The Enemy Within
I am finally starting to understand why so many white British born citizens are fleeing this country for places like New Zealand and Australia. Part of me initially thought they were running away from what makes London so great — its multicultural diversity. However, I now realize that it goes deeper than that. I mean, who wants to live next to people who at their core don’t share your same values or beliefs? Or worse yet, don’t have a live and let live attitude? Surely not me! Granted it’s only a small number of Muslims, but the fact that they seem determined to destroy and reek havoc on our western way of life is just scary. As such, while I myself am not going to flee my new home city because of the increased terrorist activity, it has made me seriously reconsider whether or not I would want to bring up children here.
The Enemy Within
The Sunday Times, August 13, 2006
Few can have failed to shudder at the thought of a plot to blow up nine passenger planes and the intended mass murder of thousands of innocent people over the Atlantic. Whatever the outcome of the police investigation into a conspiracy that seems to have been stopped just in time, we should praise the alertness of Britain’s often criticised and overstretched intelligence services. Peter Clarke, deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, says at least three other serious plots by home-grown terrorists have been disrupted since last year’s July 7 attacks on the London Underground. The danger seems ever present.
It is now self-evident that there is an enemy within Britain who wants to destroy our way of life. Most of this relatively small group of fanatics are British-born Muslims who have been educated here and brought up within our tolerant democracy. Those looking for the outward signs that identify them as full of hatred would be hard-pressed to find them. Many seem all too ordinary, perhaps enthusiastic about football and cricket and living “normal” westernised existences in neat terraced houses. They work, study or run small businesses. Most show little indication that they have signed up to the distorted ideology of radical Islam, with its millennial ideology of bringing destruction to the corrupt West. As “sleepers”, they are perfect.
Why is Britain such a breeding ground for these young men, for that is what most of them are? Much can be ascribed to timidity on behalf of the authorities, wedded as they are to a multiculturalism that isolates many young men in ghettos and a reluctance to espouse British values through our schools and institutions. That appeasement was epitomised by the sanctuary offered to extremist Islamic groups in Britain — “Londonistan” — in the pathetic hope that it might offer some form of immunity from violence. The United States, with its intolerant attitude to those preaching hate, has been far more successful in integrating its Muslim citizens, offering them the ideals of patriotism and progress. Even France, which has a bigger Muslim population than Britain and has had its share of troubles with disaffected youth, has not seen the scale of Islamist treachery that we are experiencing here. MI5 believes up to 400,000 people in Britain are sympathetic to violent “jihad” around the world and that as many as 1,200 are involved in terrorist networks.
These extremists are drawn both from our educated classes and the Muslim underclass. The first alienated group seems susceptible to radical recruiters on university campuses, the latter to firebrands they meet in mosques or in prison. There they are fed the lines that the West is evil and corrupt. They are urged to look at a culture of binge drinking, reckless hedonism, moral laxity and materialism. They see little of the advantages to our society of freedom of choice, of religion, of individualism and of equality. Nor is it good enough to claim that extremism is fostered by poverty. Although Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are struggling to do as well as some other second or third-generation immigrant groups, many of the recruits are from relatively privileged backgrounds. It is more a matter of a battle for minds rather than pockets. Add to this the internet, the finishing school of global terror, and a legal system that appears to be inflexible about deporting foreign jihadists, and you have the ingredients for an explosive clash of cultures.
When an undercover reporter from The Sunday Times visited Beeston in Nottinghamshire, where three of the July 7 bombers came from, he found either a denial that they had been involved or, perhaps more alarmingly, respect for them as Muslim martyrs. It is this potent mix of self- delusion — witness all the absurd theories about 9/11 and 7/7 — and a sneaking admiration for jihad even among seemingly sensible Muslims.
The great challenge for Britain is how to stop this and minimise the future risks. Nobody should underestimate the scale of the problem or the time needed. We already have a generation of disaffected Muslims who see any excuse, whether it is war in Iraq, Afghanistan or Lebanon, as a reason for killing their fellow citizens. The government has commissioned studies on combatting the problem, so far with little tangible impact. Tony Blair has been wooing Muslim leaders, too often the radicals rather than the moderates, although this policy seems to lie in shreds as they moan about wars in the Middle East inflaming Islamic youth. They are perfectly entitled to be angry about these conflicts, but that anger should be expressed through the democratic processes of demonstrations and elections.
That is not to say that the government is not right to try to win over Muslim opinion. If terror is to be defeated, you have first to drain the swamp. Muslims have to be persuaded that we are on the same side, that there is no witch-hunt against Islam and that the wars involving British troops are about stopping Islamists and the corruption of their religion. This means Muslims being alert to extremists in their ranks and being prepared to identify them to the police. It means Muslims becoming intolerant of radical mullahs and hounding them out of their mosques. Equally the authorities have a responsibility to crack down on extremists in universities and in prisons, to close internet sites and bookshops that spread hatred and violence, and to take all reasonable measures to protect their citizens.
At times this may seem unjust. Muslims who visit Pakistan will have to be more closely scrutinised and it may seem that they are being systematically targeted. But Muslims will have to understand that it is their co-religionists who are bent on bombing trains and planes and that requires extraordinary measures. A mature Muslim response will be to co-operate and help to eradicate extremists in their midst. It requires the vast majority of Muslims to believe that their future is tied to Britain, a country in which their religion can be respected and freely practised. If the radicals succeed, it will foster only hatred and intolerance.
This low-level war is going to take a huge effort of will and courage. It is going to mean applying what may seem illiberal measures in order to save lives. In return, the state must exercise massive restraint and not abuse that responsibility. But the real key is for Muslims to realise that their future lies here and to embrace British values and reject violent Islamist theology. The country may indeed be in its greatest danger since the second world war, as John Reid, the home secretary, said last week. But as Britain prevailed then, so it will again.