“I’d rather take ricin than publish this”

By Tom Gross
The New York Post
June 18, 2006

Book reviewed: “Londonistan” by Melanie Phillips
(Encounter Books)

Reuters founder Julius Reuter
British author
Melanie Phillips


Below is a review in The New York Post of “Londonistan,” an important new book by British journalist Melanie Phillips. The book was generally well received and widely reviewed in America – though true to form, The New York Times ignored it.

It also received some good reviews in Britain, for example from Michael Gove in The Mail on Sunday. And leading British bloggers such as Clive Davis and Stephen Pollard also welcomed the book (while, like myself, disagreeing with some of Phillips’ more conservative views on social issues). “On the really big issues, she is frighteningly right,” wrote Davis.


But the British left – rather than debate the issues – viciously attacked the book’s author. For example, in a piece by Jackie Ashley in The Guardian, Phillips was described as “quick to take offence” and as “a human cactus,” and patronizingly told to “keep your hair on, Mel.” There was also a particularly cheap review in The Observer by Peter Preston, the former editor of The Guardian – who summed up Londonistan as “a ferocious denunciation of new London’s many faiths and traditions.” This is simply not true. Phillips goes out of her way not to criticize Muslims per se, let alone Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs (many of whom have welcomed her book).

Phillips previously worked at The Guardian for almost two decades, which is one reason the newspaper is now so bitter about her changed views.

Phillips says the UK is still in
denial even after the 7/7 bombs

Brendan O’Neill, writing in The New Statesman (the house magazine of the British left) in a review titled “Losing the plot,” said “I have thought hard about the best word to use to describe Phillips’s book, and really only one will do: hysterical.” He also wrote that since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Phillips’ writing “has become increasingly shrill and paranoid. She says Britain has been ‘subverted’ by radical Islamic ideology, when in fact it is she who has been subverted.”

In his review, O’Neill dismissed the deadly 2005 London transport bombs as merely a “stunt executed by four bored and overgrown adolescents who had nothing better to do.” That is how he engages with the argument.


On a BBC TV program, a guest who was brought in to challenge Phillips tried to dismiss her book with the bizarre accusation that she had written in defense of Menachem Begin (which she says she has not). On another program, Phillips was referred to as “that vile woman”.

Despite being one of Britain’s best known journalists, Phillips had great trouble finding a publisher in Britain. One British Jewish publisher told her: “I’d rather take [the deadly poison] ricin than publish this.” (In the end, in addition to the U.S. edition, a British edition was brought out by a small Dutch publisher based in London called Gibson Square.)

Whether one agrees with everything Phillips says or not, it should be clear to anyone who has read “Londonistan” that it is not written in an exaggerated or hysterical tone. Phillips presents her case thoughtfully and judiciously.

-- Tom Gross

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* The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly


British publishers
were too frightened
to publish this book

BRITAIN is probably America’s most important ally. So what happens there has repercussions here in the U.S. too. And if British writer Melanie Phillips is right in her grim portrayal of “Londonistan” – the phenomena of increasing Islamic radicalism and the British failure to confront it – then Americans have good reason to be concerned.

While the United States provides the muscle to defend the free world against what Phillips terms “Islamic Fascism,” Britain – the originator of the values that America defends – provides much of the backbone. The “special relationship” between the two countries, she argues, is as vital today as when they stood shoulder to shoulder against Nazi Germany.

So could America really “lose Britain”? In short, thinks Phillips, yes. The situation is bad, very bad, “so much so that if we were fighting World War II now, we’d lose.”

That Prime Minister Tony Blair has shown great resolve and determination obscures the true picture, she says. For Blair is largely alone in a British establishment rife with anti-Americanism and the desire to placate Islamic extremists.


Even Blair’s own wife has made sympathetic comments about suicide bombers. Others in his governing Labor party – notably the leftist mayor of London, Ken Livingstone – have done their utmost to welcome Muslim Brotherhood radicals into the heart of British life.

Ken Livingstone and his close ally,
the notorious bigot Sheikh Qaradawi

After embracing (literally) the notorious bigot Sheikh Qaradawi, Livingstone dismissed an unprecedented coalition of British Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, gays, and lesbians who objected, claiming their protest was a Mossad conspiracy to defame Islam. Yet Livingstone remains popular among Britain’s liberal elite, who are obsessed, says Phillips, with promoting multiculturalism, political correctness and Islamist-chic.

Indeed according to Phillips, many if not most members of Britain’s governing class – its politicians, judges, intellectuals, journalists, church leaders, and even senior police – have turned right and wrong on their heads and encouraged Londonistan to develop. And this is, amazingly, still the case even after last year’s quadruple suicide attack on London’s transport system, carried out by British-born, British-raised, middle-class Muslims.

For two decades now, the British political and intelligence establishment has simply turned a blind eye to the substantial network of radical Islamists who have made London their home, preaching hatred of the West, indoctrinating impressionable young British Muslims and recruiting for jihad. (And not only in London: the phenomenon extends to other British cities.) Wrongly believing that these imams posed no threat to Britain itself, the authorities ignored them, repeatedly turning down extradition requests by Saudi, Algerian and Egyptian governments.


Shoe bomber Richard Reid,
another British-based terrorist

Radical Islamists in Britain have already produced some of the organizers behind the Bali bombings and the beheading of Daniel Pearl, the 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, the shoe-bomber Richard Reid, and suicide bombers that have murdered innocent Israelis, Iraqis and Indians. British-based terrorists have also been behind attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Russia.

Yet even now, when they have struck (and are trying to strike again) inside the UK itself, the country, warns Phillips, is still in a state of deep denial. In London, the chattering classes are simply asleep, or worse still are busy scapegoating Israel and “the Jews” rather than acknowledging the Islamist threat they actually face.

Many of her fellow countrymen regard Phillips as misguided. But such was the reaction too, to the few who spoke out in Britain against appeasing Hitler in the 1930s.

Phillips is a powerful writer and her book makes compelling reading. She sets out the evidence skillfully and even if she occasionally overstates her case, her message is one that would be dangerous to ignore.

(Mr. Gross is a former Jerusalem correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph.)

Islamic demonstrators on the streets
of London, 2006