The Serpent’s Head

One of the things I’ve never quite understood about the Left is its willingness to relentlessly attack Christianity in the name of atheism and secularism yet, at the same time, side with Muslims generally and, sometimes, Islamists in particular. I have friends who are exceptions to this rule and hate all religions equally but, sadly, it does appear to be a rule.

Probably the most confounding aspect of this ‘unholy alliance’ is the manner in which the values of each ideology are so diametrically opposed – except, of course, in wishing to impose those values on others. Part of it may be explained by the nannying instinct of the Left, in which it immediately sides with minorities and underdogs simply because they are minorities and underdogs. The swiftness by which it switched its allegiance from international Jewry to Palestinian Arabs is a case in point.

One atheist who is not troubled by such compulsions, however, is Julian Malins, QC – author of new thriller The Serpent’s Head: Revenge. Professing to dislike religion universally, Julian has written a gripping political thriller about the fallout from an Islamist terrorist attack in London which kills the daughter of the head of the Chinese secret service and her lover, the son of one of the City’s richest financiers. The crux of the book is these two parents’ quest to avenge the death of their offspring in a strike on Saudi Arabia.

The book reads like a Daniel Craig-era Bond film in the pair’s clandestine revenge attacks across the world but, as Julian is at pains to point out, the book is less about terrorism itself and more about a global clash of civilisations – which no longer conforms to the simple dichotomy of east and west seen in the Cold War. And, despite universally disliking religion, Julian claims some are more dangerous than others.

“Islam is at the same stage we were in the 15th century because it is itself in its own 15th century (the Islamic calendar begins upon Mohammed’s migration from Mecca to Medina, making 2013 the year 1434). Rowan Williams was talking about introducing Sharia Law but Henry VIII and Elizabeth I fought very hard to get rid of Canon Law in this country. It used to be the case that priests had their own courts.”

This reformation of Christianity and Christian societies 500 years ago means that, perhaps surprisingly, Julian is one of the most vocal advocates of the continued establishment of the Church of England – something not entirely popular with libertarians – but which Julian believes is an institution to have benefited from nationalisation. But then, one should not expect predictable views from the offspring of a clergyman and an atheist Communist who grew up in Nigeria and Singapore.

“The Church of England is one of the least offensive religions known to me on earth. It’s organised by the State, you can more or less believe what you want, and it has a lay person as its Supreme Head. It provides people with the things they want and need – weddings, funerals, baptisms and christenings, which, in their absence would most likely filled by more malevolent things. If there’s ever a call to disestablish the Church, I will be the first in line to oppose it, even though I am an atheist.”

As the interview drifts back to unholy alliances, Julian says the Left – and western governments – should be wary of flirting with Islamists in Britain and in Syria, citing the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as an example.

“The liberals and socialists all sided with the Ayatollah against the Shah. They didn’t see the Islamic Republic coming because they thought the onward march of democracy was unstoppable. The Shah was no democrat but, under his rule, homosexuals, Christians and Bahais weren’t persecuted.

“Although he had a secret police, that was to keep the Islamists in check. What people should remember is, the reason they got rid of the Shah was not because he was nasty, but because he was not nasty enough. The same is true of Assad.”