Tolkien, the new biopic about the master storyteller’s life, has come under criticism for giving the impression that Tolkien’s service in World War I was the decisive influence on his work. In fact, Tolkien was far more influenced by other factors—in particular by his love of mythology, and by his strong Catholic faith. Before her untimely death, Tolkien’s widowed mother had appointed Fr. Francis Morgan of the Birmingham Oratory to be the guardian of her two sons. As a result, Tolkien spent many hours during his formative years in the rich Catholic culture of the Oratory. With its deep Catholic themes, The Lord of the Rings owes more to Birmingham than to Tolkien’s brief experience of trench warfare in France.
The Lord of the Rings is set in mythical Middle Earth, but, metaphorically speaking, Sauron now seems to be quite active in Middle England. The Midlands of England and its capital Birmingham have caught the attention of his all-seeing eye. The kind of struggles that are depicted in the trilogy now seem to be playing out in Tolkien’s boyhood home.
What I have in mind is not the struggle to preserve England’s green and pleasant land from environmental despoilers. The Birmingham skyline has changed, of course. It now looks like that of any other large metropolis. And much of the shire lands that surrounded Birmingham in Tolkien’s youth have been eaten up by urban sprawl. But urbanization is the least of the city’s problems.
The spiritual landscape has also changed, and the change has been dramatic. There are now 175 mosques in the Birmingham area, with five in the Edgbaston section where Tolkien spent his teen years. Muslims make up about 22 percent of the population of the city, and, by some estimates, they will be a majority within 20 years. There are already more Muslim children living in Birmingham than Christian children.
Some of the more impatient members of the Birmingham Muslim community aren’t waiting for majority status to roll around before they establish control. An investigation by the London Telegraph in 2014 revealed an extensive plot by Muslim teachers, school governors, and activists to take over 21 city schools and Islamicize them. The plot, which was code-named “Trojan Horse” by the conspirators, involved replacing head teachers with radical Muslim faculty, segregating classrooms by sex, and introducing Islamic prayers.
Birmingham has also been touched by the Muslim rape gang epidemic which has ravaged the English Midlands. A 2017 article in Birmingham Live reported “a worrying escalation of the abuse of young schoolgirls, typically aged around 13 to 14.” According to the report, gang members were filming and sharing the rapes. Another report revealed that gang members were using tasers on their schoolgirl victims.
It may seem unfair to use Birmingham as an example. After all, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan observed when asked about rising knife and acid attacks in his city, crime is just a part of life in a big city– and Birmingham is the UK’s second largest city. To get a truer picture, perhaps we should look at a smaller city.
What about, say, Oxford? It’s only the 52nd largest city in the UK. What’s more, Tolkien lived and taught there for most of his adult life. It was there that he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. “Oxford”—the word conjures up scenes of leafy commons, stately buildings, and, for those familiar with the lives of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, it calls to mind a picture of the Inklings meeting weekly in the Eagle and Child pub.
But what of Oxford today? A Gatestone Institute article, titled “British Girls Raped by Muslim Gangs on ‘Industrial Scale,’” refers mainly to Oxford and Oxfordshire. Over a fifteen-year period, nearly 400 girls—some as young as eleven—had been sexually exploited by Muslim “grooming gangs.” Some of the sexual abuse was extremely violent, and involved beatings, burnings, knives, and baseball bats. How had the gangs managed to operate for so long without the police knowing? The answer is that the police did know. So did other authorities. According to a March 2017 report, local officials had repeatedly ignored the abuse due to a “culture of denial.” There must also have been a culture of denial in the Muslim communities as well. Are we supposed to believe that no one knew about the prostitution rings that had been set up in their midst?
A dark shadow is spreading over England, but—although Islamic ideology does legitimize the rape of infidels—this is not strictly an Islamic problem. Muslims make up only 6 or 7 percent of the UK population. The rapid spread of Islamic ideology could not have taken place without the tacit consent of a large number of the other 93 percent.
Betrayal Facilitated by the Ruling Class
The Islamization of England is being facilitated by the usual crowd of politically correct academics and members of the media, as well as by the cowardly compliance of local officials and police. Some of these PC people dimly sense that what they are doing is wrong, but rather than change course, they have adopted a defensive stance and ringed themselves with simple-minded slogans: their critics are “bigots”; the gang members are only a few “bad apples,” and, besides, what they do has “nothing to do with Islam”; moreover, the “vast majority” of Muslims are decent, solid citizens, and so on. The point they are trying to make—that not all members of a group think and act alike—is not an especially profound one. But to reassure them that the point is understood, let me add the usual disclaimer: the great majority of Muslims are not rapists or terrorists. By the same token, I should also add that not all British civil servants are cowardly time-servers who hope to retire to Malta before the deluge hits. Still, in both cases there seem to be enough “bad apples” to potentially rot the whole barrel.
The usual response to criticism of Islam is to call such criticism “racist” and “Islamophobic.” But, as the bien pensants have not yet figured out, Islam is not a race. It’s a religion. The title “Sauron comes to Middle England” is not meant to imply that Muslims are an evil people. It’s meant to imply that there is something wrong with their religion as well as with the British authorities who facilitate its spread.
I think Tolkien would have agreed. Although he was an avowed anti-racist, he did believe in evil, and he did not hesitate to condemn the evil ideologies of Nazis and communists. Unlike today’s academics, he would also have understood that Islam has been a perennial enemy of Christianity. Indeed, the battles and sieges he describes in his trilogy bear more resemblance to the warfare conducted by Crusaders and Saracens than to the battles fought in the two world wars.
Am I saying that The Lord of the Rings is an allegory about the civilizational struggle between Christianity and Islam? Absolutely not. Tolkien maintained that The Lord of the Rings was not an allegory about anything—not the First World War, nor the Second World War, nor the H-bomb. The struggle that mainly concerned Tolkien was the one “against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
There’s no point in trying to make a one-to-one comparison between the events in The Lord of the Rings and ancient battles between Muslims and Christians. It’s not that kind of story. This doesn’t mean, however, that Tolkien’s mythology has no application to the present situation. Since his themes are timeless, it is worth thinking about what they say to all men in all times.
One of the most prominent themes in The Lord of the Rings is betrayal. Among the more important treacheries are the betrayal of Gandalf by Saruman, the betrayal of the Fellowship by Boromir, and the betrayal of Frodo by Gollum.
The story of the Islamization of England has also been one of betrayal. The most obvious example is the betrayal of the many thousands of victims of Muslim rape gangs in the Midlands and other parts of England. In almost all cases, authorities knew about the ongoing exploitation, but did nothing to stop it. Officials in Rotherham ignored the abuse of 1,400 young girls for over a decade, and later explained that they had been afraid of being accused of “racism” and “Islamophobia” had they targeted Pakistani gang members. It’s not surprising that when the scandals finally broke, people began to speak openly of the “betrayal” of the girls.
But there was also a larger betrayal. For years, government authorities had winked at forced marriages, polygamy, female genital mutilation, and sharia law courts. For years, they did nothing to stem the flow of Muslim migrants. And for years, Britain’s teachers had whitewashed Islam and demonized Christianity. Meanwhile, those who spoke out about the dangers of Islamization—most notably Tommy Robinson—were threatened and even jailed. The betrayal of English values and of ordinary British citizens became so widespread that Paul Weston, a former chairman of the Liberty GB party, began referring to Britain’s leaders as the “traitor” class.
“Traitor class” is actually a quite accurate assessment of the many segments of Western society which have, in effect, taken sides with Sauron—that is, with a determined ideological adversary whose values are the inverse of our own. The traitor class work in universities, foundations, media, business, politics, and even in the Church. They do not, of course, consider themselves as traitors. Rather, they see themselves as the enlightened heralds of continual progress.
Betrayal by the Catholic Hierarchy
The betrayal by the Catholic hierarchy is, perhaps, the unkindest cut of all. For decades, these supposed shepherds have been busily opening the gates of the sheepfold to the wolves. They have whitewashed the crimes of Islam, asked us to accept the nonsensical proposition that Islam is a peaceful religion, and promoted and participated in efforts to flood Western countries with unassimilable Muslim migrants. Meanwhile, they have maintained a discreet silence over the slaughter of Christians by Muslims in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
Betrayal is a constant temptation, even in the type of close-knit societies depicted by Tolkien. But the temptation is more widespread today. Why? Precisely because close-knit societies have largely unraveled. Edmund Burke observed that we learn loyalty in the first place through the “little platoons”—family, church, and local community:
To love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to mankind.
When these links are broken, the temptation is to shift one’s loyalties to abstract ideologies, or to powerful protectors, or to a combination of both. For a long time now, secular society—particularly through the schools—has sought to weaken our loyalties to the little platoons, and replace them with a new set of loyalties—to “progress,” multiculturalism, and global government.
Even the Church has jumped on the bandwagon. Pope Francis, for example, has given many indications that he favors a one-world government based on the model of the UN. At the same time, he has been quick to condemn “nationalists” such as Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini who, in the eyes of Francis, has committed the unpardonable sin of assuming that the first duty of Italian authorities is to protect Italians. Like Burke, but unlike Francis, Salvini seems to believe that the proper way to learn to love mankind is by first learning to love family and country.
In addition to deliberate attempts to subvert the natural order of things, there are other, more impersonal forces which work to undermine our connections to the little platoons. With its many games and distractions, the Internet becomes for many a sort of virtual community. When a child or teenager spends too much time living in this virtual world, his connection to the immediate world of family, friends, and church can fray and even break, leaving him vulnerable to multiple dangerous influences.
For whatever reason, our society has stopped inculcating the shire-like loyalty to the local and particular which form the basis for other loyalties. Moreover, like an immune response gone haywire, our social elites have begun to attack the healthy cells of the body politic. As a result, many have lost the conviction that their own society is worth defending, or that the advance of an alien culture should be resisted.
A devout Muslim’s main loyalty is to the ummah—the worldwide Muslim community. It’s understandable, therefore, that many Muslims who live in the shires of England—in Shropshire, Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Oxfordshire—should feel little loyalty to the people or values of the counties they live in. It’s less understandable that so many native English have also lost their connection to the “local” values that has long sustained their way of life.
As Tolkien understood, the temptation to betrayal is perennial. But the problem becomes more acute when church and society lose the confidence that they have anything of value to defend and pass on. When that happens, the situation is ripe for an invasion. This is why Sauron has been able to so easily move his operation from Middle Earth to Middle England.
This article originally appeared in the May 27, 2019 edition of Crisis.
Pictured above: Magdalene Tower, Oxford.
Credit: SJ Price, Pixabay