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The London Blasts: Media Review

DAY EIGHT: 15 July 2005

1) Small victories

2) The Pakistani perspective

3) Deporting preachers

4) Who's a good enough Muslim?

5) Today's Top Denier

6) Today's Top Realist




H.A.L. Alexander got a letter about the Extremism Report into the Telegraph on 15 July:


Terror Motives

Sir - Downing Street called Charles Kennedy "naive" for suggesting that the Iraq war had fuelled terrorism (News, July 13).

But Young Muslims and Extremism, a report commissioned by Tony Blair and produced by the Home Office and Foreign Office, stated: "The war on terror, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, are all seen by a section of British Muslims as having been acts against Islam."

So the Prime Minister's office brands an opposition leader naive for suggesting something its own experts said is true.

H.A.L. Alexander, London SW6




Today's FT:


'Above all, there is a political battle facing the government, which needs to do more to counter the view prevalent among some Muslims that Britain is engaged in some kind of western conspiracy against Islam.'

' “What has happened,” says one Downing Street figure, “is that, for too long, we have put up with a situation in which people go on making this argument about a conspiracy and getting away with it. What Tony believes at heart is that we need to confront that harder.” '

'The US and UK invasion of Iraq may have helped to fuel the argument about a western conspiracy against Islam – but that needs to be countered harder. “There is certainly a legitimate argument to be had about the decision to go to war in Iraq,” says one Blair aide. “But we have allowed a connection to be made between legitimate critiques of the war and mad critiques that the toppling of Saddam Hussein was about being anti-Islam.” '


(We commented on this in yesterday's Media Review.) More has been discovered about the two critiques by journalists in Pakistan, tracing the movements of one of the four bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, who spent three months in Lahore at the end of last year, studying in an Islamic school or 'madrassa'.


Zahid Hussain visited Darul Uloom Haqqania, one of Pakistan’s leading institutions of Islamic learning, for The Times. He met a Pakistani MP who is a teacher:


' “The bomb attacks in London are the reaction against the British Government’s support for America’s war against Muslims,” said Maulana Samiul Haq, a fiery, black-turbaned cleric who is head of the seminary. He is also an MP in Pakistan. “The loss of innocent lives is regrettable, but the British Government should think why it all happened. It is time to review its policy on Iraq and Afghanistan.” '


Peter Foster visited Jamia Ashrafa, one of the largest Islamic schools in Lahore, for the Daily Telegraph, and encountered a rather more wholeheartedly condemnation of the atrocities, alongside a similiar analysis of the root problem:


Mullah Fazl-ur-Rahim, the head of the Jamia Ashrafia in the Pakistani city, said: "It is injustice that is the source of all conflict. We condemn such attacks unreservedly but the West - and Mr Tony Blair and the people of Britain - must ask themselves honestly about the reasons for it."

The news that one of the bombers, 22-year-old Shehzad Tanweer, spent three months in Lahore at the end of last year, studying in an Islamic school, or madrassa, fails to deflect Mullah Rahim.

"Show me a single madrassa that teaches students how to use a Kalashnikov or strap bombs to themselves," he said. "You cannot, because they do not exist."


Foster visited another establishment, and received a similar view:


Another madrassa owner, Mullah Riaz Durrani, who is also leading spokesman for the Jamiah Ulema Islam (JUI), one of Pakistan's traditional Islamic political parties, said: "It is not speeches in madrassas that make these young men into suicide bombers.

"That job is done by the Americans and the British themselves, by Fox television and CNN, who broadcast the outrages of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

"Britain should ask itself why a young man from Leeds, educated in a British school, not a Pakistani madrassa, should decide to become a suicide bomber."


This view is supported by a Pakistani journalist:


Arif Jamal, a journalist from Lahore who has studied the madrassa phenomenon for five years, believes the West can win the war on terrorism only when it grasps that it is fighting a war of ideas, which Pakistan's madrassas are prosecuting vigorously.

"The fact that Shehzad Tanweer decided to go to Pakistan to take up an Islamic education indicates that he had already decided on which path he would take," he said.

"Perhaps what he heard in Pakistan might have reinforced those views, but ultimately the process of radicalisation and indoctrination must have begun at home."




All of which casts an interesting light on the British Government's proposals to bar "Islamic extremists" from entering Britain, and to deport suspects and "troublemakers". The Times summarizes:



Under human rights laws Britain cannot deport anyone to a country where they might be subject to inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Cabinet agreed that it was vital to secure agreement with North African nations such as Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Whitehall sources said that any agreement would have to be at the highest level to satisfy the Government and judiciary that deportations would not lead to any risk of inhuman treatment.

Mr Clarke is also looking at ways of tightening controls on asylum-seekers and those with “indefinite leave to remain” in Britain, including prohibiting encouragement of terrorism. Those who breach conditions would lose their right to stay.

Under existing laws Mr Clarke can deport any people given indefinite leave to remain in Britain if their presence is not in the “public interest”. A person given asylum can be kicked out if convicted of a serious crime but cannot be sent to a country where there would be a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment.


James Blitz in the FT comments:


'Downing Street was talking yesterday about how it would seek to get agreements with north African countries to take back asylum applicants to the UK – on the promise they would not be tortured. We could be forgiven for wondering whether such agreements would stand up in a UK court hearing a deportation appeal.'


And how much protection would they offer to the deportee?


Deporting foreign-born "Muslim extremists" who have not committed any serious crime is merely going to add to the sense of injustice and alienation in Muslim communities. It amounts to censorship by immigration laws. If someone commits a crime, they should be prosecuted for it. The new proposals are there to punish people where there is no evidence of illegal action, only evidence of speech that the majority of people find unacceptable.


Recall that the Government's report on Young Muslims and Extremism concludes with these remarks:


'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. Public challenges to Muslims to decide where their loyalties lie are counterproductive.'


Sensible analysis, contradicted in policy.




An interesting light on the Charles Clarke proposals (probably Tony Blair proposals in origin) comes from two articles in The Times on the same page. One story explains the proposals as described above, leading with the revelation that:


Islamic extremists denied entry to the United States would be banned automatically from Britain under anti-terror measures outlined by the Cabinet yesterday. Charles Clarke plans to prevent Muslim figures such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Tariq Ramadan entering the United Kingdom if they have been barred from the US or European Union.


Tariq Ramadan, who is barred from the US is of course shortly to be here in the UK on a visit part-financed by the Metropolitan Police and the Association of [British] Chief Police Officers as part of a community dialogue.


The accompanying article reports that Zaki Badawi, the chairman of the British Council of Mosques, was prevented from entering the United States after flying into New York on Wednesday.


Dr Badawi, The Times notes, 'has been awarded an honorary knighthood and attended a state banquet at Buckingham Palace for President Bush’s visit.' Last Sunday, 'Dr Badawi joined other British religious leaders at Lambeth Palace to condemn the London bombings. He appeared with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster; David Coffey, the Free Churches Moderator and Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi.'


If people like Dr Badawi are going to be banned from the US, not a lot of Muslims are going to make it through Charles Clarke's automatic banning procedure.


Incidentally, Dr Badawi was visiting the US because he had been invited to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, where he had planned to give a talk entitled The Law and Religion in Society. 'He said that he had received no explanation from the officials who denied him entry. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Washington and New York City had not returned his calls on the matter.'




JNV runs a page tracking some of the people in the British press who either accept or deny that the bombings in London have some connection to British foreign policy.


Today's top denier is Gerard Baker of The Times, who deserves extensive quotation.


Attacking the 'sizeable chunk of serious, influential British opinion, from across the political spectrum, who act in a way that suggests they honestly think this country is the principal author of the bad things that happen to it', Baker presents this analysis:


Imagine this. Suppose we’d never invaded Iraq, and terrorists had blown up London in pursuit of their cause, what would the apologists have said about last week’s attacks? In fact we know exactly what they would have said because many of them did say it after al-Qaeda attacked the US on September 11 — long before any American or British soldier set foot in Afghanistan or Iraq.


They said it was because of our support for Israel and its “brutal occupation of Palestinian territory”, our complicity in the victimisation of Arabs from the Balfour Declaration to the ascent of the Jewish lobby in America.


But what if there had never been an Israel and instead a Palestinian state existed peaceably in the heart of the Middle East, and the terrorists had still attacked us? What would the apologists have said then? They would have said, of course, that we were to blame for having abused the Arabs and Muslims generally for decades through our colonial ambitions and economic exploitation of Arabia and the broader Middle East.


And what if there had never been a British Empire and British occupation of Arab lands, and terrorists had still attacked us? Then it would have been the Crusades, and the long-standing ill-treatment of Muslims at the hands of deplorable Christian warriors.


And what if there had never been a crusade, and they’d still attacked us? I’m stumped at this point to confect an answer, but I can guarantee that whatever it was that would have been said it would have been Britain’s fault.


It's hard to find words to describe this kind of thinking.


What Baker has done is precisely to highlight the significance of the war on Iraq (and the war on terror in general) in triggering al Qaeda-type terrorism against Britain. The shift to from 'passive oppression' to 'active oppression', as the Young Muslims and Extremism report puts it.


Let's turn Baker's 'what ifs' into historical realities and check the record. What do we find?


Before the war on Iraq, terrorists from a Muslim background did not blow up London.


Before the existence of Israel, and the 1967 war, terrorists from a Muslim background did not blow up London.


Before there was a British Empire, terrorists from a Muslim background did not blow up London.


Before the crusades, terrorists from a Muslim background did not blow up London.


Osama bin Laden, the figurehead of al Qaeda-type terrorism, declared war on the United States and Israel in 1996. Those he inspires did not bomb London until over two years after the invasion of Iraq


Sayyid Qutb, the founding father/theorist of al Qaeda-type terrorism, died before the 1967 war. Those he inspires did not bomb London until two years after the invasion of Iraq.


What does this chronology tell us?




Shahid Malik, Labour MP and one of four Muslim MPs in the House of Commons, has a piece in today's FT repeating his message that the Muslim community must not merely 'condemn' but also 'confront' extremism in its midst. He also says, more importantly, in his penultimate paragraph:


We know what drives these young men: the feelings of isolation and disaffection, the political anger at what they see as the double standards of the west in relation to international Muslim areas of conflict, whether that be Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq or Chechnya, and, the hatred propagated by domestic extremists such as the BNP. But none of this can ever justify or excuse terrible criminal acts such as we witnessed last week, and we must make this clear to our fellow Muslims in our words and deeds over the forthcoming weeks and months.




JNV welcomes feedback.


This page last updated 15 July 2005






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