No Surprises In Britain
The results of a recent ICM poll indicating that 20% of British Muslims sympathize with “the feelings and motives” of the al-Qaeda suicide bombers who carried out the 7/7 bombings as well as that 40% believe that sha’riah should be introduced in predominantly Muslim areas of Britain are rightfully disturbing, but they must also be understood within the context in which the most extreme elements of Islam have emerged in the United Kingdom.
As ICT researcher and intelligent analyst Colonel Jonathan Fighel noted in October 2001:
It is not by chance that this fatwa was first published in England, where its publication was protected by democratic rights and freedom of speech. This is only one more example of the cynical exploitation of the freedoms of Western civilization by radical Islamists for the advancement of their extremist goals, including the abolition of those very freedoms. In order to launch their Jihad against the “Infidels” of the West, the Islamists have established a kind of forward base among their enemies, operating under the protective umbrella of democracy, human rights, and freedom of speech and religion. The U.K. has thus become a safe haven for the launching of Jihad against the rest of the Western world.
… In London, Islamic opposition groups from around the world operate unimpeded, calling for the downfall of various “heretical” Muslim regimes. These groups include member of the Egyptian opposition, including some of the leaders of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, the group that in November 1997 perpetrated a murderous attack against tourists in Luxor, killing 62 people, among them British tourists. One of those most conspicuously involved in the attack was Yasser Taufik Al Sari, who lives in West London. He depicts himself as director of a charitable organization promoting human rights in Muslim countries.
… Security experts have contended for many years that the U.K. is a safe haven for radical Islamic terror networks, which exploit British freedoms to further their goals. Among the factors contributing to the ease with which these groups operate is the U.K.’s liberal immigration policy, the many flaws in the border control system, and freedom from the obligation to carry identity cards. Britain is meticulous in upholding the individual’s rights, including the right of radical individuals to orchestrate the eradication of the rights of their opponents. Such individuals are protected from prosecution in their countries of origin by British legislation that inhibits the extradition of suspects. At the same time, prosecution in the U.K., with its the large and influential Moslem community, is fraught with risks of internal strife, or accusation of racism.
Nor are the British security services properly equipped to expose and thwart Islamist terrorist activity. As a rule, there is a complete lack of understanding of the ideology and thought processes of the Islamist groups, and their means for translating their beliefs into actions. Intelligence gathering is difficult where such groups are concerned, as they tend to operate in small cells whose members are well-known to one another. In Britain, the penetration of such cells is made all the more difficult by the lack of agents with the appropriate backgrounds and language skills.
… However, whether it was taken seriously or not, all the information was available. The alarm bells should have been ringing for some in the corridors of power in Whitehall. It has never been much of a secret that an extensive radical Islamic infrastructure was operative on a large scale in the U.K.; Islamic charity funds, bank accounts, Islamic web sites, and newspapers in Arabic all serve as legitimate and legal platforms for illegal activities and incitement. No real legal or administrative steps were taken to counter the threat.The British intelligence services, like the government, have for some time been in a state of virtual stagnation with regard to the Islamist threat. No pro-active measures have been taken to confront this reality. The Islamist phenomenon was made light of , reflecting a desire for domestic tranquility. There has been no real effort to develop and enhance intelligence coverage and analysis capability; nor was the recruitment of Arabic speakers made a top priority; nor were there attempts to alter banking regulations to counter money-laundering and fund-raising for terrorist organizations in Britain.
As Fighel notes, this state of affairs has been no great secret to the UK authorities since at least the mid-1990s when French counterterrorism authorities first coined the term “Londonistan” to refer to the British Islamist networks. Since then, the evidence has only continued to mount but even after the events of 7/7 the political will to move against the threat of al-Qaeda and its allies’ infrastructure in the UK (as opposed to major figures with it, notably Sheikh Abu Qatada and now Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri) has been conspicuously lacking on the part of the British government. In the absence of regulation, piracy tends to thrive, and this truism can be represented in the development of the British Islamic community.
Since the British authorities have more or less refused to substantively act against known extremist movements, some of them openly supportive of Osama bin Laden, it is unrealistic at best for more moderate or traditionalist British Muslims to achieve anything more than maintaining doctrinal distinctions between their followers and those of al-Qaeda. It should be understood by all that the tactics favored by Sheikh Abu Hamza in dealing with his opponents, which almost certainly did not occur in a vacuum, they operated within an environment of quasi-tacit approval from the British authorities through their unwillingness to openly confront his brownshirts. Within such a medium, it should not be at all surprising that views similar to those of Sheikh Abu Hamza are vastly becoming not only the loudest but also an increasingly powerful minority among British Muslims.