G.K. Chesterton had a knack for anticipating future trends but when, in his 1914 novel The Flying Inn, he anticipated the Islamization of England, it seemed so far out of the realm of possibility that it was difficult to take it as anything but a flight of fancy.
True enough, the book has a whimsical, Pickwickian quality. It follows the rambling adventures of two British stalwarts, Patrick Dalroy and Humphrey Pump, as they try to stay one step ahead of the law, dispensing free liquor as they go in an England where alcohol has been banned. The “Flying Inn” is their motor car which they have furnished with a large keg of rum, a cask of cheese, and a pub sign.
Roughly one hundred years later, Chesterton’s scenario no longer seems improbable. Many observers believe the Islamization of England is just a matter of time. For example, in her 2006 book Londonistan, Melanie Phillips presents a detailed description of the Islamic “colonization” of England now underway and shows how it is made possible by the governing class’ abandonment of cultural and spiritual values. Chesterton was remarkably prescient not only in imagining that Islamization might happen, but also in envisioning how it would happen—through the instrumentality of a deracinated governing class. The reason that alcohol is banned in Chesterton’s tale is because some upper-class elites have become enamored of Islam and everything Islamic—including the prohibition of drink. Chief among these is Lord Ivywood, a Nietzschean diplomat who has enlisted the aid of a mysterious Turk, Misyra Ammon, to spread the new gospel among the jaded upper class who find exotic Islam to be more exciting than their own traditions and religion.
Among other things, the establishment of the new order involves a rewriting of history. As Ammon patiently explains to his sophisticated audiences, England was originally an Islamic country. This is evident, he says, in the existence of numerous pubs with Islamic names—“The Saracen’s Head,” for example—as well as in the English fondness for the word “crescent”—as in “Grosvenor Crescent,” “Regent’s Park Crescent,” and “Royal Crescent.” Moreover, like today’s multicultural elite, Chesterton’s “smart set” are all too happy to hear that this exotic culture is superior to their own, and are quite willing to accept that virtually all scientific and technical discoveries were first made by Muslims. As one of the English characters puts it: “Of course, all our things came from the East…. Everything from the East is good, of course.”
One of the imports from the East is polygamy or, as Ammon calls it, the “Higher Polygamy.” No one is as yet practicing polygamy, but it eventually dawns on one of the young ladies in the story that this is the direction in which things are trending—that Lord Ivywood’s mansion is, in fact, designed to be a harem. Not quite as astute, the other young ladies prefer to think, as Misyra Ammon tells them, “that women had the highest freedom in Turkey; as they were allowed to wear trousers.”
Chesterton was smart enough to realize that something like Islamization could not happen without a prior undermining of the existing culture. As Hal G.P. Colebatch observes:
Chesterton was original not only in seeing a then apparently down-and-out Islam was still a threat to Europe, but also in seeing that the Islamic conquest would not be possible without a preceding culture war to destroy the social agents of resistance, that Islam had a certain seductiveness for a type of jaded Western mind, and that the betrayers would not be the lower classes but the wealthy elite.
As Chesterton foresaw, and as is the case today, naïve clergymen would also help to pave the way for Islam. In The Flying Inn, the great cathedrals replace the cross with a cross-and- crescent emblem, and intellectuals believe that the time has come “for a full unity between Christianity and Islam.” “Something called Chrislam perhaps,” observes a skeptical Irishman. But others are convinced that Christianity and Islam are “natural allies”—to use a term that is currently in favor. In Chesterton’s Edwardian setting, progressives believe that Christians and Muslims can work together to “deliver the populace from the bondage of the all-destroying drug [alcohol].” Today, some conservative Catholics believe that Christians and Muslims can work together to fight pornography and restore sexual morality. And then, as now, many believe that we have much to learn from Islam. As Lord Ivywood puts it:
Ours is an age when men come more and more to see that the creeds hold treasures for each other, that each religion has a secret for its neighbour … and church unto church showeth knowledge.
Or, as one contemporary Catholic author claims: “Islam has great and deep resources of morality and sanctity that should inspire us and shame us and prod us to admiration and imitation.”
Then, as now, part of the softening-up process is accomplished by employing politically correct euphemisms to hide plain facts. The reclusive Turkish warlord, Oman Pasha, who has taken the estate next to Ivywood’s, and who, with Ivywood’s assistance, is secretly building a Turkish army in England, is referred to by naïve neighbors as the “Mediterranean gentleman.” “The description,” notes the author, “did not illuminate and it probably was not intended to do so.” In our day, the elites have invented a whole panoply of Newspeak terms designed to cover up for Islamic aggressiveness. Thus, in England and Europe, Muslim gangs that riot and rape on a mass scale are referred to in TV news as “Asian youth,” or simply “youths.” And Islamic terrorists are routinely designated by the generic, could-be-anyone label “violent extremists.” Meanwhile, in public and private schools, children are learning that jihad is an interior spiritual struggle to become a better person. Perhaps the mother of all euphemisms designed to keep us off guard is the oft-repeated assurance that Islam is a religion of peace. That phrase doesn’t appear in Chesterton’s story, but Misyra Ammon assures his listeners that Islam is a religion devoted to serving others.
Chesterton’s prophetic novel hits uncomfortably close to home. One thing he didn’t anticipate, however, is that the final Islamization of England could be accomplished without importing a foreign army. Since modern England has already imported enough Muslim immigrants to engineer a significant cultural shift, an occupying army won’t be needed. Otherwise, Chesterton was right on target. He foresaw that an Islamic takeover would be facilitated by cultural elites eager to show their tolerance for new ideas and fashions and their corresponding disdain for traditional culture. In Chesterton’s day, the cultural elites were referred to as the smart set; today they are the multicultural and media elites. And, as in Chesterton’s story, they are quite willing to believe that Muslims discovered or invented just about everything under the sun.
Recently, for example, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, claimed that Muslims were the first to discover America and this, no doubt, will soon be taken seriously by Western educators. Multiculturalists would love to believe that America was discovered not by a light-skinned European Christian but by a dark-skinned Muslim. It would fit in nicely with their decades-long campaign to undermine the Western tradition. Thanks to his teachers, the average Western student doesn’t know much about history, but he does know that he was born into a rotten culture with an appalling history of racism, sexism, and imperialism.
Much of what Chesterton foresaw has already come to pass. Cross-crescent emblems haven’t yet appeared on the cathedrals, but several churches in the West have been sold to Muslim groups and subsequently turned into mosques. And just recently, in a gesture of Chrislamism, the Washington National Cathedral opened its doors to a weekly Muslim prayer service. Meanwhile, a senior Church of England bishop recommended that Prince Charles’ coronation service should be opened with a reading from the Koran. The gesture, he said, would be “a creative act of accommodation” to make Muslims feel “warmly embraced.”
In the England of Chesterton’s imagining, polygamy was just a gleam in Lord Ivywood’s eye. Nowadays, for all intents and purposes, it is an institution. Although polygamy is still against the law, it is, in fact, a growing practice among Muslims of Great Britain. Instead of enforcing the law, culturally sensitive police and courts look the other way, and the welfare agencies do their best to provide material support. A Muslim man with four wives can expect a welfare check for each of them—and all signed over to his name.
One of the things Western citizens take comfort in when contemplating Islamic radicalism is that we possess powerful armies and well-trained police. Once again, Chesterton skewers our illusions. As it turns out, the England of The Flying Inn has been disarming itself militarily as well as culturally. It gradually dawns on the citizenry that police are few and far between, and many of those who remain have taken to wearing Turkish fezzes. They also discover that while Ivywood and Pasha have been quietly bringing in a Turkish army, the “British army is practically disbanded.”
I don’t know if the British police are declining in number, but whatever their number, they have become one of the most politically correct organizations on the planet. For example, the London Metropolitan Police Authority recruitment target for 2009-10 required that 27 percent of all new recruits must be black and minority ethnic and 41 percent must be female. Many of them might as well be wearing fezzes or hijabs because, if you say something critical about the religion of peace, you will quickly find yourself in front of a magistrate on charges of Islamophobia. When, for example, Parliamentary candidate Paul Weston stood in a public space and read aloud Churchill’s unflattering assessment of Islam in The River War, he was promptly arrested.
As for the British army, it hasn’t been disbanded yet, but the armed forces of the UK are not what they used to be. The same can be said for NATO forces in general. They can be relied on to march in the local gay pride parade or help out with ebola patients or even launch an occasional “overseas contingency operation,” but major wars on multiple fronts are another matter. The United States, the largest NATO member, has been drastically reducing the size and strength of its military. The U.S. plans to shrink its Army to pre-World War II levels, the number of ships in the Navy is lower than in 1917, and, according to several reports, the Obama administration has been quietly conducting a massive purge of top military officers.
Just at the point when Islam is advancing by stealth jihad and armed jihad all over the world, the West is letting down its guard, both literally and metaphorically. And all the while, the Lord Ivywoods of the world assure us that we have nothing to fear from Islam. What at one time seemed merely a fanciful fiction is fast becoming fact. Chesterton would not have been surprised.
This article originally appeared in the December 9, 2014 edition of Crisis, under the title “Chesterton’s Islamic England.”
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