Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Four Terrorist Myths Detonate

Cross-posted at the Australian Libertarian Soc.
Welcome Guardian readers!

The British newspapers are unsurprisingly full of stories about Muslims trying to blow up nightclubs to kill the ’slags’ and Jordanian (and now Gold Coast!) doctors setting fire to themselves. The British people, to their immense credit, are busy talking about the comic ineptitude of the terrorists. A wave of laughter is sweeping Britain - probably not the terrorists’ main aim.

However, joking aside, it is clear that London and Glasgow got extremely lucky and will almost certainly not get so lucky again. Many hundreds of lives could so easily have been lost.

The only explosions going off in Britain now are the myths that surround Islamic terrorism.

Myth No. 1 - ‘Young Muslim men are radicalised by poverty and disadvantage’

Not only was Mohammed Siddique (architect of 7/7) a teacher from middle-class stock but it appears that the masterminds behind the latest attacks are all medical students and qualified doctors. Hardly breadline stuff.

Myth No. 2 - ‘Young Muslim men are being radicalised by an aggressive Western foreign policy - or blowback’

Hassan Butt was once a member of radical Islamic group, Al-Muhajiroun. He wrote this fascinating article in the Observer at the weekend,

“When I was still a member of the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy. By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the ‘Blair’s bombs’ line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.

I left the BJN in February 2006, but if I were still fighting for their cause, I’d be laughing once again. Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7 July bombings, and I were both part of the BJN - I met him on two occasions - and though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslim across the world, what drove me and many of my peers to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain, our own homeland and abroad, was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary state that would eventually bring Islamic justice to the world.”

Myth No 3 - 'These people are just common criminals. There is no link'

Ex-jihadist, Ed Husain, argues passionately that it is the ideology of Islamism (as opposed to Islam) that needs to be confronted. He castigates Ken Livingstone for his support of Yusuf al Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric based in Qatar, whose publicly stated attitude is that suicide bombers are martyrs,

"By confusing regular religious Muslims with fanatical ideologues, Ken blurs the lines between right and wrong, and allows radicalism to flourish within sections of London's Muslim communities."

Myth No.4 - ‘Western governments are exaggerating the risks from terrorism to increase their powers and reduce civil liberties’

Only the most blind and dogmatic can now be unclear of the risks posed by those radical agents of Salafism. They may only be a tiny percentage of total Muslims in the West but their number is significant (MI5 believes there are around 1600 people planning attacks in Britain). Whilst it is imperative that government takes only minimal steps to impede civil liberties, clearly some sort of compromise is inevitable. Powers of detention without trial are going to be raised, phone tapping evidence is now likely to be admitted in court, and the govt will try once again to deport those foreign-born convicted terrorists back to their countries of origin.

This final myth is a particularly challenging one for us lovers of liberty. Whilst our liberties must be paramount (otherwise the terrorists have won), we must also not lose the ability to catch and prosecute those who commit such appalling acts. In short, we will have to concede some loss of liberty.