Thursday, 4 April 2013
A retrospective on Bill Deedes’ response to the UK (Muslim) book-burnings in 1989
W.F. Deedes’ article, ‘Assimilation: an Idea Whose Time Has Gone?’ (1989) – from W.F. Deedes: Words and Deedes (2006)
Lord William Francis "Bill" Deedes was a British Conservative Party politician, army officer and journalist; he was once a member of the Cabinet and the editor of the The Daily Telegraph. (The article I comment upon is itself from the The Daily Telegraph.) He died in 2006.
Deedes’ article was written in immediate response to Muslims burning Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, in the streets of Bradford and elsewhere in the UK.
What most British people demand from Muslims is their integration or their assimilation. Bill Deedes, too, recognised this in 1989 in response to the Satanic Verses book-burnings in Bradford and elsewhere. Indeed he’d been aware of calls for integration and assimilation since the late 1960s. (When he was chairman of the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration.)
However, at one point (in the late 1960s and early 1970s again) he was highly critical of such calls for integration and assimilation. He asked his readers why immigrants should integrate at all. He even quotes himself once saying: “How absurd are the words we drop so insensitively about ‘integration’ and ‘assimilation’.”
So why the anger about such demands from the British people? He explained it in this way:
“There is something infinitely saddening in this portrait of an insular race, fearful lest alien hordes corrupt its standards…”
For a start, the implication - in the article - is that Deedes changed his mind somewhat about his former extreme liberalism and extreme tolerance of all immigrant behaviour (which he had in the late 1960s and early 1970s). He wrote this article in 1989. I would even venture to suggest that were he alive today (he died in 2006), he’d have changed his mind even more.
I can also say that his original words (quoted from the late 1960s) would have been written in the reflection of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech – and that tells us everything we need to know about context here.
As Deedes himself says, it all depends on what people mean by ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration’ as well as what the consequences of such demands are. Is it a demand for complete homogeneity/sameness or simply a call for some kind of unity lest the shit truly hits the fan?
We aren’t an “insular race” at all; as Deedes suggested in the late 1960s. However, when it comes to Nazis, or to Islamists/militant Muslims, we are – or we should be. Throughout the article Bill Deedes singularly fails to distinguish between different ethnicities or immigrant groups. All his positivities – as well as his few negativities – are aimed at all immigrants; nothing seems to be aimed at specific groups.
There is one exception to this. Bill Deedes quotes Roy Jenkins’ comment on “Asians” (i.e. Muslims). In fact Deedes appears to use Roy Jenkins’ view as a counterpoise to his own. He quotes Jenkins saying this: “[‘Asians’] have obviously not merged their culture and still less their religion.”
Roy Jenkins should know all about this. As Deedes points out, Jenkins was the “principle architect of the race relations laws of the 1960s”. So it’s also not a surprise that Jenkins freely confesses that these Asians (i.e., Muslims) “were not expected [to] merge their culture and still less their religion”. Just as we thought! These early multiculturalists were indeed both zealots and extremists. Perhaps this was partly because they (or some of them) simply didn’t know what all the consequences of their extreme piety and tolerance towards all Otherness and Difference would eventually be.
I have no problem with the Difference or Otherness of a community of Jainist vegetarians/insect-lovers or with a community of Goths. (Whose only rebellion or militancy seems to be how they dress and what they listen to in their bedrooms.) We need to be specific here. Which groups are we talking about and what is it about these groups we have a problem with? If there were a community of head-hunters – we’d certainly have a problem! Similarly, we have many communities which demand full sharia law and even a full Islamic state here in the UK. Other groups support religious violence both abroad and here at home.
So forget vague words about “enforced integration or assimilation” (or Bill Deedes thinking that such demands are outrageous) - and let’s get down to specifics. Who are we talking about, exactly, and why are we talking about them?
And why is it wrong to fear “our standards being corrupted”; as Deedes sneeringly puts it? Not all our standards. Just some of them. The important ones. For example, the standard of “one law for all”; which Deedes himself proselytisers for. Again, we aren’t demanding complete homogeneity or uniformity – just that which is required to unite the nation and stop its Balkanisation. Come British Balkanisation, Deedes might have escaped to his country retreat or even to one of his foreign abodes. Not so for most British people who may end up in the thick of a small or large civil war; or, at the very least, a large civil disturbance.
Bill Deedes then asks us the interesting question as to what “the common bond [would] be” between all British citizens. He also cites the equally interesting case of a United States which demands that all its citizens “swear allegiance to its constitutions”. That’s very interesting because the detractors of the United States usually talk about “swearing allegiance to the flag” of the United States; rather than to its constitution. And such is the implied criticism that flag-allegiance is dangerously shallow and even totemistic in nature. However, what the Americans demand is not a fetish for the Stars and Stripes but a commitment to the legal and political principles which will help the united American states thrive as a democracy and indeed allow for some of that hallowed Otherness/Difference. Without such constitutional guarantees of “freedom of speech”, “freedom of religion”, etc., the USA would implode. So what’s so wrong, in principle, with such a pledge of allegiance?
Of course we in the UK haven’t got a written constitution or a Bill of Rights. However, surely we have some near-equivalents. Deedes himself was suspicious of one such equivalent and seems to have seen it as being insubstantial or shallow. He quotes Mr John Patten, a Home Office Minister at the time (1989), who talked about “each sharing in common the bond of being, by birth or choice, British”. I agree that that may not be enough - but at least it’s a start! At least it’s something and a something that’s vital and substantial (despite being, perhaps, vague).
So John Patten, like most Brits (including patriots!) did believe that there is “ample room in Britain for diversity and variety”. However, again like most Brits, he didn’t think there was any room “for separation or segregation”. I personally would go even further than that. If that separation or segregation doesn’t work against national unity (however broadly construed), or towards our atomisation or even Balkanisation, then there’s no problem with that either. Again, it depends. It depends on whether we are talking about Jainists/Goths or if we are talking about Islamists/militant Muslims.
Bill Deedes himself cites a problem with the UK having its own equivalent of the US pledge of allegiance. That problem is simple:
we no longer see ourselves as a nation as such.
Or, more accurately, many of our leading elites no longer see the nation state as being of prime – or even of any! - importance. One very important reason for this is that, according to Deedes, the “philosophical emphasis today  is on Europe and on being a good European”. Indeed! And one way in which the multicultural fundamentalists and zealots fight against any form of British patriotism or nationalism is through stressing the importance of Europe – or, more correctly, the European Union.
So there are two parallel ways in which nationalism/patriotism is being destroyed by leftist internationalists and their softly-softly left-liberal associates: through both mass immigration/zealous multiculturalism and through our Europeanisation (care-of the European Union).