Tim Lott: Because of the bombings, I've left the left

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The Independent Online

Politically, I have long been on the slide, but for me the tipping point came after it was reported that the would-be 21 July bombers were my neighbours. That the suspects came not out of some grisly council estate, but out of the broadly happy, vibrant west London that I love, destroyed for me the soft liberal conviction that states that all races and faiths will automatically, sooner or later come to embrace, or at least accept the larger British culture.

What political dimension have I abandoned? That of the Sixties-incubated liberal left. Into what political realm have I arrived? Into hardcore liberalism, unapologetic liberalism, patriotic liberalism, intolerant liberalism (intolerant, that is, of intolerance - but more of that later).

I have abandoned planet Wishy-Washy because I have finally understood that there are people among us who are no smarter than Nazis, no better than Stalinists, who are happy to kill in the name of a belief system that excludes everyone except the true believers.

Am I talking about Islam? Or terrorism? It's hard to say, because there seems to be little consensus about what is at the core of Islam, and the relative silence of the moderate Islamic community is easily drowned out by the voices of the militants.

Last week's Despatches programme showed a mob of Muslims in Grosvenor Square in May calling for their own country to be bombed - a fervent desire that was shortly to be fulfilled. And over the past week, I have seen prominent Muslims announce that under no circumstances would they ever turn in a Muslim to the police, not even if they knew about plans to bomb innocent civilians.

I am enraged by this, and cannot get past it because certain factors keep fuelling it - two in particular. One is what appears to be the relatively passive response of the wider Muslim community, and the other is the self-hating, intellectually and morally moribund response of the British liberal left.

I am certainly prepared to believe that the vast majority of British Muslims are law-abiding moderates. Nevertheless, not being a theologian, I tend to look towards the wider Muslim community to find out to what extent exactly it stands in horror against the bombers. Yet, if the media coverage is reliable (and perhaps it isn't, as certainly some Muslims would argue), I think that community's response has been somewhat lacking in the necessary conviction.

One can argue that there is no more reason for the Muslim community to condemn vicious criminals than for anyone else to. And this may be morally true, but it is not pragmatically effective. Non-Muslims, I think, need desperately to hear that British Muslims are not in any way sympathetic to those who carry out suicide bombings in the name of the god that they worship. Iqbal Sacranie and Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain and Ahmed Sheikh, president of the Muslim Association of Britain, have unequivocally condemned the bombings. But they are outnumbered by the silent majority.

This majority includes Dr Mohamed Naseem of the moderate Birmingham Central Mosque, who does not believe the bombers were really Muslim, and the official of the Regent's Park mosque who declared last week that there was "no proof" that Muslims committed the bombings. And Sheikh Lukhmanvi, of another Birmingham mosque, says that Muslims have "no responsibility" for the bombers. (It's the fault of their environment and the Government, apparently.) That's a lot of heads in a lot of sand.

Those Muslims who choose to remain silent should remember that British people marched in their hundreds of thousands against the Iraq war, founded the Anti Nazi League, helped drive South Africa away from apartheid with their boycotts and protests. What they said, in effect, on each occasion was, "Not in my name".

Now it is time for Muslims to do the same. "The London Bombings - Not in My Name": posters, stickers, T-shirts, marches. If they want to protect themselves against alienation and popular resentment, this may be the best way for them to do it - along with perhaps a signed letter to The Times from the 50 top imams in Britain announcing their revulsion of this misuse of their faith.

If they fail to take this step, part of the explanation may lie in the indulgent and apologetic attitude of the soft liberal left of which my membership has now officially expired. For I have lost count of the number of articles in The Guardian, (a newspaper I have taken since I was 18) somehow seeking to "explain" the bombings in terms of Iraq. With weasel words they recite the mantra that "explaining" the bombers by reference to Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan is not "justifying". This is in my mind no more and no less than the psychology of appeasement.

But this is a huge moment for Britain - and a moment of crisis for the British left. The rules have changed. Our passionate articles of faith - in equality, liberty, democracy, gay rights, women's right and so on - have to challenge the articles of faith of those who seek to destroy our liberal ideology.

This means that indulgence of rejection of the British, and particularly the English, by a section of its own middle class has got to end. In times of peace we can afford this self-righteous breast-beating, the enormous vanity in the stance that states, "My culture, of which I am a product, is bad, and only I am virtuous enough to be able to see how bad I am/it is."

But in a time of national emergency, self-abnegation should be seen as a disastrous mistake, not merely an annoying indulgence. Muslims in this country who are looking for a larger identity see only a vacuum, or indifference to their nationality among many fellow Britons. No wonder they turn inward, when the English themselves have no self-respect (other than the parodic narrow, white-bread, near-racist patriotism of the Old Tory heartlands).

We have to take a step towards Americanism, to announce our genuine and heartfelt commitment to our country's core secular values (though not, of course, without abandoning our ability to listen, respectfully, to voices of dissent). And we must not tolerate minority cultures of hate and of death, as we have done through the politically-correct welcoming of the radical imams over the past 10 years, in a way we would have never done to other kinds of fascists and anti-Semites.

When I read George Monbiot saying that he sees no reason why he should love this country more than any other, why, that is like asking why should you love your mother more than any other. When I read Hywel Williams inform me that revival of the treason laws simply confirms that the war on terror really means the war of "a whole culture against Islam itself" I am shocked by his irresponsibility.

This secret pride that is a love of self-flagellation must be abandoned. We must stand truly united against this simple, naked evil of suicide bombing in London. We must be Britons together. It is not a matter of us being not afraid. It is a matter of us being not ashamed. Because it is no exaggeration to say that to continue to act without pride and solidarity could be fatal, not merely for a few unfortunate individuals caught on the wrong train or bus, but for our whole society.