What difference can a magazine like make? To the surprise of some, perhaps, the answer turns out to be: quite a lot. Over the past six years, we have opened up debates where none existed and events have vindicated our decision to challenge herd mentalities. The need to mount the broadest possible defence of Western civilisation, which has been our leitmotif, is more generally accepted than in 2008. Because those who write for Standpoint cover a wide spectrum of opinion, the magazine itself embodies the strength in depth of our civilisation. The more embattled our values are, the more it is a badge of honour to fight the good fight to defend them.
One writer in particular deserves praise for her readiness to investigate the murkier corners of this country, where talk of civilisation may seem almost like a bad joke. That writer is Julie Bindel. “One of the first journalists to write about the Rotherham grooming scandal”, as the Washington magazine the Weekly Standard recently described her, revealed the full extent of the abuse in “a pioneering 2010 article in Standpoint“. At the time, it was risky even to discuss the fact that most of the culprits were men of Pakistani origin, while the girls were mostly white. She quoted a child protection expert who — while himself taking refuge behind anonymity — explained how the Asian gangs had taken advantage of police paranoia about racism: “The truth is that these men are aware that the police do not want to be accused of racism in today’s climate.” It took the authorities nearly four more years to admit to the gravity and scale of the crimes — there were at least 1,400 victims — and the full iniquity of the cover-up, after The Times and other large media organisations followed up her investigation. She deserves public recognition for her intrepid courage.
In this issue, she enters another field of conflict: the spread of sharia courts in Britain (page 34), the effects of which are particularly (but not exclusively) apparent in family law. Like Ian McEwan’s novel The Children Act, discussed in our Critique this month (page 55), Bindel highlights the tension between religious freedom and secular law — but in the case of sharia, the demand goes far beyond the sphere of conscience. It is nothing less than a parallel system of law for Muslims. As James Mumford explains in an article from America (page 38), where religious freedom has become contentious as a result of the Obama administration’s coercive policies, Christians did not always embrace liberty of conscience for those of other faiths or none, but have learned the hard way that such liberty must be reciprocal. Sharia has yet to concede the principle of equality before the law, and for that reason alone has no place in Britain — the country where that principle first emerged 800 years ago in Magna Carta, when the king conceded that he too was under the law of the land.
Like everybody else, British Muslims, especially women and girls, are entitled to the protection of the law. However, as Geoffrey Robertson QC explains (page 30), British citizens who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, Iraq or elsewhere must be made to understand that the long arm of our law will reach them wherever they hide. Never before, at least in modern times, have British citizens committed such heinous offences; the War Crimes Act 1991 was intended to deal with those who had escaped justice for Nazi crimes by becoming British citizens, but only one person was convicted under it. As unprecedented as our predicament is the task of bringing the culprits to court and gathering evidence reliable enough to convict them. As Robertson says, we have not only the right but the duty to put war criminals on trial if they fall under our jurisdiction by virtue of their origins. The murder of Western hostages has rightly outraged public opinion, but the law should have no less regard for the unknown numbers of other victims of British jihadists flying the black flag of Islamic State. Their blood, like that of Abel, cries out for justice.
Standpoint has championed plenty of supposedly lost causes. We warned against the power vacuum that would be left by President Obama’s administration (“we don’t have a strategy yet”) and predicted that Putin’s Russia would take advantage of Nato’s weakness. We warned that the “Arab Spring” would fuel the rise of Islamism and that European anti-Semitism was back in business. We warned that political insiders were underestimating the challenge posed by populist outsiders, a revolt of the masses against their masters on both sides of the Atlantic and even within the United Kingdom. We warned that the referendum on Scotland was unpredictable, that Britain might leave the EU, and that governments should not be panicked by the financial crisis or climate change.
It has been flattering, too, to have our articles picked up by much bigger media partners and our commitment to serious journalism is appreciated throughout the English-speaking world. Most recently the Guardian, of all papers, has decided to publish more “long form” essays. We have successfully resisted pressure to abandon the printed word; both our form and content have been quietly imitated by competitors. There is indeed a place for Standpoint in the intellectual marketplace. And we should like to thank our readers and supporters for keeping faith with us.