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Mike Freer and the Islamist assault on democracy

Islamist extremists have attacked, murdered and menaced parliamentarians. Where’s the anger?

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
Editor

Topics Politics UK

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It’s only been a few days since Mike Freer, Tory MP for Finchley and Golders Green in London, announced he will resign from parliament at the next election, following more than a decade of death threats from Islamists over his support for Israel. And yet already it feels like old news.

A public servant representing one of the most Jewish constituencies in the country has been hounded out of public life, all for backing Israel against the barbarians of Hamas and standing with his constituents against the rising tide of violent anti-Semitism and Islamist terrorism. And yet after a day or so of mouthing mournful platitudes about the state of democracy and the awful lot of MPs, everyone’s already moved on.

Freer’s resignation has become the latest depressing victory chalked up by Islamists against British democracy. A group calling itself Muslims Against Crusades began the rage against him, menacing him more than a decade ago with posts showing images of Stephen Timms – the Labour MP stabbed in 2010 by an al-Qaeda fangirl in east London – alongside the words, ‘Let Stephen Timms be a warning to you’.

During an event at a North Finchley mosque, members of Muslims Against Crusades reportedly rushed in and denounced Freer as a ‘Jewish homosexual pig defiling the house of Allah’. While not Jewish himself, Freer has long borne the brunt of Islamist anti-Semites, who are now riding high following Hamas’s pogrom in southern Israel.

Freer has good reason to fear that the threats on his life might be genuine. On the evening of 16 September 2021, he was due to do a constituency surgery but was summoned to Whitehall at the last minute. It was a change of schedule that could well have saved his life. It left Ali Harbi Ali, an aspiring Islamist terrorist, waiting in vain for Freer outside his constituency office, clutching a knife.

A month later, Ali used that same knife to stab Tory MP David Amess 21 times, killing him in cold blood at his constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea. Ali had drawn up a list of MPs – including Freer, Michael Gove and Keir Starmer – who had voted in favour of bombing ISIS in Syria. He said he wanted to ‘send a message’ to politicians that ‘something like that will always have a response’.

Amess’s murder changed everything for Freer. He began to wear a stab vest during scheduled appearances in his constituency. His husband took to picking him up from the Tube station, rather than let him risk the short walk home. An arson attack on Freer’s constituency office on Christmas Eve was the ‘final straw’, he told the Mail earlier this week.

So, over the past 15 years, among all the other carnage they have inflicted on society, Islamist terrorists have stabbed one Labour MP, killed one Tory MP and – with the Westminster Bridge attack of 2017 – launched a car-and-knife attack on the Houses of Parliament, killing five people including policeman Keith Palmer. Now they have terrorised another MP out of public life.

There have been numerous foiled attacks on politicians, too. Just weeks after the Westminster Bridge horror, Khalid Ali, a Taliban bombmaker, was tackled by armed police near Downing Street. He was armed with knives. He also said he was there to send ‘a message’ to those in power. A few months later, ISIS supporter Naa’imur Zakariyah Rahman was arrested for plotting to bomb his way into Downing Street and behead Theresa May.

The response to this sustained, years-long assault on our elected representatives? Not silence, exactly. There has been plenty of chatter and commentary. It’s just been about completely unrelated issues. There has been a desperate attempt to change the subject, and to downplay the threat posed by Islamist extremism.

Following the murder of David Amess, Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs all lined up to demand… more kindness on social media. There was even talk of a ‘David’s Law’ to strip social-media trolls of anonymity. They seemed to be under the misapprehension that Amess had succumbed to a particularly nasty Twitter storm, rather than a knife-wielding Islamofascist.

All this stood in stark contrast to the response to the murder of Jo Cox MP by a far-right extremist in 2016. On that awful day – when relatively little was known about Cox’s killer, beyond eyewitness reports he had shouted ‘Britain first’ as he shot and stabbed her – a Guardian editorial denounced the far right’s ‘rhetoric of Western racism and Islamophobia’, warning of a potential ‘slide from civilisation to barbarism’. Two days after Amess’s murder, the Observer – the Guardian’s sister paper – struck a very different tone in its editorial:

‘We know little about the circumstances surrounding the fatal attack on Amess, beyond the fact that the police are treating it as a terrorist incident and are investigating a “potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism”. There will be those who seek to deploy these scant details in service of their political agendas; to politicise this tragedy in such a way is abhorrent.’

Spot the difference? Cox’s murder was instantly treated as political. Indeed, commentators went far beyond blaming far-right ideology and laid much of the blame at the door of Nigel Farage and Vote Leave, given Cox was murdered during the EU referendum campaign. The day of Cox’s death, Polly Toynbee accused Brexit campaigners of stirring up ‘anti-migrant sentiment’ and emboldening fascists. ‘Rude, crude, Nazi-style extremism is mercifully rare. But the Leavers have lifted several stones’, she wrote.

By contrast, Amess’s murder was drained of any political content. MPs were exhorted to stop the partisan bickering. Articles gestured vaguely to our ‘toxic political discourse’, online and off. And so it has been with Mike Freer. House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle responded to his resignation this week by urging MPs to ‘treat each other better’. That’ll show those Islamists.

The glaring double standards in how we talk about far-right and Islamist terrorism would be weird enough were it not for the fact that Islamist terrorism is the bigger threat by a country mile. Despite desperate attempts to pretend otherwise, the fact remains that, from the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 to David Amess’s murder in 2021, 94 people were killed in Britain by Islamist terrorists. In the same period, three people were killed in Britain by far-right terrorists.

We shouldn’t be picking and choosing which flavour of fascist violence – Islamist or far right – we are more bothered by. But that is precisely what the great and good are doing when they downplay Islamist terrorism while fluffing up Britain’s far right – which has long been pathetic and marginalised – into some existential threat.

This has consequences, not least for counter-terrorism. William Shawcross’s 2023 review into the Prevent scheme, aimed at stopping people being drawn into terrorism, argued that officialdom has become obsessed with right-wingers and soft on Islamists: the boundaries around what is even considered Islamist extremism are ‘drawn too narrowly’, concluded Shawcross, ‘while the boundaries around the ideology of the extreme right-wing are too broad’.

Of course, we shouldn’t be complacent about the far right. In 2019, neo-Nazi and paedophile Jack Renshaw was convicted for plotting to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper. He said he was inspired by Cox’s murder. While Cooper courageously carried on serving her constituents for a few years after the trial, she decided to step down as the member for West Lancashire in 2022, admitting that ‘events I have faced have taken their toll’.

But nor should far-right extremism be used as a means to distract attention away from the much bigger threat to British life posed by Islamist extremism. The constant deflections are grotesque – and bred of a perverse, genuinely bigoted notion that to talk too much about Islamist extremism is to risk offending Muslims and / or radicalising the white working class, effectively treating both groups as volatile terrorist sympathisers.

That Mike Freer’s resignation has elicited little more than a sad-eyed shrug shouldn’t really surprise us. Our ruling elites have become so paralysed by political correctness and plain old cowardice that they would rather prattle on about civility in public life than name the barbarous movement that is menacing their colleagues.

No one can blame Mike Freer for feeling he had no choice but to step down. He has been abandoned by a political and media class who would rather throw one of their own to the wolves than risk having some uncomfortable conversations.

Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Politics UK

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