When it comes to terrorism, its roots, and the way to combat it, successive British governments have abandoned rigorous analysis in favour of shallow assertions that pander to racist, narrow-minded sentiments. Experts and grass roots Muslims tell the government in numerous meetings and conferences that British foreign policy and wars are acting as a recruiting sergeant for international terrorism; the government turns a deaf ear. It will only listen to its own Muslim think tank (Quilliam), that it showers with money, to tell it what it wants to hear. I do not believe the government actually believes its advice, but it is a way to avoid tackling the root causes of terrorism.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has just delivered a speech to a security conference in Munich, in which he muddled and conflated many issues to come up with conclusions and actions that are at best useless, if not downright counterproductive. Confronting the argument regarding the influence British foreign policy has on terrorism, he said:
"They point to grievances about Western foreign policy and say, "Stop riding roughshod over Muslim countries and the terrorism will end.' But there are many people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, who are angry about Western foreign policy, but who don't resort to acts of terrorism."
Injustices, grievances, unjust and illegal wars create anger, humiliation and a sense of hopelessness which act as incubators, triggering a small number of individuals to become terrorists. Of course, not everyone who is angry will become a terrorist; that would be absurd. Not every Irishman or woman joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to become a terrorist, but a small number did. However, Tony Blair and his government accepted that there were issues that needed to be addressed to stop IRA terrorism.
The Guardian (7 July 2010) reported Dr. Robert Lambert, a Scotland Yard Special Branch officer of 30 years experience and head of its Muslim contact unit saying:
"The government was desperate to deny that British foreign policy drove sections of the Muslim community to support or sympathise with al-Qaida........what the bombers did, and what al-Qaida does successfully, is to exploit widely held grievances. That should not be difficult to grasp. The last government spent most of the last five years denying that, looking for other narratives to explain what had happened."
Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, the previous head of British Intelligence service, MI5, emphasised to the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq war "that the invasion exacerbated the terrorist threat to the UK and was a "highly significant" factor in how "home-grown" extremists justified their actions."
Yet successive governments continue to deny the blindly obvious.
Mr. Cameron is also signaling a shift in policy in that the government will no longer share a platform with anyone that they, the government, deem to hold unacceptable views. This is tantamount to saying to Muslims, we tell you what to think and if you do not agree, we do not want to hear you. The government also intends to put pressure on university vice-chancellors to exercise stronger oversight of religious societies - religious is a code for Muslim - and invited speakers. This is apparently acting on advice given by "Quilliam".
We in Britain have strong laws about incitement to violence and hatred and if someone breaks the law, then s/he should be prosecuted. If the views expressed are not against the law, we must allow these views to be aired and to be demolished by reasoned vigorous debate. We seem to have arrived at a situation where there are two classes of free speech, first class for non-Muslims and second class for Muslims. How can this be healthy in a mature confident democratic Britain?
In the same article, the Guardian (7 July 2010) reported Dr Lambert criticizing the policy of the previous government with these words:
"Britain's fight against terrorism has been a disaster because its flawed, neo-conservative direction alienated Muslims and increased the chances of terrorist attacks....... the best way of tackling al-Qaida is to reassure the communities where it seeks support and recruits, is to show those communities that their grievances can be expressed legitimately......... the atrocity (7July 2005) had led the Labour government to launch not just the publicly declared battle against al-Qaida, but a much wider counter-subversive campaign that targeted non-violent Muslims and branded them as supporters of violence."
The changes this government is making to its anti-terrorism policy are making the disastrous situation described in the above quote worse.
The Guardian (7 February) draws the following conclusion from Cameron's speech:
"He (Mr Cameron) has sided unambiguously with figures such as Michael Gove inside his cabinet rather than his party chairman, Lady Warsi, who has complained of fashionable Islamophobia"
If Lady Warsi, the Chair of the conservative party, a Muslim not known for her extremist views, has her opinions ignored in preference to the British neo-con Michael Gove, if the views of grass roots Muslims and experts in the field are disregarded in preference to the government appointed self-serving think tank, Quilliam, the message to Muslims is clear: I think what I think and you should also think what I think.