From the desk of A. Millar on Fri, 2009-04-24 09:41
In the last few days, Arunachalam Chrishanthakumar, a leading member of the Tamil community in Britain was convicted of supplying bomb-making parts to the Tamil Tigers – a designated terrorist organization, banned both by Britain and the EU. According to the Guardian, the police had become aware of Chrishanthakumar’s activities five years ago, but had merely warned him to “stop buying electrical components.” This is perhaps all the more remarkable when one considers that in 2002 the Tamil Tigers – although nationalist rather than Islamist – leant support to Harakat-al Mujahideen, a Pakistani militant group affiliated with al-Qaeda.
More remarkable still, on more than one occasion in the last few weeks, the red flags of the Tamil Tigers have fluttered around Britain’s parliament, as its supporters gathered outside. Nor did they inform the authorities of their intention to protest, as is required by law.
And this, of course, comes on the back of black-clad Islamists protesting at Luton against soldiers returning from Iraq, denouncing them as the “butchers of Basra.”
The police have seen such protests before, of course, as have the British people. In 2006, al-Qaeda cheerleaders protested in London, waving placards with “behead those who insult Islam.” One young girl in the crowd was even wearing an “I love al-Qaeda” bobble hat. However, that the emblem of a terrorist organization is displayed en masse outside of parliament, the mother of democracy, surely calls into question the government’s new approach counter-terrorism.
However, a caveat here: As some in the media said in response to the Luton demonstrators, as repugnant and alarming as this may be, the right to protest and air even the most repugnant views is part and parcel of democratic nations.
It was also taken for granted in Britain until about a decade or so ago, and is, of course, guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And now more than ever do we need free speech, and an honest and open dialogue about what is occurring in the West.
But instead, when it comes to Islamism, the response is a mixture of tougher hate speech legislation meant to protect Islam from insult, self-censorship, mental evasion, and reassuring banalities.
Conservative MP Baroness Warsi’s response to the Luton protestors, was to call them a “bunch of nutters.” And for using this “more neutral and secular” if deceptively mediocre term, Rod Liddle congratulated her in The Times. More importantly, in March, the government published Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare: The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism, outlining its new approach to tackling Islamist terrorism. But strung together with politically correct, and similarly meaningless terms, such as “community cohesion” and “violent extremism,” this report fails to tackle the issue with necessary clarity, and at times seems almost to be in line with the Islamists.
In regard to Islamist propagandizing, the report says:
As part of this strategy we will take action against those who defend terrorism and violent extremism. We will also continue to challenge views which fall short of supporting violence and are within the law, but which reject and undermine our shared values and jeopardise community cohesion. Some of these views can create a climate in which people may be drawn into violent activity. We have no intention of outlawing these views or criminalising those who hold them.
I recognize that Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare is more of a public relations exercise than anything, but perhaps the most egregious flaw in this report is the failure to note the creeping Islamification of Britain, and more especially the complicity of the government, political parties, and authorities in this process – well meaning though they may be in their actions.
Most notably, there are only two references to sharia law. The first of these tells us that, “The [terrorists’] ideology calls for the overthrow (by militant jihad) of Islamic governments and the imposition of shari‘a under a new pan-Islamic Caliphate.” The second references a World Public Opinion.org report, Muslim Public Opinion on US Policy, Attacks on Civilians and al Qaeda, (which can be downloaded here), that informs us that 71 percent of those polled in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Indonesia, want sharia law. Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare makes no mention of the establishments of sharia courts in Britain, or of the government’s backing of sharia finance. Such issues need addressing.
The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Islamists have become adept at exploiting politics, even from outside. We have seen far-Left MP George Galloway on the same stage as Hamas supporter and terrorism apologist, Azam Tamimi. Labour MP, and Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, of course promoted terrorism apologist Yusuf al-Qaradawi. And, until recently, the Conservative Party’s Conservative Muslim Forum (CFM) linked their website to Ta-Ha publishing, which sells one of Ahmad Thomson’s conspiracy theories about Jews and Freemasons, as well as books on sharia law. CFM’s positions also appear to be more Islamist than Tory. And still this sort of complacency continues.
The Quilliam foundation is reporting that the Scottish National Party (SNP) is about to endorse Osama Saeed as their prospective parliamentary candidate for Glasgow Central. The foundation says that, “If elected to Westminster, Saeed, a former spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain (a front-group for the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s largest Islamist movement), will be the UK’s first ever openly Islamist MP.”
You may recall that last year SNP councilor Jahangir Hanif was discovered to have taken his daughters to a training camp on the Pakistan-Kashmir border, where they were taught to use an AK47. And you may also recall that former Scottish Labour MP, Margaret Curran, said that questions about Hanif’s suitability as a councilor “were coming across as thinly disguised racism.” (This, despite the fact that one of his daughters described it as a terrifying ordeal, and called for him to be fired.)
In this same politically correct vein, the Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare report lays the blame for radicalization on a variety of reasons, from racism to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But, in essence, it suggests that the fault for the contemporary worldwide jihad lies almost solely with the majority cultures of Western nations. For example, in regard to foreign policy (e.g., Afghanistan and Iraq), the report states:
Many people in the Muslim world also believe that these policies betray a more fundamental failure in western states to respect or understand Islam itself. Further evidence of that view is often found in western media and culture, regarded as hostile towards and uninformed about Islam and Muslims: the reactions to a recent Dutch film about aspects of Islam and to the 2005 Danish cartoons both indicate the significance of this issue.
I’m not sure what “evidence” of a “failure in western states to respect or understand Islam” the report alludes to, but lets not kid ourselves here. Religious authorities in Egypt, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have issued fatwas against the Japanese, children’s cartoon Pokemon, because they believe it to be a “a Jewish-Darwinist theory, that conflicts with the truth about humans and with Islamic principles.” The Pakistani film, Shadows in Motions, suggests that The Simpsons is part of an anarcho-Zionist-Masonic plot to destroy Islam. And in 2007, English teacher Gillian Gibbons was imprisoned by Sudanese authorities, and had angry mobs calling for her execution because she allowed her class to name a teddy bear ‘Mohammed.’
The fact of the matter is that the media tends to treat the current state of affairs in Islam very leniently indeed. Representatives of Islamist organizations such as MPACUK are invited on to mainstream British television programs to spread propaganda, and yet go more or less unchallenged by presenters. As, so often, does the assertion that Britain’s foreign policy is to blame for terrorist attacks on the country.
Courtesy of Britain’s Channel 4, Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad even delivered an “alternative Christmas message” to the nation in 2008, in which he implied that Jesus would oppose the coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Mark Thompson, head of the BBC, has said that he believes Islam should be treated with greater sensitivity than other religions.
And, that the government’s publication cites the “reaction” to Theo van Gogh’s film, Submission, and to the Mohammed cartoons, but does not say what the reaction was (the brutal murder of van Gogh, a note, pinned by a dagger to his chest, threatening Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, in the former case, and riots around the globe resulting in several deaths, threats to boycott Danish products, etc., in the latter) reveals a level of sensitivity that subordinates truth and openness to it. But, no surprises there.
However, if the government is overly cautious in the way it speaks about the global jihad – referring to contemporary Islamist terrorists as “violent extremism” – the opening line of Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare reads:
1.01 Terrorism is not new. In the immediate post-war period UK citizens and interests were targeted and attacked by Zionist terrorists in the British Mandate of Palestine and by nationalist terrorists in Cyprus.
Troublingly, this is precisely the sort of rhetoric that Islamist groups and websites use to promote their agenda, which the authors of the report must surely have known. As anyone over the age of twenty would easily recall the bombing campaigns of the IRA, which caused mass casualties in London and other cities, the citation of “Zionist terrorists” seems designed to make some point – perhaps to show that Muslims are not being singled out, or that the government is (hyper) sensitive about their perceived plight, etc.
But potentially, it plays right into the hands of those who, for political advantage, want to portray Muslims as victims of “Zionists,” and to blame the Jews for the world’s ills. Notably the top site resulting from a Google search for “Zionist terrorists,” is ummah.com. Other top sites include revisionhistory.org, angryarab.blogspot.com, and revolutionmuslim.com.
It is one of the great, and most perverse, ironies of our time, that Islamists – who are vehemently opposed to Israel, anti-Zionist, and often rabidly anti-Semitic – are adept at exploiting and twisting Jewish history for their own ends. On the one hand Islamists denounce Zionism, Israel, etc., And on the other, they routinely vocalize support for restrictions on Holocaust denial, though always in conjunction with portraying Muslims as the new Jews, oppressed by a “fascist” Israel. Their aim is transparently not to defend the Jews, but to make criticism of Islam, Islamism, Muslims, Palestinians, Hamas, etc., a crime.
In short, hate speech legislation has allowed Islamists to portray their arguments as morally superior even if they are illogical, irrational, and hide a sinister agenda.
The government is right not to ban Islamist rhetoric per se, though perhaps not for the reasons it imagines. Free speech is the cornerstone of democracy. The criminalizing of speech – no matter how repugnant – simply does not work in democratic or largely-democratic societies, and would only backfire here. We can imagine, surely, that the press and many politicians would rally to an Islamist free speech cause, if this were to occur. (We saw this a couple of years ago, when Shirley Dent of The Times defended Samina Malik, who had downloaded al-Qaeda Manual and the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook, had expressed her desire for “martyrdom,” and was in possession of an airside security pass. “Don’t ban the lyricist,” Dent stupidly implored the judge presiding over Malik’s trial, claiming it was simply a free speech issue.)
More importantly, perhaps, while Islamism would still saturate the internet, and would still be discussed in all manner of underground groups, banning Islamist speech would bolster the Islamist’s stock claim of a conspiracy against Islam – by Jews, Freemasons, Christians, “kufr,” America, Darwinists, and cartoonists everywhere.
Nevertheless, while I would – and do – argue for fewer restrictions on speech, rather than more, Islamists should not be exempted from existing laws. And here is where the statement of the report, that the government has “no intention of outlawing these [Islamist] views or criminalising those who hold them,” makes me concerned. Much Islamist rhetoric would already appear to violate the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 (amended from the Public Order Act, 1986), which makes it an offense to stir up “[…] hatred against a group of persons defined by reference to religious belief or lack of religious belief.”
We have heard the denunciation of Zionism (which can be regarded as religious, not merely cultural or political) at rallies attended by thousands in the middle of London. And Islamist websites are full of conspiracy theories about Zionists, Jews, Christians, etc. But in regard to those defined by lack of religious belief, Islamists and Muslim fundamentalists also, of course, loudly denounce “kufr,” “infidels,” “non-believers,” etc., even pronouncing “takfir” at moderate Muslims.
Nevertheless, while Pursue Prevent Protect Prepare may not inspire much confidence, there is a gradual and more genuine recognition of the problems Britain is facing, at least in some departments. In March, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears broke off the government’s long relationship with the Muslim Council of Britain, due to its refusal to condemn deputy secretary-general Daud Abdullah, who had then only recently signed a declaration of support for Hamas.
Dr Ibrahim Moussawi, anti-Semite and media editor for Hezbollah, was refused a visa to enter the UK, to spread his special brand of hate. This occurred only after, and because of, much pressure from British and US media outlets, and after The Centre for Social Cohesion threatened to seek a warrant for Moussawi’s arrest.
The political necessity of the ban, however, was partly supplied by the government, who had barred Geert Wilders from entering the country only a few weeks earlier. Though I am sure that the Home Office would have preferred to have granted Moussawi a visa, it of course had no desire to shine a spotlight on institutional hypocrisy.
Equality under the law and free speech are the bedrock of democracy. We need to stand up for them. And we need to aid the democratization of Islam – before we see the total Islamification of democracy.