Category: EDL News Published on Monday, 27 August 2012 14:17 Written by John Jones Hits: 1326
The threat of Islamic terrorism and violence ought to be taken far more seriously, says Robert Lambert.
For at least four decades a small number of specialist academics have pointed to a failure by governments in Europe to take the threat of Islamic terrorism and violence sufficiently seriously. This selective blindness is all the more striking when you consider that the same governments endlessly remind us of the need to be conscious of the threat posed by ‘all forms’ of home grown terrorism and violence.
Indeed, unintentionally but not unforeseeably, much government rhetoric aimed at other supposed forms of home grown extremism has helped feed the dangerous assertion that Islamic extremism should not be regarded as the dominant threat to our national security. This is not to argue that threats of terrorism and violence do not also come from other quarters or do not deserve to be treated seriously. To the contrary, I argue that governments should be alert to all threats and should respond to them in the same way. But that does not mean that we should lose all sense of perspective.
In the past selective government blindness was sometimes explained by reference to the fact that Islam-inspired violence (in contrast to violent anarchism or other forms of extremism) did not directly threaten the state; much of the time it was directed at other religious communities or, specifically in the case of so-called ‘honour killings’, at individuals within the same community. But much of this changed after the September 11th attacks. This proved to academics and politicians alike that anyone can be the victim of Islam-inspired violence, not just the most vulnerable.
More recently, Islam-inspired violence in the US and Europe has become even more focused on the state. The US army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, who killed 12 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009, claimed he did so in order to avenge the deaths of fellow Muslims in Iraq, whilst the Toulouse gunman, Mohammed Merah, claimed that he wanted to “bring France to its knees”.
There has long been a well-established body of research that shows that Islamists in particular are motivated by disdain for what they perceive to be man-made laws and illegitimate political authority. And yet, on the other side of the argument, there is much criticism of the ‘state multiculturalism’ which makes it so difficult to criticise or expose what are essentially seditious and dangerous ideologies. Indeed, it is increasingly clear that both Islam-inspired violence and Islamism in Europe are in urgent need of a fresh and comprehensive re-assessment.
Newspaper coverage is never a wholly-accurate representation of the views that are being given precedence in political or intelligence circles, just as it can occasionally warp the fruits of academia. But although Islam is rarely out of the papers, the coverage afforded to it does seem to reflect a broader problem in determining how the continued threat of Islam-inspired violence and extremism ought to be critiqued.
Of particular concern is that in reporting about the numerous arrests of what they so-inappropriately termed ‘Asian grooming gangs’, most newspapers never mentioned that the vast majority of suspects arrested were in fact British Muslims. Despite this, many of the same newspapers then had the audacity to castigate both the government and police forces for failing to take action for fear of being labelled ‘institutionally racist’.
Indeed, a large percentage of the British media took this as their cue to become altogether obsessed with the topic of race. There were some, such as Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, who recognised the need to change the attitudes of British Muslims, saying quite candidly that, “there are some Muslims who think that as long as these sex gangs aren't targeting their own sisters and daughters the issue doesn't affect them”. But more often than not the media coverage demonstrated unwillingness or even an inability to confront the possibility that religious rather than racial differences were an important factor in these crimes.
To a certain extent the present problems surrounding appropriate criticism of Islamic extremism can be linked to the tension between the government’s need to engage with would-be reformists and its need to distance itself from Islamists and other ‘radicals’. Links between religious radicals and religious violence have to be treated very carefully – as is the case in all other areas of both religion and politics – but what is sufficiently clear is that the rise in Islamist politics forms an essential backdrop to the continued acts of Islamic terrorism and religious violence that have taken place. Moreover, the historical record shows that Islam is almost always directly or indirectly implicated in terrorism or religious violence of one kind or another carried out in its name – the scriptural and cultural evidence is plain to see.
So how should we think about the significance of Islamist politics in terrorist cases like those of Nidal Malik Hasan and Mohammed Merah? Both adopted the Islamist view that religious ties trump all political or national loyalties, and both aptly demonstrated that their respect for the law of the land and the rights of individuals could easily be overwhelmed by what they saw to be their religious duty. However accurate a picture this really is, there are certainly significant overlaps between what we know of the motivations of both terrorists and what is taught by prominent Islamists.
Unfortunately there are many British Muslims who share with Islamists and Islamic terrorists the same ‘definitions’ of the problems that they believe plague Western society. Islamic extremism is, unfortunately, not entirely separate from mainstream Islamic jurisprudence or mainstream Muslim feeling. For instance, research continually shows that British Muslims value religious identity more than national identity, that they support calls for Sharia law, that a significant minority harbour anti-Semitic attitudes and that they believe that ‘crimes’ such homosexuality or insulting Islam should be arrestable offences. The widespread nature of these views means that the ideological basis of Islam-inspired violence has grown more complex as new radical subcultures develop, often relying only tenuously on Islamic scripture or engrained cultural attitudes and potentially making Islamic threats harder to identify.
Governments should re-assess their threat assessments and their priorities in relation to Islam-inspired violence. As Phyllis Chester and Nathan Bloom have explained in some detail, not only are the overwhelming majority of honour killings worldwide perpetrated by Muslims, but where honour killings are known to occur within other communities, there is very little evidence of immigrants from these communities who have settled in the West bringing this barbaric practice with them. Sadly, this is not the case with Muslim immigrants.
Thankfully, the government’s Prevent strategy did recognise that the threat posed by al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda-linked-groups is much greater than that posed by any other kind of violent extremists. But a focus on al-Qaeda has not translated into any meaningful attempt to target the deeper religious and cultural issues that continue to contribute to the spread of Islamic extremism.
Islamic extremism is a multi-headed beast, and whilst it is certainly prudent for the government and the security services to remain focused on the threat to the Olympic Games, other forms of Islam-inspired violence must not be presented as if they do not rely upon much of the same ‘radical’ opinion that is known to exist within the Muslim community in Britain.
As Julian Borger once claimed in the Guardian, “Muslim attitudes in Britain more ...[resemble] public opinion in Islamic countries in the Middle East and Asia than elsewhere in Europe.” If that is the case then we have plenty of reasons to be concerned. The Arab Spring has not, as yet, shown much in the way of popular yearning for free democratic nations and looks likely to slide into the embrace of Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood. If those are the attitudes of British Muslims then governments and policymakers in Britain and in Europe need to start taking the problems more seriously.
New fascists demand a new response, regardless of whether or not they are dressed up in the cloak of religious diversity. It’s about time we took Islamic violence seriously.
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