The appeasers, apologists and ‘useful idiots’ have been out in force over the festive season, busily lighting candles, declaring ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’ and proclaiming that the murderous attack on the Christmas market had nothing to do either with Islam or mass immigration. Thinking of them prompted me to pluck from my shelf one of my favourite books, a slim tome entitled ‘Ourselves and Germany’, written in the winter of 1937 by the Marquess of Londonderry. Otherwise known as Charles Stewart Henry Vane-Tempest-Stewart, or ‘Charley’ to his pals, the Marquess could neither write well nor read men well, but his book is nonetheless riveting. It’s a timeless reminder of where an educated man’s moral cowardice and intellectual stupidity can lead.
The Marquess resigned as Secretary of State for Air in 1935, and spent the next two years scuttling back and forth to Germany as an unofficial emissary of Appeasement. Hitler, who extended his distinguished visitor ‘every consideration and courtesy’ was simply misunderstood by the British people, wrote Charley. So were Hermann Goering and Joachim von Ribbentrop, and that was the fault of Britain’s ‘cheap and popular press’, which twisted their words and turned the minds of the public against the Third Reich.
Charley wasn’t a bad man; he was just an arrogant and gullible one, who like many educated men of the era, was taken in by Hitler. The Fuhrer, for all his faults, was adept at hoodwinking his enemies by telling them with a polite smile what they wanted to hear. The Marquess’s cousin was Winston Churchill, who never misread Hitler, and he crops up in another book I’ve recently read, ‘Conquering Islamic Totalitarianism’, by François Fillon, the centre-right candidate in France’s presidential election.
Fillon asks his readers to imagine for a moment if, in these sombre times, they could think of ‘Winston Churchill or Charles de Gaulle, sitting at their desk, head in their hands, moaning ‘Where are we heading? Who are we? What is our identity?’.’ He scoffs at the idea, and in the next paragraphs declares that the West must look to the two wartime leaders for inspiration ‘faced with Islamic Totalitarianism’.
It’s a fight on two fronts, explains Fillon, against the Islamists themselves, and against the left, whom he damns for their ‘imbecilic sophism’, adding that they are ‘ideologically blind’ and suffering from a ‘paranoia of Islamophobics’. He makes no apology for drawing parallels between Nazism and Islamic extremism and vows to extinguish the ‘Spirit of Munich’ that he says permeates much of left-wing ideology. ‘Because let there be no mistake’, he writes, ‘these are the same people who bleated for pacifism and collective security in the 1930s when Hitler began re-arming a Germany still weak. These are the same people who cowardly celebrated the sinister Munich Agreement and claimed that peace had been saved’.
Fillon writes also that the time for accepting the unacceptable is over. After each new outrage, ‘we go through the same sadly familiar and repetitive scenario with the president and the politicians lighting candles to commemorate the massacre and observing the rituals of compassion’. In Angela Merkel’s case, it was laying a white rose at the scene of slaughter, an act she described as ‘incomprehensible’. Only it wasn’t, it was all too comprehensible to those who predicted that her decision to open Germany’s borders was a monumental misjudgement. Incomprehensible are the blunders made by the German security services who had been tracking Anis Amri since March; incomprehensible are the German privacy laws that meant the media wasn’t able to show a photograph of Amri; incomprehensible were the words of a German journalist who tweeted that the best response to the massacre was ‘patience, empathy and humanity’.
Patience for what? Until it’s our turn to be shot, knifed, blown up or run over by the Islamists? Speaking days after the attack in Nice last July that left 86 people dead, the then Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, said:
‘I need to tell the truth to the French: Terrorism will be part of everyday life for a long time.’
That statement confirmed to the French that their government prioritised political correctness above their protection. Terrorism need not be a part of everyday life if Europe controls its borders, outlaws Salafism, expels hate preachers, deports illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers, imprisons all returning IS fighters and, above all, stops tolerating the intolerance of Islamic extremism, whose objective regarding Europe is conquest not cohabitation.
Writing in the Guardian, the historian Timothy Garton Ash warned that the ‘Berlin Christmas market attack could unleash forces of intolerance to threaten liberal ideals across the continent’. He was alluding to the forces of far-right fascism, which indeed are a concern, but they are on the rise only because a generation of European leaders have failed to confront Islam’s ‘forces of intolerance’.
Meanwhile, Islamic terror attacks in the Middle East have killed thousands of Christians, Jews, Yazidis and other minority faiths, and in his pre-recorded message for Radio Four’s ‘Thought for the Day’, Prince Charles warned that ‘all of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s’. Islamofascism is the clear and present danger. In the past two years its foot soldiers have killed 250 people in Paris, Nice, Brussels, Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, and Copenhagen. While its ideological warriors have made big advances, under a creeping barrage of ‘Islamophobia’, against democratic free speech so that now only the bravest dare stick their head above the parapet of political correctness.
Witness Theresa May’s appeasement in front of Parliament when she was given the chance to support the gymnast Louis Smith, who had been ostracised because of light-hearted mockery of Islam. ‘We value freedom of expression and freedom of speech in this country’, May told the Commons. ‘That is absolutely essential in underpinning our democracy, but we also value tolerance of others and tolerance in relation to religions.’
This age of appeasement must come to an end, and François Fillon in 2017 has the opportunity to redefine Europe’s attitude towards Islamism. ‘Fatalism is no way to fight fanaticism’, he writes in his book, adding that a more forceful approach is urgently required to prevent a third world war. If he’s elected president of France in the spring he must follow through on his pledge because Europe desperately needs a strong leader, a man like Churchill, who from the outset understood that evil must never be appeased.
Gavin Mortimer is a writer and historian who lives in Paris