UK’s Islamist problem

It should come as no surprise that random terrorist attacks have been, and will remain for the foreseeable future, MI5’s greatest security threat.

May 23, 2013 23:29
3 minute read.
A police forensics officer investigates a crime scene where one man was killed in Woolwich, London

British murder scene 390. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Since 9/11, the West’s perception of violence perpetrated in the name of a warped interpretation of Islam has changed. No longer can this violence be seen as an exclusively external threat faced by countries located in the Middle East such as Israel. Rather, it is a domestic threat as well.

This lesson was driven home yet again for Brits on Wednesday when Michael “Mujaheed” Adebolajo and an accomplice brutally murdered a man in broad daylight on a London street while shouting “Allahu akbar.”

The victim, a British soldier, was wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Help-the Heroes,” which is also the name of an organization that supports British forces fighting in Afghanistan and Mali.

The vast majority of Muslims in Britain and in other European countries are law-abiding, upright citizens who are undoubtedly appalled that the two men have claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. The Muslim Council of Britain was quick to denounce the atrocity.

Nevertheless, Britain and other European countries do have a problem with radical Islamists. And they have for some time now.

“Londonistan” apparently originated as an appellation used in the 1990s by French security officials frustrated at British leaders’ failure to confront in their capital the dangers of radical Islam, which, the officials feared, would spill over into France. Steven Simon, a former White House counterterrorism official, referred to London as “the Star Wars bar scene,” that caters to all kinds of Islamist recruiters and fund-raisers for, and practitioners of, holy war.

Abu Hamza al-Masri, the imam of the Finsbury Park Mosque in central London, provided shelter to Richard Reid, a.k.a. “the Shoe Bomber,” and Zacarias Moussaoui, a member of the team that carried out the 9/11 attacks, and other terrorists.

The 2002 video butchering in Pakistan of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was organized by Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, another Brit and a former student at the London School of Economics. A year later, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, both born in England, took part in a suicide attack on Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv bar.

British authorities have taken steps to crack down on extremists. Abu Hamza was eventually jailed on charges of soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. In March of this year, Jamaican-born Abdullah El-Faisal, a supporter of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, was sentenced to nine years in jail for urging his followers to kill nonbelievers in a holy war.

Some radical Muslim clerics have managed to manipulate Britain’s democratic system. At the end of March, police said they were unable to prosecute Anjem Choudary for saying that British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama should be killed. After the British daily The Sun provided authorities with secretly filmed footage, Choudary claimed he had been “joking,” though he maintained that bin Laden was his “hero.”

In the wake of the brutal murder on Wednesday, Choudary said he was acquainted with Adebolajo, who converted to Islam in 2003. According to The Telegraph, Adebolajo appeared publicly alongside other radical members of Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun, the banned forerunner to 4 UK, which was headed by Choudary.

Commenting on Adebolajo’s act of terrorism, Choudary said: “What he did was unusual and it’s not the kind of view that I propagate and I do not condone the use of violence, but those views are out there. Some members of the Muslim community struggle to express themselves and he is making his voice heard in blood.”

Clerics such as Choudary walk a thin line between criminal incitement and freedom of expression. And his messages enjoy a remarkably receptive audience in a country where the fastest growing religion is Islam. In a 2006 survey commissioned by Channel 4, a quarter of British Muslims said the July 7, 2005, bombings in London that left 52 dead were justified because of the British government’s support for the war on terror. Muslims under 24 were twice as likely to agree.

There is no evidence that these sorts of sentiments among some Muslims have significantly changed. In an atmosphere in which murderous terrorist attacks are see as justified, the sort of seemingly random lone wolf attack perpetrated by Adebolajo and his accomplice becomes all the more likely. It should come as no surprise that random terrorist attacks have been, and will remain for the foreseeable future, MI5’s greatest security threat.

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