effort to cover the part played by the Muslims.

On the Muslim side, just nine years after the Mutiny, Muslim elders established a madrassa (Islamic school), called Darul Uloom, the “House of Knowledge” in Deoband in northern India. The school’s ideology was forged in the fires of the Sepoy Mutiny and would become known as Deobandi Islam.

During the next 150 years, its influence would spread beyond India and Pakistan and result in the most important Islamic academic institution in the world after Egypt’s Al-Azhar. It would become the basis for many radical Islamic movements against the West. Deobandi Islam is the ideological basis of the Taliban; its protégés include Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden and it is this form of Islam that influences many radical Pakistani Muslims in Britain.

The paralysis of guilt would result Britain’s efforts to atone and appease Muslims in the decades to come. At the same time, Britain would learn that of the many religions in India, it was Islam alone that would retaliate through concerted long-term violent resistance on the basis of its religious doctrine of Holy War. William Howard Jones recorded in 1858 that, “the Mahomedan element in India is that which causes us most trouble and provokes the largest share of our hostility… Our antagonism to the followers of Mahomed is far stronger than that between us and the worshippers of Shiva and Vishnu. They are unquestionably more dangerous to our rule.”

The British realised that an Islamic call to the global umma (Muslim community) to engage in jihad and fight to the death would be heeded and was unmatched by any weapon in Britain’s armoury.

“The Mahomedan element in India is that which causes us most trouble and provokes the largest share of our hostility” William Howard Jones, 1858

How can Britain extricate herself from this historical narcosis of guilt and fear? Our bureaucrats and politicians must exorcise the ghosts of 1857 and recognise its invisible hand on a number of subsequent British attitudes and policies. The prophet Ezekiel who lived under the yoke of Babylonian imperialism made it clear that the children would not be responsible for the sins of the parents. We are not responsible for the iniquities of our forebears.

Rather than labour under the backbreaking burden of colonial guilt, our rulers should go beyond the history of British rule in India and study the history of Islamic imperialism, which was set in motion by the Prophet of Islam and pre-dated Western imperialism by centuries. More than 80million Hindus were slaughtered by invading Muslims, who conquered and colonised India. All nations have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, to adapt a saying from St Paul’s letter written to Christians in Rome, when Roman imperialism was at its height.

Above all, Britain should know that its policy of appeasing Islam is bound to be counterproductive. You can stand against Islam or you can submit to Islam. If you submit to Islam as a dhimmi you pay the jizya tax (protection money). One is tempted to ask if we have turned dhimmis and will continue to send millions of pounds to Islamabad as protection money to keep us safe from a rogue nation.

(Originally published in Republic Standard)