Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Licentiousness breeds extremism

The collapse of all restraint in society is pushing some Muslims to the edge of reason

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Last week I once again condemned the burkha and will do so till the end of my days. By that time, with the unstoppable rise and rise of Wahhabi Islam, they will probably have incarcerated me in black polyester and turned off my voice.

I unconditionally hate fanatical proselytisers – male and female – what they do to my faith and the faithful. The way they ban pleasures and progress, fill young minds with strictures to paralyse the will and suppress god-given desires in lands of freedom and autonomy. Their inner lives are stormy, psychological dramas which turn dangerously unstable. Some of the resulting turmoil and sexual unrest may be swelling the seething brain of the next terrorist manqué.

On blogs now thought to be written by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a plane over Detroit, you are given the impression from news reports that he was a lonely boy, unhappy with his peers who drank and partied. At university he apparently cut himself off, tried to hold on to Islamic Puritanism in a country of no shame, no restraint. Millions of Britons of all backgrounds are alarmed by the dissipation and debauchery that now defines Britain.

For Umar Farouk and many other Muslim men like him, living in such a landscape is literally intolerable. He confesses that he does try to lower his gaze in front of females, wonders if he should get married because he is getting too aroused. You could make a movie, a Taxi Driver for our times, about just such an anti-hero, the hormonal male who is expected to live a life of total abstinence in the middle of licentiousness.

The Pakistani journalist Maruf Khwaja describes this inner chaos in an Open Democracy blog. In some homes they cannot watch television, listen to music, dance or indulge in anything pleasurable: "[Muslims] want to do what their secular friends do, have nights out, go clubbing, have boyfriends and girlfriends. Many are depressed by social isolation and attempt to escape by leaving parents and Islamic legacies behind."

Others, like Asif, revert. He says he had a contact list full of willing white women whom he chatted up to "get into their knickers" and now that he is a good Muslim, he talks to covered-up ladies and can "really communicate with them". The saintly Muslim female has desexualised herself, protects herself in the polluted land she lives in full of mad, bad and dangerous sinners.

Women who are not coerced but choose to cover themselves are expressing that revulsion and fear of contamination. Their solutions are as bad as the problems they are trying to escape, sometimes worse. Sexual abuse, rape and forced homosexuality remain the dirty secrets of British Muslim communities, kept under wraps as it were, while they flap around proclamations of purity.

I cannot stand these false virtues and self-reverential pieties nor am I pleading on behalf of screwed-up men who would murder us naming Allah. I am saying that the collapse of all restraint in our societies is breeding sicknesses and madness, and may be pushing some Muslims to the edge of reason.

Non-Muslims are as concerned about social nihilism, and increasingly so. A list was sent home to the parents of girls at a middle-class school in London last week sternly reminding non-uniformed sixth-formers that there were still rules of decorum to follow. A list followed of garments henceforth disallowed: no tops that show the midriff or cleavage, no tight mini-skirts, no underwear showing, no clothes with holes in them, etc, etc.

Do parents and their teenagers think such wanton wear is OK for school? In an alarmingly short time, the nation has gone from Fifties uprightness to public striptease, even in schools. We mothers of teenagers who can't bear this milieu are trying to do the impossible – to somehow let our born-free children find themselves and define their futures while holding them back protectively from the debauchery of modern British life.

In Natasha Walter's new book, Living Doll: the Return of Sexism, she describes the widespread self-degradation of young women and girls who wear "fuck-me" clothes, binge-drink and sleep around, all in the name of emancipation. Their heroines are Jordan and glamour models in lads' mags and what they really, really want is to be just like these big-breasted big-timers.

Teenagers told her they had had dozens of sexual partners already and some said they would happily go in for lap-dancing or porn shots "for enjoyment". The word that comes up all the time is "choice", but one has to ask what choice is there, really, when a pushy popular culture tells females as young as eight that they are creatures of the flesh which they must tame and give over to the public gaze and touch. To me, that choice is engineered just as it is for veiled women. Both are victims of societal pressures that mould and compel certain decisions. They are perhaps twins born of the same womb.

Dr Marcus Braybrooke, a respected Anglican clergyman and theologian, has expressed his anxieties: "[All of us] face the same challenges in an increasingly alien society. Original sin and sexual inhibition has been replaced by what most Christians and Muslims would regard as undue permissiveness." Atheists too and humanists I bet, and all other sorts.

The last decade was a period of economic greed and libertine excess encouraged and reflected by magazines, television, music, high-paid entertainers and childlike resistance to self-control. Modesty was for losers. Some of those losers turned modesty into the ultimate cause, turned themselves into morality warriors and claimed God was on their side.

With things falling apart and ethical compasses broken, you can see why so many are turning to self-discipline and certainties in an age of chaos. Islamic Stalinism is set to grow stronger. A society in a state of perpetual abandon cannot survive that onslaught. We need to sober up and see what we have become. The future is grim; it needs us to be serious.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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