How Britain (and everyone else) gets it wrong on terrorism

David T. at Harry’s Place explains it all:

There is a theory, popular with the foreign policy establishment, that the best way to defeat violent extremism, is to find people who are ideologically close to violent extremism, and do a deal with them. You find the sonuvabitch who is “our friend” and pit him against the sonuvabitch who is “our enemy”. You install him in power. Big smiles for the press, handshakes all round. Then you walk away. When the whacking and chopping and mass murder starts, you shake your head in sorrow from behind your desk in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, relieved that it is now no longer “our problem”.

That model doesn’t work, as far as domestic politics are concerned. You can’t “walk away” from the problems you create here. Britain is our home.

What made the Muslim Contact Unit’s decision to partner with Islamists respectable, was the thesis that there is a “good Muslim Brotherhood” and a “bad Muslim Brotherhood”. Robert Leiken of the Nixon Centre puts the theory well here:

It became clear that there were two main currents within the Muslim Brotherhood. Some members were reactionary and dogmatic, were probably anti-Semitic and certainly anti-Zionist, wanted Israel to vanish and made that a principle of their politics and world view. The Supreme Guide expresses such views. But we found those views to be a severe embarrassment to other leading Brothers. We talked to powerful Brotherhood leaders who took public positions extolling Jews. This trend seems to be on the ascent.

Leiken expounded his theory that the Muslim Brotherhood is a “safety valve for moderate Islam” at length in his article, The Moderate Muslim Brotherhood.

I think that Leiken is off his rocker, frankly.

Unfortunately, our foreign policy and our state department are following the same off-the-rocker policy, with the same results. We ally with “friendly” sonuvabitches like the Saudis and the Pakistanis, we legitimize these terror-supporting regimes, and terrorists slaughter people around the world on a weekly basis. Winston Churchill was right about the problems that can arise from feeding crocodiles. Look at the current mess that was the British “Empire”. Proof that this policy has never worked, and it will never work.

I’d suggest that Islamists have three main aims in engaging with the British state.

The first is validation. Those involved in Islamist politics are narcissistic fantasists. They imagine themselves – like the Blues Brothers – to be on a “mission from God”. Somebody like Azad Ali is, in reality, a middle aged civil servant. However it flatters him when senior civil servants and police officers treat him as somebody who matters, who is doing something meaningful and significant, and who should therefore be treated seriously, rather than laughed at as a crank.

Islamist groups also leverage validation by one organisation, to persuade others to treat them seriously. If the Metropolitian Police think you’re a serious person, then an MP will speak at your conference. If an MP speaks at your conference, you’re more likely to get an op ed in a mainstream newspaper. If you get your op ed, a senior judge is more likely to support you. That is the strategy. And, if somebody then points out that you’ve been calling for jihad, or support banned terrorist groups, the fact that you’ve got the backing of the Metropolitant Police, a mainstream newspaper, an MP, and a senior judge makes it easy for you to attack your opponent as a racist and Islamophobe who is trying to “smear” you.

The second aim is influence. There are prizes to be had for playing the game. As a reward for working with the Metropolitan Police, Bob Lambert’s team installed the Muslim Brotherhood – in place of Abu Hamza – in the Finsbury Park Mosque. One of the trustees they put in place, Mohammed Sawalha, had been named by the BBC as a fugitive Hamas commander. Muslim Brotherhood front groups have been working hard to get their hands on a share of the Preventing Violent Extremism pot. In Tower Hamlets, they succeeded. They promptly used the money to stage a ‘debate’ between the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Muhajiroun and Hizb ut Tahrir.

But the rewards on offer are not simply monetary. What the Muslim Brotherhood dearly would love, is to be treated by the state as the rightful intermediary for British Muslims. They would like input into policy formation. They would like to be able to bargain with the Government, in the name of all British Muslims. In particular, they want to appear on television, deploring terrorism, but explaining that because the Government hasn’t followed its sensible advice, there’s nothing it can do to stop the young hotheads from blowing themselves up.

There’s a telling phrase in Andy Hayman’s op ed piece, and it is this. He argues that there is no point is building bridges with Muslims who are “safe but … not really representative”. I very much hope that what Andy Hayman means is that Islamists are ‘representative’ of those who are involved in, or supportive of, violent jihad: and not “representative” of British Muslims generally. The former interpretation is spot on: the latter is simply untrue. The danger we face, however, is that by treating Islamists as the legitimate representatives of British Muslims, we will have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. We will have made them kings of their communities. What do you think they will do with that influence?..

…If the police want to find Muslims to help them “deradicalise” potential jihadists, they should partner with those who have been jihadists, but have turned their back on that politics altogether: not individuals and groups which support terrorism in any country but ours.

This essay offers a full explanation of how Britain’s anti terrorism policies actually grow and nurture local (and worldwide) terrorist groups. Britain has been feeding the crocodile, hoping to be eaten last. Unfortunately, many countries follow the British model for ‘fighting’ (nuturing and growing) terrorism. We’re all feeding the crocodile.

So who will the crocodile eat first? That decision is up to the jihadis, not us. By following the British model we give all the power to the jihadis and none to us. Our superior intelligence is no match for their puny weapons.

If there’s anything our new administration needs to change, it’s this.

About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
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6 Responses to How Britain (and everyone else) gets it wrong on terrorism

  1. Infidel753 says:

    The hunger-for-validation issue is probably part of why terrorism is such a specifically Islamic phenomenon. One of the most glaring facts about the modern world is that the Islamic regions, despite their self image as the vehicle of God’s will, simply don’t matter.

    The days are long past when modernity was unique to the West. Many non-Western societies have achieved things. Russia went from a medieval backwater to an industrial superpower (outproducing Nazi Germany in tanks by 4 to 1 during the war, for example) and putting the first man in space, in just a few decades. East Asian rim states from Japan to Singapore have fully caught up with the West economically and technologically. Brazil is doing genome sequencing and developed ethanol cars to the point of achieving energy independence. India has the IIT, just landed a space probe on the Moon, and has a good, practical satellite program. And don’t even get me started on the Israelis. What have the Islamic countries achieved? What have they contributed lately? For all their numbers and (in some countries) oil wealth, they’re stagnant, uncreative societies.

    If it weren’t for terrorism, we’d have no reason to pay attention to them at all.

  2. marypmadigan says:

    What have the Islamic countries achieved? What have they contributed lately? For all their numbers and (in some countries) oil wealth, they’re stagnant, uncreative societies.

    That’s true, and it’s one fact that Islamists, and Muslims in general, can’t deny.

    The oil rich nations have tried to buy knowledge by building branches of Western universities in places like Abu Dhabi. Universities like NYU are more than willing to sell themselves, but the students don’t seem to be learning much. How can you learn if your religion forbids innovation and believes that science is written in the Koran?

    Countries with a mostly Muslim population and secular governments, like Lebanon and Turkey, used to have decent universities, but as Saudi Arabia,the UAE and Islamism gain influence in the area, those universities are being neglected. Educated Iranians are leaving the country.

    In the long run, terrorism will make the whole ummah more backwards than ever, and they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.

  3. Infidel753 says:

    In the same vein, I’ve heard that within the population of Britain, the least economically successful group is the Muslim minority (startlingly, the most successful group is the Hindu minority). Britain, of course, does not have a Hindu terrorist problem. They don’t need to blow things up to feel that they count for something.

  4. tanstaafl says:

    Reading about the softsell approach to radical Islamists in Great Britain can be very depressing on this side of the pond…the steady drip drip drip of cultural incursion on British culture & the Brits “feeding the crocodile” in appeasement.

    Most disheartening, some of the remarks from such an influential personage as Rowan Williams, who seems to be, in truth, borderline insane.

    However, we’ve some of the same moves and subtleties in the tactics of soft jihad afoot in the United States.

    Then you hear of a prosecution of Abu Hamza or tossing out that other radical who now lives in Beirut and the recent successful prosecution of the doctor responsible for the failed nightclub caper and the airport ramming incident in Scotland.

    And you are heartened.

    I agree that the best spokespeople are the (current & former) Muslims whose arguments as to the insanity of the Islamists carry more weight.

  5. Mary says:

    Then you hear of a prosecution of Abu Hamza or tossing out that other radical who now lives in Beirut and the recent successful prosecution of the doctor responsible for the failed nightclub caper and the airport ramming incident in Scotland.
    And you are heartened.

    Unfortunately, successful prosecutions of ‘radicals’ are few and far between.

    If we in America had dealt with local mafia groups by joining with the ‘moderate’ Gottis to fight the ‘extreme’ Gambinos, both sides would be empowered, and the Gotti family would probably be in the White House right now.

    This tactic failed in Northern Ireland, it’s failing in the middle east, and it’s destroying Britain. It might be a good idea to ally with genuine Muslim moderates, if there are any, but it would be a better idea to empower all civilians, especially non-Muslims. Ordinary Britons need to be encouraged to defend themselves, and they need to be encouraged to tell the local police about extremism and crime in their neighborhoods.

  6. Pingback: Well that’s a pity… at Mary P Madigan's Journal

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