Magazine article The New Leader (Online)

Battling Jihadism in Britain

Magazine article The New Leader (Online)

Battling Jihadism in Britain

Article excerpt


THREE YEARS AGO, after four devastating suicide attacks in London the previous year by Muslim extremists, the Labor government launched an educational campaign popularly called Prevent to supplement the counterterrorism activities of the security services. Its purpose was to isolate and neutralize the forces within the Muslim community promoting religious violence. The hope was that concomitantly it would make disaffected Muslims feel they were genuinely members of British society. Accordingly, significant sums were allocated to local councils and anti-Jihadist organizations to win the hearts and minds of Muslims and keep them from succumbing to the extremists in their ranks .

But the once highly touted program is receiving a complete makeover. John Denham, who heads the Department of Communities andLocal Government has declared that contrary to expectations it has alienated Muslims by defining the government's relationship with them entirety in terms of reining in their worst elements.

It is true that British Muslims resent being linked to terrorism in the everyday perceptions of the wider public. It is also true that they are subject to blatantly Islamophobic acts by the far Right British National Party (BNP) and the newly formed Engli sh Defense League (EDL). The latter recently staged anti-Muslim demonstrations outside mosques that led to clashes with young Muslims, which may have been their purpose.

So now Denham is taking a new tack and addressing all forms of extremism, not only those of Islamists. The activity of far Right groups that attack Muslims can be compared to British fascist Oswald Mosley's movement in the 1930s, he says, making it necessary for Britain to "adopt consistent principles and aproportionate approach to these issues."

Dealing with incidents of public disorder and hate crimes falls within Denham's purview. Nevertheless, Britain's security services know that coping with violent Muslim extremists remains their primary task. And Muslims know they have all been targeted in the drive to root out those recruiting their young people to the Jihadist cause.

Denham, of course, maintains he is seeking proportionality in the struggle against extremism. Aside from the threat of terror posed by Islamists, though, the dangerof extremist violence is peripheral in Britain. Rogue nationalists in Northern Ireland need watching, but they are no structural menace now that even former Irish Republican Army leaders condemn them. The only extremist Right-wing movementofany significance is the BNP, which rails against Muslims, nonwhites, and immigrants generally (while downplaying its earlier anti-Semitic stance).

Most Britons loathe the BNP and everything it stands for, not to mention the thuggish behavior of some of its adherents . But few think either the BNP or the EDL is likely to kill, wound, or otherwise disrupt life in Britain as do the Jihadists. They are simply not in the same league.

Ironically, soon afterDenham began his search for a response to extremism that was less focused on terrorism, three British-born Muslims were convicted in London for attempting to blow up at least seven airliners in flight across the Atlantic. This past July, too, a memorial was raised in London's Hyde Park to commemorate the 56 passengers killed and 700 injured in the 2005 morning rush hour Islamist suicide bombings on three London underground trains and a public bus.

Other Islamist terror acts have been foiled by the security services. But only the Jihadists' ineptitude deterred aplanned follow-up to the rush hour slaughter as well as a suicide bombing of the crowded Glasgow Airport terminal.

The British Home Office warns that a new terrorist attack "is a strong possibility."MI5 isreported to be working on several more plots, mostly involving young men of Pakistani origin who are believed to have been to Pakistan for terrorism training. Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute thinktank, says Britain must be prepared to cope with anew generation of violent Islamists. …

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