By Barry Rubin
Almost unnoticed in North America, three major victories have been won in the United Kingdom against radical Islamist forces. Collectively, they represent the biggest successes on this front in a decade and may constitute a turning point.
They include: the barring from the country of an extremist Hizballah leader, the government decision to break relations with a radical posing as moderate Muslim group, and the announcing of a new government policy on combating extremism.
First, the Home Office barred Ibrahim Moussawi, Hizballah’s propaganda chief, from entering the country to address a conference at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
According to a school representative, “”Had he on any previous occasion indulged in any racist incitement, he would not have been allowed to continue with his presentation, and were he to do so in the future, the same would apply.”
Clearly, the school has a rather loose definition of racist incitement since the al-Manar station that he runs claims that the September 11 terror attacks, wars, and the poor state of the economy are all Zionist or Jewish conspiracies. It produced a drama claiming Jews murder children to make matzoh for Passover and Moussawi is quoted as having once said that Jews were “a lesion on the forehead of history.” The station also helped channel money to terrorist organizations including Islamic Jihad.
All of this so impressed the U.S. Treasury Department that it gave al-Manar the title of “Specially Designated Global Terrorist Entity” three years ago. France and Germany banned al-Manar due to its incitement to racial hatred and violence.
SOAS must not have been paying attention.
These kinds of victories do not come automatically and, sadly, the massive information- and intelligence gathering apparatuses of governments don’t seem sufficient to find out these publicly reported facts. That’s why research groups like the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), which played the leading role in informing the British government and public in this case, are so important.
Yet the group’s second success within a month was even more spectacular.
Back on February 12-14, a pro-Hamas “Victory in Gaza” conference was held in Istanbul, organized by two Saudi clerics who had been supporters of Usama bin Ladin. But it produced a declaration urging jihad to destroy Israel, rejecting any peaceful solution to the conflict. In addition, they called for continuing jihad (read: murdering fellow Muslims, killing Western peacekeepers, and imposing extremist Islamist regimes) in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Little notice of the meeting was taken in the West, whose media usually largely focuses on propagandistic declarations aimed at the West, made in English and designed to show a combination of their grievances and purported moderation.
What made the Istanbul declaration important for Britain was the fact that one of the signers was Daud Abdullah. The problem was that Abdullah is deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, a group which itself purports to be the leader of British Muslims and which the government has purported to be the proper, moderate interlocutor with that community. He is also a member of the powerful, government-endorsed Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board.
In fact, though, many of its leaders are radical Islamists, which makes the idea of its aiding the British government fight extremism to be rather ironic.
Abdullah’s defense of his signing was basically to say that all Muslims must fight Israel and those who support it, but that doesn’t mean all Jews. Of course, it does mean the United Kingdom and all its officers and institutions, doesn’t it?
This is even clearer in point 8 which states the:
“Obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.”
Or, in other words, since the British government supports such action, Abdullah is calling for attacks on his nation’s armed services. And we know, from experience, this means the kidnapping and killing of any individual members of the British armed forces.
Abdullah’s defense was to say that this was a hypothetical situation.
Pressed by the public exposure of these facts, the British government asked the Council how it felt about Abdullah’s statements and whether it would distance itself from them. The Council said it would never support killing British troops but would not criticize Abdullah.
In response, the British government—to its credit—showed backbone and cut ties with the Council.
Finally, at the same time, a new policy was announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. The theme was to focus on combating Islamist ideology as well as a call for Muslims to support not violence against the system but rather what she termed “our shared values”: democracy, the rule of law, and the rights of women, homosexuals, other religions, and communities. She concluded: “We should all stand up for our shared values and not concede the floor to those who dismiss them.”
Up to this point, the government had subsidized groups which might not engage in violence but do propagate radical Islamist ideas which inspire others toward violence. Or, in the words of Policy Exchange, the government has been, “Underwriting the very Islamist ideology which spawns an illiberal, intolerant and anti-Western world view.”
The response to the new policy of Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the board’s secretary-general, is that if Britain wants to combat the causes of terrorism it should condemn Israel for the “barbaric” “war crime” of its war in Gaza (a war begun by Hamas, which the Board supports.
The Board has generally, for eight of the last nine years, boycotted the Holocaust day commemoration because it says that Israel is carrying out “genocide” against Muslims. Its leadership has condemned homosexuality as unacceptable, blamed terrorism in Britain exclusively on the country’s involvement in invading Iraq, and advocated a law that would—at least in its interpretation—bar criticism of Islam as religious hatred. This is the group that the British government has entrusted with preparing materials for Muslim schools.
Taken together, the three recent developments are of paramount importance in fostering a more realistic attitude and policy toward the threat of extremism and terrorism by the British government. That this was brought about not by a powerful lobby but by a small number of researchers who merely exposed and publicized the truth is all the more impressive.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), with Walter Laqueur (Viking-Penguin); the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan); A Chronological History of Terrorism, with Judy Colp Rubin, (Sharpe); and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books, go to http://www.gloria-center.org
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