Ex-EDL Leader a “Surprise Guest” at Silent Conquest Showing in London

At the Spectator, Nick Cohen reports from a recent showing of the film Silent Conquest:

If you haven’t seen it, Silent Conquest is a documentary for everyone who goes along with the ‘Islamisation of the West crowd’. The producers say that it ‘offers a frightening insight into the extent to which Europe, Canada and the United Nations have already succumbed to the restrictions of shariah blasphemy laws.’

The film details how writers and politicians have been persecuted by the courts as much as by jihadis. Just because liberals don’t like them, does not make the denial of their liberty any greater.

The film thus highlights an important issue, although the trailers (here and here) suggest to me that the subject is not tackled in good faith: the “conquest” is given visible form via old footage of rantings by Anjem Choudary, while the most prominent talking-head expert seems to be the charlatan conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney. The trailers also highlight attempts by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to introduce a concept of “defamation of religions”, which we are told will criminalize all critical comment about Islam, although no mention is made of the detail that the OIC gave up on the idea last year. A sinister air is also given to statements by Barack Obama, in which he reasonably attempts to make clear that anti-Islam rhetoric in the USA does not represent the USA.

I also doubt that the film looks at prosecutions in Europe in proper context. In 2004 a Swedish pastor went to prison for attacking homosexuality, and in 2005 French journalists were fined for the “racial defamation” of Israeli Jews. Of course, the threat of public disorder – or worse – by offended Islamists may play an improper role in making a decision to undertake a particular prosecution, but laws limiting free speech to “protect” minority groups for one reason or another came into existence for reasons other than to appease Muslims.

Cohen has his own misgivings:

…the film, like the dismal ideology it represents, cannot acknowledge that the main target of radical Muslims are liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims – not just in Iran but in the West too.

Consider the title. Muslims and by extension ex-Muslims are not a part of the West. They are outsiders, ‘silent conquerors’, who have sneaked in and torn up our rights. Nowhere can the filmmakers acknowledge that many Muslims, who have come to the West or indeed been born in the West, hope to enjoy the same rights as everyone else… The right, or at least the most vocal part of it, are as willing as the most vocal elements on the liberal-left to ignore liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims. 

Cohen saw the film at a special screening in London organised by “Passion for Freedom”, where he was panel discussant along with Douglas Murray and Anne Marie Waters. He adds:

I was uneasy about what I had seen, and became more irritable when the organisers announced a surprise guest, Tommy Robinson, formerly of the English Defence League.

It is not that I doubt the sincerity of his conversion from extremist politics. Even if I did, I think the moderate Muslim Quilliam Foundation did a superb job when it spirited him away and left the EDL leaderless. As I stared at him, I noticed another reason to stop worrying. Robinson is now a shrunken figure.

…Nevertheless Robinson’s appearance after a film that had made Muslims seem both an homogenous bloc and a conquering army summed up everything that was going wrong with the Right’s reaction to militant Islam.

Cohen’s sympathy with Quilliam’s aims means he has a tendency to regard the organisation uncritically; in fact, there’s quite a gap between Quilliam’s presentation of Robinson as a “former extremist” and Robinson’s own very clear statements that he hasn’t changed his views at all. But Cohen’s assessment of Robinson’s “shrunken” state is a useful counter-balance to concerns about Robinson’s plans for a new organisation: Robinson is articulate and can even be disarming, but it’s difficult to see what kind of constituency he could have outside the EDL (I’m also very doubtful that the access to funding streams that Quilliam seems to have promised him will come to anything – his past remains toxic, and he has a recent criminal record).

Passion for Freedom describes itself as “creat[ing] space for artists and writers who discuss subjects omitted in politically correct circles”, and it is a project of One Law For All. The film was presented as part of a festival, at which it was given the “Silver Award”; the full line-up of nominees can be seen here (the “Gold Award” went to a short art film of a naked woman swimming underwater, called The Siren; a useful choice for positioning Passion for Freedom as being broader than One Law For All’s core concerns).

Silent Conquest was created by a weirdly anonymous outfit called “Sanctum Enterprises LLC”, registered to an office in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; however, when the film was released a year ago, Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy was given as the contact point. Presumably there’s some kind of overlap with the Clarion Project.