London Blasts: Media Review
52: 28 August 2005
'YOUNG MUSLIMS AND EXTREMISM' REPORT
- BACK ON THE FRONT PAGE
A SIGNIFICANT EVENT
has published a leaked document from the heart of Government,
once more establishing that the highest reaches of Whitehall
were perfectly aware of the causal links between the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan and the threat of terror in Britain.
This story is extremely important.
Not because this new leak increases
our understanding of the links between the threat from al
Qaeda and British foreign policy. It doesn't. It doesn't
even reveal more about the level of comprehension of these
issues within Government, or the depths of duplicity this
Government will stoop to.
It does, however, offer an
opportunity for concerned citizens to inject some more realism
into the debate around the 7/7 and 21/7 bombings.
1) It offers the opportunity to press
the international, national and local media with the crucial
finding in the Home Office/Foreign Office 'Young
Muslims and Extremism' report that the risk of terrorism
in Britain increased with the onset of the war on terror.
That report says, '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.'
In other words, the threat had grown
greater as British foreign policy was seen as growing more
hostile to Muslims, with the invasions of Afghanistan and
2) It offers us the opportunity to
remind our fellow citizens that British
intelligence warned Tony Blair on 10 February 2003,
a month before the war, that invading Iraq would 'heighten'
the risk of terrorism from al Qaeda.
The Joint Intelligence Committee, the
apex of British intelligence, issued this warning to the
Prime Minister: '[A]l-Qaida and associated groups continued
to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western
interests, and that threat would be heightened by military
action against Iraq.' (Intelligence and Security Committee,
'Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - intelligence and assessments'
report, September 2003, p. 34 pdf)
3) This leak offers us the opportunity
to remind everyone that an
overwhelming majority of British people believe there is
a connection between British foreign policy and the terrorist
attacks in London.
reported on 19 July, '33% of Britons think the prime minister
bears "a lot" of responsibility for the London
bombings and a further 31% "a little".'
That's two-thirds of the British people.
'Only 28% of voters agree with the
government that Iraq and the London bombings are not connected.'
On 25 July, the Daily
'23 per cent said the war was the
main reason for the London bombings. Another 62 per cent
believe that while Iraq was not the principle cause, it
did contribute to the reasons behind the atrocities. Just
12 per cent said there was no real link.'
These are three messages which
deserve to be heard at every level and in every corner of
the mass media.
THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT REPORT
Since almost the beginning of this
daily Media Review, we have returned repeatedly to the secret
Home Office/Foreign Office report 'Young Muslims and Extremism'
leaked to the Sunday Times three days after the 7/7 bombings.
The central issue of the 7/7 bombings
has been the question: how could British-born Muslims, who
have enjoyed the freedoms, rights and privileges of British
life, come to destroy themselves and fifty of their fellow
citizens in suicide terrorist attacks?
The significance of the 'Young Muslims
and Extremism' report is that in the spring of 2004, a year
before the 7/7 bombings, the British government had already
investigated this issue, and come to the conclusion that
British foreign policy was a key driver of 'extremism' among
young British Muslims.
THE OBSERVER FRONT PAGE
front page today features part of the stream of secret exchanges
within government that surround the 'Young Muslims and Extremism'
report discussed in earlier
The headline today:
shows Blair told of Iraq war terror link'
'Top official warned in 2004 of British
'Secret document said UK seen as 'crusader'
website contains an image of a letter
from the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary Michael
Jay, addressed to Sir Andrew Turnbull, the Cabinet Secretary.
Here is an excerpt (with emphasis added by us):
RELATIONS WITH THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY
'Thank you for sight of the letter
to John Gieve on relations with the Muslim community.
John has already sent you and copy addresses the joint
FCO/HO paper on Young Muslims and Extremism. As John has
indicated, the paper draws on a range of sources and contains
a comprehensive work programme. Both Mike O'Brien and
Fiona MacTaggart have been working closely on the paper
with officials, which now awaits comments from the respective
Secretaries of State.'
'Other colleagues have flagged up
some of the potential underlying causes of extremism that
can affect the Muslim community, such as discrimination,
disadvantage and exclusion. But another recurring theme
is the issue of British
foreign policy, especially in the context of the
Middle East Peace Process and Iraq.'
'Experience of both Ministers and
officials working in this area suggests that the issue
of British foreign policy
and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally
plays a significant role in creating feelings of anger
and impotence amongst especially the younger generation
of British Muslims. The concept of the "Ummah",
i.e. that the Believers are one "nation", has
led to HMG's policies towards the Muslim world having
a very personal resonance for young British Muslims, many
of whom are taking on the burden both of the perceived
injustices and of the responsibility of putting them right,
but without the legitimate tools to do so.'
seems to be a key driver behind recruitment by extremist
organisations (e.g. recruitment drives by groups
such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and al Muhajiroon). The FCO has
a relevant and crucial role to play in the wider context
of engagement with British Muslims on policy issues, and
more broadly, in convincing young Muslims that they have
a legitimate and credible voice, including on foreign
policy issues, through an active participation in the
This letter of 18 May 2004 follows
the earlier correspondence leaked to The
Sunday Times, centred on the letter from Sir
Andrew Turnbull of 6 April 2004.
What was happening was that Michael
Jay (top civil servant at the Foreign Office) and John Gieve
(his equivalent at the Home Office) were corresponding with
Sir Andrew (the Prime Minister's Cabinet Secretary) in drawing
up a coherent analysis and strategy for dealing with the
threat of home-grown terrorism coming out of the British
Muslim community (a topic euphemistically referred to as
'Relations with the Muslim Community'). The core of the
correspondence was the report 'Young Muslims and Extremism',
which was leaked in draft form to The
MORE FROM THE FOREIGN OFFICE
Attached to this latest letter is a
Foreign Office strategy document which, according to the
Observer, 'reveals further
'It says Britain is now viewed as
a "crusader state", on a par with America as
a potential target. "Muslim resentment towards the
West is worse than ever," the document, "Building
Bridges with Mainstream Islam", says.'
' "This was previously focused
on the US, but the war in Iraq has meant the UK is now
seen in similar terms - both are now seen by many Muslims
as "Crusader states".'
' "Though we are moving on from
a conflict to a reconstruction phase in Iraq, there are
no signs of any moderation of this resentment. Our work
on engaging with Islam has therefore been knocked back.
Mr O'Brien [then a Foreign Office minister] has expressed
his concern." '
Note that this letter accepts that
there has been a change in perceptions, with Britain being
seen in a new and more hostile light by Muslims, because
of its participation in the war in Iraq, among other things.
In other words, there is a
recognition that the risk of terrorism has increased because
of the invasion of Iraq (among other things). The
Government's line is, of course, that the risk of terror
pre-dates the invasion of Iraq. True, but irrelevant to
the question of whether the threat has been 'heightened'
by the invasion.
seems also to have seen more secret papers from January
2005, which show that this clear headed appraisal was not
reflected in documents prepared for ministers to use in
public presentations: 'all mention of the Iraq connection
to extremism was removed from "core scripts" -
briefing papers given to ministers to defend the government's
position on Iraq and terror.'
'The lines to be used by ministers
include measures designed to address Muslim concerns,
such as the introduction of religious hatred legislation
and tackling educational underachievement among Muslims.
But there is nothing to address the concerns raised by
Jay eight months earlier.'
writes that, 'The documents reveal deep divisions at the
heart of government over home-grown religious extremism
and its connections to British intervention in Iraq', contrasting
the Prime Minister's public reluctance to accept this kind
of link with British foreign policy and the heightened threat
of terror with Michael Jay's frank acceptance that such
a link exists.
This is absurd. The documents do not
demonstrate a 'deep division' in Government. They demonstrate,
clearly, that what is accepted in private is denied in public.
We are familiar with this pattern of deceit from other leaked
documents, including the Downing
Street memos. This is very stuff of politics.
The anti-war movement has an opportunity
to press the mainstream media once again to debate this
issue, and to press for withdrawal from Iraq. The position
of the authentic anti-war movement is that we should withdraw
because the occupation is
wrong in principle, and is adding to the burden of
the Iraqi people. We are part of the problem, not part of
the solution, as the FT
has pointed out. And it
is also true that doing the right thing will also
make us safer from the risk of terrorism.
We have an opportunity now. We should
not squander it.
JNV welcomes feedback.
This page last updated 28 August 2005