'Young Muslims And Extremism'
The Leaked Report: Censored
By The Media
The Report That Should
Be At The Heart Of The Public Debate
Part 1: Analysis:
Foreign Policy The Root Of Terrorism
to Part 2: Policy Recommendations
On 10 July 2005, the Sunday
Times carried an important
front-page story on a leaked British Government study
'Young Muslims and Extremism' (see our Media
Review for more details). The key element of this story
(buried in the middle of the article) was the finding that
it is British foreign policy
that has been responsible for the growth of 'extremism'
- the willingness of young Muslims to participate in anti-Western
This joint Home Office/Foreign
Office report can be downloaded from the Sunday
Times website in full, in four parts. What follows are
the conclusions of the report.
Notice that when discussing
the factors that cause 'extremism' among young Muslims,
foreign policy is listed first. Second is 'Islamophobia'.
EXCERPTS FROM THE REPORT
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.
At this stage all we can say is that
there are a variety of issues that impact upon British Muslims,
including young Muslims, and may increase the likelihood
of their moving towards extremism . The factors discussed
below are based partly on survey evidence but partly on
the subjective impressions of Home Office and FCO officials
and Muslim advisers, taking account of their contacts with
Muslim leaders, clerics and academics and monitoring of
Foreign policy issues
It seems that a particularly
strong cause of disillusionment amongst Muslims including
young Muslims is a perceived `double standard' in the foreign
policy of western governments (and often those of
Muslim governments), in particular Britain and the US. This
is particularly significant in terms of the concept of the
"Ummah", i.e. that Believers are one "nation".
This seems to have gained a significant prominence in how
some Muslims view HMG's [Her Majesty's Government's, ie
British Government] policies towards Muslim countries.
Western bias in Israel's favour over the Israel/Palestinian
conflict is a key long term grievance of the international
Muslim community which probably influences British Muslims.
This perception seems to have become
more acute post 9/11 . The
perception is that passive `oppression', as demonstrated
in British foreign policy, eg non-action on Kashmir and
Chechnya, has given way to `active oppression' - the war
on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan are all seen by a
section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam.
This disillusionment may contribute
to a sense of helplessness
with regard to the situation of Muslims in the world,
with a lack of any tangible `pressure valves', in order
to vent frustrations, anger or dissent.
Hence this may lead to a desire for
a simple `Islamic' solution to the perceived oppression/problems
faced by the `Ummah'- Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir
A case in point is the March 2004 ICM
poll of Muslim opinion asked "Jenny Tonge, a Liberal
Democrat MP said she condemned all forms of terrorism, but
if she had to live in the same situation as a Palestinian
she might consider becoming a suicide bomber herself. Do
you agree or disagree with her?" 47% agreed with the
statement, whilst 43% disagreed.
Perceived Islamophobia (particularly
post-9/11) in society and the media may cause some British
Muslims including young Muslims to feel isolated and alienated
and in a few cases to reject democratic and multi-cultural
The Cantle report identified polarisation
between Pakistani/Bangladeshi and white communities as a
factor in the 2001 disturbances. The young people involved
in these disturbances included educated professionals as
well as under privileged people.
Lack of understanding of Islam - insensitive
use of language and perceptions of Islam and an ill-informed
assumption that Islam's teachings are inherently extremist.
Media coverage of extremist fringe groups increases this.
perception of bias in the way counter-terrorism powers are
used to stop, detain and arrest people, both at ports
Muslims are more likely than other faith groups to have
no qualifications (over two fifths have none) and to be
unemployed and economically
inactive, and are over-represented in deprived
areas. However, this is largely associated with the
disadvantage of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities,
whereas the experience of Indian and Arab Muslims is much
less disadvantaged .
Lack of participation and representation
- There is still low Muslim representation in mainstream
institutions of influence, especially for women - eg in
public appointments, volunteering and mainstream politics
(although the Home Office Citizenship Survey 2001 suggests
that low Muslim participation rates largely reflect non-faith
factors such as education, economic empowerment, age and
Issues of identity
Parts of the Muslim community are still developing an understanding
of how to reconcile their faith and Islamic identity with
living in a secular multi-cultural society, and with modern
social challenges. There is a developing critique by some
within the Muslim community, both abroad and here, that
traditional Islamic jurisprudence is not equipped to fulfil
the needs of Muslims living in the West and needs to be
developed and updated. There are tentative moves towards
developing Islamic jurisprudence for Muslims living in Europe
and the Western World.
A lack of any real `pressure valves',
in order to vent frustrations/anger/dissent.
There are particular issues for young
Muslim women who face some of the most complex clashes of
culture. We need to think hard about the positive impact
they can have with the right support.
Some young Muslims are disillusioned
with mainstream Muslim organisations that are perceived
as pedestrian, ineffective and in many cases, as `sell-outs'
The government must make a more
concerted effort to persuade the Muslim community that it
is trusted and respected . That requires a change of language.
to Muslims to decide where their loyalties lie are counterproductive.
This page last updated 17 July 2005