My world view changed on 9/11. I realised that the greatest issue of our time was the rise of Islamism - and as the months and years went by after that appalling horror, still too few people realised the scope of the threat and too few governments were prepared to make the serious response necessary.
When I became editor of the JC, I was determined that we would highlight the issue of Islamism and would expose some of the more bone headed so-called interfaith work, which sometimes offered a form of hechsher to Islamist front organisations by engaging with and embracing them.
But there were, and remain, problems with doing that. One, which is still a dead hand on journalism, is libel law and the Islamists’ near-constant legal threats. When you are a small newspaper with no significant reserves, such threats really matter.
But another problem has nothing to do with the Islamists themselves. It comes instead from those who think they are fighting Islamism but who, by their actions, end up boosting it.
It is vital that when we report on Islamism the journalism is clear, specific and accurate. That should go without saying. But that specificity is not just about the individuals and organisations themselves. It is also about the distinction between Islamists and Islam.
The battle to defeat the Islamists is not an attack on Muslims generally. Yes, there are aspects of their faith with which we take issue. But the same is true of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and any other religion. The fight against Islamism is, rather, about a specific ideology that seeks to impose a Caliphate through violent means, with all that entails.
Every time that distinction is ignored and Islam overall is viewed as an enemy to be defeated, the job of defeating Islamism is made harder, as the arguments of the Islamists – fundamentally, that the West is out to destroy Islam – are made more credible.
In that context, it is difficult to think of a more ignorant, self-defeating and, to be blunt, bigoted example of that elision between Islamism and Islam than the campaign to stop the Hippodrome from becoming a mosque – or rather, Islamic Centre, as it is styled.
There are some technical planning issues that are legitimate, about the times during which the Islamic Centre can be open, and parking, given that it is in a partly residential area. And I am sure there are some protestors who are solely concerned with these issues.
But what lies behind much of the anger has nothing to do with parking and opening hours, however. It is that a group of Muslims want to base themselves in Golders Green.
Some of the arguments being made within the Jewish community against the Islamic Centre are simply grotesque.
Golders Green, we are told, is a “Jewish area”. Since when did Jews elect to live in single-faith ghettoes? Since when did anyone decide such areas should exist in the UK?
Imagine, if you will, that a group of Jews wished to open a synagogue in Rotherham, and were met with the response from local Muslim residents that they are not welcome because Rotherham is an exclusively Muslim area. There would, rightly, be national outrage. But it is, some within our community think, fine for us to tell Muslims they have no business being in Golders Green.
Ah, but Muslims are terrorists, goes the argument. As one objector puts it: “To place a large Muslim institution in the heart of one of London’s only two Jewish communities is a highly dangerous undertaking and one that can only result in violence and terrorism.”
Another echoes the thought: “…its (sic) one of the only Jewish areas left in London and we don’t want it polluted and destroyed by a bunch of Jew hating Muslim terrorists.”
Islamist terror is a real and vital concern. For me, it is the biggest issue of our time. We have to defeat it. But we do not defeat Islamist terror by creating a race war.
There is not a shred of evidence that the people or the organisation involved in the purchase of the Hippodrome are involved with, or support, terrorism. Not a hint, not a clue, not a tease of evidence. Nothing. Neither the police nor terrorism experts nor the CST have any evidence to suggest there is any concern whatsoever about the people involved.
They just happen to be Muslim.
The fears, in other words, are baseless.
Let me correct myself. They have a base but that base is pure bigotry: the idea that any Muslim is, by definition, our enemy.
We are each entitled to our views. If we want to view all Muslims as wannabe terrorists then we are entitled to do so – so long as that view does not move from a private thought to action.
In the campaign against the Golders Green Islamic Centre, such thoughts do just that, which is why they have to be called out as bigotry.
Because it is, in a terrible irony, those who claim that by protesting against the Islamic Centre they are fighting terrorism who are in fact feeding the very narrative that the Islamists depend on for their success in recruiting young Muslims: that the West is the enemy.
Shame on the protestors. Shame on them.
Stephen Pollard writes in a personal capacity