August 14, 2006Foreign Affairs

India’s 29th state

Britain makes itself eligible to join the Indian Union

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Forget chicken tikka masala, turbans in national cricket teams, or for that matter, auto-rickshaws. It is in matters relating to jihadi terrorism that Britain is beginning to look more and more like India.’Multiculturalism is at the heart of its efforts to unite its increasingly heterogenous population. Take away the element of race and most people can’t distinguish British multiculturalism from Indian secularism. Both countries are struggling to reconcile this ideal with an intolerant interpretation of Islam that is getting radicalised and globalised at the same time.

Like India, Britain has come under attack from Islamist terrorists, home-grown’ but trained, equipped, funded in Pakistan.

Again quite like in India, reports of successes against terrorists are received with scepticism—it is fashionable to suggest that these were staged by the government or the security forces to serve their own ends. Neighbours and acquaintances tell reporters how quiet, ordinary and normal the suspects are, and it must all be a terrible mistake or a motivated conspiracy, for they can’t possibly be terrorists.

And then there are those who explain away the terrorists’ motivations, citing plausible reasons calculated to exploit a vein of doubt or guilt in the public mind. It’s revenge for past wrongs, like the communal riots that took place in Bradford. Or it’s a protest against government policy—like the war in Iraq or support for the United States. Never mind the fact that terrorist attacks were planned well before the provocations they ostensibly are avenging.

Most of the time, these arguments also come from vocal advocates of civil or human rights. Their zeal for apologism causes them to ignore that that the very democracies in which these rights are enshrined are undermined if elected governments make their policy decisions out of fear of extremists and terrorists. Very often, the argument is that extremists and terrorists constitute a small minority of any community. Put the two together and the apologist argument is that national policy must be dictated or circumscribed not only by terrorists but who are also a small minority within the minority community. It’s bizarre, but it’s Britain. It’s also India.

Despite long experience, much like their Indian counterparts, British people have unrealistic expectations from their politicians. Politicians who depend on the Muslim vote are raised on the same diet—of opportunism and expediency—as the rest of their colleagues. Yet there is a general sense of surprise and outrage when they are found publicly agreeing with the apologists’ explanation of the causes of jihadi terrorism while only rejecting the violent means. Save a few honourable exceptions, the rule for political leadership in Britain, as it is in India, is to swim with the current, not against it.

Britain has long been dubbed the 51st state of the United States of America. But 59 years after it departed from India, it appears to be coming back again.

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