Pakistan Dawn May 12, 2007
British brand of jihadis
By Irfan Husain
WHAT do the scores of young men (and a handful of women) who have been arrested, or tried, or convicted of attempted acts of terrorism in the West over the last couple of years have in common? They are all Muslims, for one. A few of them are recent converts to Islam, but most of them were born and raised in the faith.
Secondly, a significant majority have a Pakistani connection. Investigations have revealed that apart from being second-- or third -- generation immigrants, many have travelled back to Pakistan many times and were indoctrinated (the word used in the western media is "brainwashed") in madressahs before going on to training camps.
Here they learned how to make bombs using easily available ingredients. Those convicted recently had stockpiled over half a ton of a chemical fertiliser that was intended to make a powerful explosive device.
While reading the proceedings of their trial, one can see a third common element: their amateur approach that verges on sheer incompetence. In fact, this ineptitude has probably prevented many attacks from succeeding, saving hundreds of innocent lives. A special report in the Economist quotes one plotter asking Omar Khayyam: "Bruv, you don't think this place is bugged, do you?" No, replied Khayyam: "Do you know, I think we give them too much credit, bruv."
But in fact the gang, together with scores of other suspects, were under 24-hour surveillance, their emails read, and their phone calls tapped. And time and again, this operation revealed a sinister Pakistan connection. Less than a year ago, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the outgoing head of MI5, the domestic intelligence service, reported that her agents were tracking1, 600 known active suspects. How many are operating beyond the knowledge of the secret service is anybody's guess.
Whatever the numbers, it is clear that the presence of thousands of potential terrorists, most of them home-grown, poses an enormous threat to ordinary Britons, including hundreds of thousands of Muslims who want nothing more than to be allowed to live their lives in peace. Unfortunately, the blood-lust of a handful of terrorists in their midst makes the entire community a fifth column in the eyes of their hosts.
A result of this strong Pakistani element in the terrorist threat has prompted voices in the United States to question the policy of permitting British citizens to enter their country without visas. There is a growing demand to make those with a Pakistani background go through the long, convoluted process of applying for a US visa. And frankly, who can blame them? The reality is that there are a growing number of young fanatics who want nothing better than to blow up as many innocent people as they can.
And if Britain faces a threat from its Pakistani citizens, France sees a growing number of disaffected Algerians, while Spain has been attacked in the past by Moroccan immigrants. Much of the West perceives a growing menace from its large Muslim minority, and this does not necessarily reflect paranoia: a number of attacks and suicide bombings have proved how dangerous these callous killers are.
Over the last couple of years, I must have received hundreds of emails justifying the actions of these murderers. In their defence, writers have sent me a whole litany of acts the West is supposed to have carried out against Muslims now and in the past.
Apart from their anti-Muslim policies, Europeans and Americans are supposed to have "loose morals," as if this somehow justifies the taking of innocent lives. One of those convicted for the "fertiliser bomb plot" was quoted as advocating the bombing of The Ministry of Sound, a popular London nightclub, because it would kill many "slags", or "immoral women".
More and more, London is being viewed as a magnet for jihadis who are attracted by the hitherto relaxed asylum laws, and the large Muslim community. In fact, a few years ago, a French secret service officer sarcastically dubbed the British capital 'Londonistan', and the name has stuck. Christopher Hitchens, a well-known British journalist, cites a Channel 4 documentary called 'Undercover Mosque' in his article "Londonistan Calling" that appears in the current issue of Vanity Fair:
"And there it all is: foaming, bearded preachers calling for crucifixion of unbelievers, for homosexuals to be thrown off mountain-tops, for disobedient and 'deficient' women to be beaten into submission, and for Indian and Jewish property and life to be destroyed… This stuff is being inculcated in small children … Again, these were not tin-roof storefront mosques but well-appointed, well-attended places of worship, often the beneficiaries of Saudi Arabian largesse…"
Hitchens goes on to say: "The roots of violence… are in the preaching of it, and the sanctification of it." He concludes his article by recalling an Islamic activist called Anjem Chaudhry who appeared in a BBC programme where he was asked that given his extreme views, would he not prefer to move to a country governed under Sharia law? The Muslim guest shot back: "Who says you own Britain anyway?"
I have no doubt many Muslims would applaud this attitude. But more and more, the world is running out of patience with extremism. The common platitude we hear ad nauseum is that Islam is a religion of peace, but it is being defamed by a small minority of extremists. The problem is that even a "small minority" of well over a billion Muslims makes for an awful lot of terrorists.
To get an idea of what is happening, we only have to look towards Islamabad where for over three months, a few hundred seminary students and their mentoring mullahs have defied the state with impunity. General Musharraf, for all his might, finds himself helpless before this open rebellion. Further north, music shops are being forcibly shut down as local Taliban impose their benighted worldview on one corner of Pakistan. I have little doubt that this lawlessness will expand, and a supine state will roll over.
But it is unlikely that other countries will allow their Muslim minorities to dictate terms to the majority. Western liberal values of democracy and gender equality have been won after a long struggle, and people will fight to preserve them.
-- My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of the same poverty. - Jorge Louis Borges