Remember! Even mentioning Islam puts the detonator in your hands!
“You thought you could buy social peace with your communalism,” he says, “allowing sharia councils to generally manage Muslim affairs in some parts of the UK. The Westminster and Manchester attacks are the death knell for that illusion.”
Gilles Kepel is waiting for a taxi on a London street corner. The roads are gridlocked, the cab is late and France’s foremost expert on Islam is starting to look nervous. He has every reason to be. Isis has placed this polished, polyglot professor on a death list, calling on its followers to kill him without delay. In France he has round-the-clock police protection.
Yet here he is, alone and unprotected in the British capital – “Londonistan” was the term he coined for it years ago – barely two days after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at a Manchester concert.
I have just interviewed him and he has ordered a cab to get to another meeting. But it is nowhere to be seen. Ushering him into the Underground, I ask him what it feels like to be threatened by a group that specialises in beheading its victims in front of a camera.
“It’s not very pleasant, but you get used to it,” he says, buying a ticket to Oxford Circus. As we go down the stairs, he continues: “It feels as if the subject I have spent 35 years studying has turned round to strike at me.”
He was at home in Paris brushing his teeth last summer when his mobile phone lit up. It was a journalist friend contacting him to say that he had been put on the hitlist.