London's Sunday Times
reports on a disturbing white paper produced by the British government regarding terrorist recruitment among native-born, British Muslims
. The white paper has special resonance after the carnage of last week's terror attack in London. Even as the police are still pulling bodies from twisted subway cars, speculation is rife that the attackers were not experienced al-Qaeda operative sent to Britain from abroad, but "home grown" terrorists - meaning, British born Muslims. The white paper discussed in the Sunday Times
lays out a frightening brief of the current state of young Muslim men in the UK.
The white paper's conclusions are echoed in interviews of various experts and community leaders conducted by the Sunday Times.
The paper prepared for the prime minister spelt out the breadth of the problem: “By extremism, we mean advocating or supporting views such as support for terrorist attacks against British or western targets, including the 9/11 attacks, or for British Muslims fighting against British and allied forces abroad, arguing that it is not possible to be Muslim and British, calling on Muslims to reject engagement with British society and politics, and advocating the creation of an Islamic state in Britain.”
It stated that “a small number of young British Muslims are known to have committed or participated in terrorism abroad . . . a number of extremist groups operate in the UK and seek to recruit young Muslims . . . and an increasing number of British Muslims, often young, have needed UK consular services after being detained on suspicion of terrorist or extremist activity in other parts of the world (eg Yemen, Egypt and the US)”.
The paper cited an intelligence estimate that the number of British Muslims engaged in terrorist activity, whether at home or abroad, or supporting it, was “less than 1%” of the UK’s Muslim population of 1.6m. But that suggests that up to 16,000 may be involved — a numbing figure.
It went on to explain why these thousands of potential terrorists remain below the security radar: “Whilst many have grown up in Muslim households, a significant number come from liberal, non- religious Muslim backgrounds or only converted to Islam in adulthood. These converts include white British nationals and those of West Indian extraction.
“By and large most young extremists fall into one of two groups: well educated — undergraduates or with degrees and technical professional qualifications in engineering or IT — or under-achievers with few or no qualifications and often a criminal background.
“The former group is often targeted by extremist recruiters circulating among university-based religious or ethnic societies. Among the latter group some are drawn to mosques where they may be targeted by extremist preachers; others are radicalised or converted while in prison.
“However, a significant number of young radicalised British Muslims have been recruited through a single contact, often by chance, outside either of these environments. Such individuals are encouraged to maintain a low profile for operational purposes and do not develop the network of associates or political doctrines common to many other extremist Islamists.”
Intelligence experts and Islamic leaders agree that Thursday July 7 marks the bloody emergence of home-grown Islamic terrorism in Britain rather than the arrival of Al-Qaeda’s bombers on these shores. The favourite hypothesis of investigators is that the bomb teams comprised a cell of some eight or nine young British Muslims, led by a foreign-born “talisman” figure who controlled and directed them.
“This is a very worrying situation,” said M J Gohel, head of the London-based Asia Pacific Foundation which monitors Islamic terrorism. “We’re looking at a new generation of terrorists — people who are not directly linked to Osama Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda so they can slip under the net of the security services. These are people born or brought up in western Europe, so they fit in but are infected by Bin Laden’s ideology.”
His view was echoed by a former radical who sometimes leads prayers at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London where Abu Hamza, the blind hook-armed cleric, used to preach.
“There is a growing phenomenon of angry young Muslims in Britain,” said this man, who wished to remain anonymous. “I get many young people who watch Al-Jazeera or Al-Arabiya [the satellite TV channels] coming to me after Friday prayers saying they have seen the atrocities at Abu Ghraib or the defacing of Korans at Guantanamo and what should they do.
“I tell them to study, take care of their own lives, that if they are angry with George Bush or Tony Blair there is no point killing innocent people in Oxford Street. But there may be many more going to crazy people who tell them to take matters into their own hands. There is an absolute majority among Muslims who share the anti-US sentiment of Al-Qaeda and it is easy to harness that.”
Notice that these young Muslims are more outraged to the point of violence at the "defacing of Korans" and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib than they were at 19 hijackers slamming planes into buildings and killing 2,800 innocent people explicitly in the name of Islam. What does that tell you about them? What should it tell you about Islam as a religion?
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, British intelligence analysts warned ministers about a new breed of terrorist recruit.
Increasingly, hundreds of young Muslim men, most of them British born, were being drawn to the cause of fundamentalism. Radical websites and imams in mosques in London, Luton, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester were preaching holy war to disaffected young Muslims who were looking for a purpose.
Unlike the September 11 hijackers, the new terrorists did not have a rigid leadership structure. The majority of them had no criminal record and did not appear on any intelligence data bases linking them to terrorism. They were, in effect, “clean skins” and they were much more difficult to detect.
To counteract this danger, Project Contest was born in Whitehall. Its purpose was set out by Sir Andrew Turnbull, the cabinet secretary, in a letter to permanent secretaries at key government departments in April last year. He wrote: “The aim is to prevent terrorism by tackling its causes . . . to diminish support for terrorists by influencing social and economic issues.”
Referring to the role played in this by radical preachers such as Abu Qatada (also known as Abu Omar), Turnbull explained: “Al-Qaeda and its offshoots provide a dramatic pole of attraction for the most disaffected.”
Of particular concern was that the Islamist terrorist recruiters were targeting the poor and the jobless. An official audit provided to the Project Contest working committee showed that Muslims were three times more likely to be unemployed than the population as a whole.
Surveillance of the Muslim community by MI5 and Special Branch found that extremist groups were also operating within universities to recruit middle-class students. A small group of postgraduates at Imperial College and others at Brunel University in west London were of particular concern.
The intensity of the fanaticism amongst British Muslim youth has its origens not only in the fanatical imams and extremist agitators, but in the families from which they come, the Sunday Times discovered.
The exporting of home-grown jihadis — and their fanaticism — was confirmed in Iraq last month by a senior insurgent commander, “Abu Ahmad”, who revealed that about 70 volunteers had arrived from Britain. Two had been killed fighting alongside him against American troops.
One of these, a 22-year-old known as Abu Hareth, had been born in Britain of Iraqi parents. He was killed in fighting in Falluja in April last year.
“When the battle intensified and due to his lack of military experience I asked him to take shelter in a basement. He refused my advice and told me off for asking him to hide and he said, ‘I will hold this against you when the day of reckoning comes for you tried to prevent me from attaining martyrdom’,” Abu Ahmad said.
Two brothers — Ammar, 22, and Yasser, 18 — arrived in Iraq from Britain after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003: “They could not wait to go out and fight and kept on asking when they will go into battle.”
After about a month, Ammar was killed fighting American troops: “His younger brother Yasser, who witnessed Ammar’s death, surprised us by shedding tears of joy and praising Allah for his brother’s martyrdom.”
The commander continued: “When we returned to our base we asked Yasser to return home, telling him it was enough that his family had lost one son; it would not be right if the second son was also killed and that there were others who would fight on his behalf here.
“But he refused and told us: ‘What would I tell my mother? She will not accept me in the house for when she bid us farewell she told us either to return victorious or to achieve martyrdom. I cannot return. I have to finish off what Ammar my brother started here, and anyway I do not want to leave my brother all alone in this land. I want to be buried with him’. And he began to cry.”
Abu Ahmad said that having been ordered home, Yasser wrote a letter revealing that when he had arrived in Britain his mother had celebrated on hearing about Ammar’s death — “ululating with happiness and calling her friends and relatives to tell them the good news. She distributed sweets and juices in celebration to all those that came to pay their respect”.
Despite vastly augmented efforts after September 11, 2001, British intelligence and law enforcement agencies have made only a partially successful effort to infiltrate and disrupt Islamic extremists in their country, the incompleteness of the their efforts becoming tragically apparent last Thursday. But Britain's response to Islamic terror has been hampered - as in the US - but the government's adherence to the politically correct niceties of multiculturalism, which have prevented the British from looking to deeply, or too honestly, at the infection now festering within their cities and countryside. Downing Street doesn't want to see what's really happening, and because of its ideological blinders, can't admit the truth. Thus, better not to look to close.
Reda Hassaine, an Algerian journalist who came to Britain in the early 1990s, ended up working for MI5 and French intelligence, reporting on radicals inside the Muslim community. But Hassaine believes that despite huge efforts, the government and the security forces have been been far too complacent in dealing with the threat.
For more than a decade, Hassaine says, Britain has been a “soft touch” for Islamist radicals who used it as a fundraising and propaganda base to launch attacks in Algeria and elsewhere: “The groups here now are much more independent of each other. There are plenty of them and they’ve been here in London for a long time.”
The Sunday Times relates, rather hopefully, the experience of one former extremist, perhaps wishing that his story points to a peaceful solution to Britain's problem.
One former Algerian jihadi may hold the answer to the terrorist threat. When he was 24, Abdullah Anas reached a turning point in his life. A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an imam, he had been brought up on stories of the long war for Algeria’s independence from France. Now he decided it was his turn to take up the gun for a cause: in his case, jihad.
Anas travelled to Peshawar in Pakistan and then walked for 40 days to northern Afghanistan. He lost most of his toenails, but “I felt I was reborn when I first got there . . . Even though I was sick for 10 days, I was so happy to be walking along with my Kalashnikov and with my brothers”.
He fought there for eight years, becoming close to Bin Laden. But he was eventually disillusioned. “I am proud God chose me to be part of that holy war. I went there prepared to become a martyr. But it was very sad for me to see that once they had liberated their own land, they were unable to build their country. It was a big lesson for me,” he said last week.
“I realised that Muslims can win the battle, but can’t stabilise afterwards and win the peace. I saw it with my own eyes. I saw the same in Algeria, where my father and grandfather fought for freedom from the French, but once we had it, it fell to pieces. The Muslim fighters know how to die, but not how to live.
Islamic extremism offers nothing but pain, death, tyranny and squalor, but if the Sunday Times thinks that will disabuse the fanatics from their cause, they need only examine the continued adoration of communism and socialism by Western academics. Despite the utter economic failure, social bankruptcy and mass murder caused repeatedly around the world by these failed ideas, they remain very popular on American and European college campuses (though, virtually no where else). Young Muslims are not likely to be blunted from their violent extremism even by the knowledge of what that extremism will ultimately bring. They don't care. You can't argue rationally with religious fanatics. No amount of "reformed extremists" nor tales of the real results of their ideology will dissuade them.
The British government created this crisis by inviting hundreds of thousands of non-European, non-Western peoples to migrate to its shores, bringing with them their alien culture and ideas. It is manifestly clear that a significant percentage of these people - mostly Muslims - possibly a majority, have no intention of assimilating into British culture, but rather, plan to change Britain to suit their liking. Britain, imbibing deeply into the false idea of multiculturalism - better understood as Western self-hatred - has poisoned itself. The number of militant young Muslim men in Britain will only grow, as well the violence. Meanwhile, native born Anglo-Saxons have allowed themselves to be ethnically cleansed from large areas of the country's largest cities, now home to colonies of foreigners. The threat to Britain's long-term survival today is, ironically, far worse than it was when Nazi bombers rained ordinance down on a burning London. Today, the fascists are inside the country, at Britain's own invitation, and they plan to burn down the house.