In "Londonistan Calling," Christopher Hitchens writes about the growth of Islamic extremism in his old London neighborhood of Finsbury Park. Citing Islamic preachers as a root cause, Hitchens is troubled by Britain's tolerance of extremist rhetoric, which he says is founded in "the multicultural idea of the multi-ethnic, gorgeous-mosaic ideal." Not that he's totally opposed to multiculturalism. In this Web exclusive, Hitchens tackles … well, just about everything.

Christopher Hitchens. Photograph by Christian Witkin.

Melanie Phillips, who wrote a book called Londonistan, says multiculturalism is destructive to British values. Do you agree?
No, I'm in favor of multiculturalism. I'm defending it against the hideous challenge from political Islam. As I say in the article, you cannot defend multiculturalism and also have people who want to kill all the Jews and Indians in the country. I would have thought that would be axiomatic for a multiculturalist. The official multiculturalists, whose view is that you mustn't make distinctions between cultures, would thus be uneasy making the simple point I've just made. If Melanie means them, I think I know who they are.

Who are they?
Well, people like Mr. Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain, now a convener of Blair's task force on extremism, a man who publicly supported Osama bin Laden.

But multiculturalism makes room for just such people.
I don't want to concede that at all. I think it is surely much more positive to say that multiculturalism must be defended from what is really a racist fanaticism. The objection of these people is not really to Judaism, or even to Zionism. It's anti-Semitism pure and simple. The other name for which is racism, of the deadliest kind because it's accompanied by a direct incitement to murder. Not just discrimination, but murder. If someone can tell me how that can be squared with multiculturalism, I'll do all the listening that I feel I have to. But not much.

Were you concerned about Britain's lax approach to extremist demagoguery such as Hamza's before July 7, 2005?
For me it's a fairly old story. It begins Valentine's Day, 1989, the day that the fatwa was issued against my friend Salman [Rushdie] for the crime of publishing a novel in London. The fatwa was not for apostasy only; it was for insulting the Prophet and his family. But it was applied to him because he was a Muslim. If I published a novel saying the prophet Muhammad stinks it's unlikely that even the mad old ayatollah, looking for an issue, as he was, having just lost the war with Iraq, would have taken any notice of it. Up till now it's a matter of, Well, he's an infidel. He wouldn't know any better.

But you're talking about Iran. What about Britain's fundamentalists?
Well, here's the situation. Salman's fatwa was a pretty clear challenge to the rule of law and to free expression in England. A novelist can't publish a novel without being subjected to an open, suborned-for-money murder, a bounty put on his head by the theocratic leader of a foreign state of which he was not a citizen. You would think everyone would react in the same way. You'd be wrong. For one thing, a whole load of lumpen intellectuals said that the fault was with Salman for writing the novel, not with the ayatollah for issuing an offer of money for murder.

Any names?
Yeah. Hugh Trevor-Roper. John Berger. But, bad as that was, it wasn't as upsetting as it was to see really quite large demonstrations in Bradford, and similar places in the North of England, and in London, burning the book, and calling for the death of the author. I'd had stirrings of alarm about this before. When it happened, I remember thinking I knew something like this was going to happen. But it was very abrupt, and on a scale that surprised most people. There were quite senior people occupying responsible positions in the Muslim community who actually publicly supported the ayatollah's call for Salman to be killed. Even though the authority of an Iranian Shia ayatollah over them seems to me very problematic. They seemed to regard themselves as bound by his fatwa. I became then, and have remained, very involved in the defense of Mr. Rushdie, and I would say there really hasn't been a day in my life since then where some aspect of the Islamic challenge hasn't had to come into my mind. I must have been one of the least surprised people on earth on September 11. I felt very braced for that. I knew something like that was going to come.

From your story this month, I get the feeling you think extremists such as Abu Hamza, the former Finsbury Park Mosque imam, should not go unnoticed. Would you eavesdrop on suspected extremists in Britain?
You don't have to eavesdrop on someone who gets up in public and says, "Kill the Jews."

True—
Someone who's bellowing racism and malice through a megaphone, I don't need to tap his fucking phone.

But you might want to tap the phone of the people who are listening to him.
If the Metropolitan Police are not listening to his phone and the phones of people like him, then they should be impeached and removed from office. I don't think you'd have much difficulty getting that warrant.

Is the British problem with terrorism different from ours?
Most of our [British] Muslim population is Pakistani. If that population was Indonesian or Tunisian the situation would not be the same. Pakistan has to export a lot of uneducated people, many of whom have become infected with the most barbaric reactionary ideas.

A London police official went on television after the July 7 bombings to say that the words "Islam" and "terrorism" do not go together. Is he misunderstanding the threat?
The reply to this fatuous remark was published in an Arab magazine. It said that it is not true that all Muslims are terrorists, but it is true that almost all terrorists are Muslims. We have to face this problem. Blair is quite firmly convinced that by making concessions on almost every front to Islamist demands, this will reduce the terrorist population. He thinks it's amenable to reason, in other words, and to reform. And I like his mind, in a way. But I doubt it very much. When the soft Blair-ites say the problem is not Islam, or the problem is not religion, I have to say very firmly, "To the contrary. It is an absolutely identical fit between the two."

Between terror and Islam?
Yes.

Even though the Koran doesn't advise murder and intolerance? Or does it?
The Koran shows every sign of being thrown together by human beings, as do all the other holy books. I was not there, but I will take my oath that it is not the word of the archangel Gabriel to the prophet Muhammad obeying the word of god. And like all the other holy books, the Koran is replete with contradiction and incoherence.