Excellent and well thought out article by Michael Portillo, in the TimesOnline:
No offence, imam, but we must call it Islamic terror
By: Michael Portillo
After the terrorist outrages of July 7, 2005, most Londoners have continued to travel by bus, train and Underground. They are more vigilant, but few seem to experience anxiety about a repeat attack during their journey. That is remarkable because objectively the chances of another massacre must be higher than a year ago.
Last year the bombs were the first shock. The second was to discover that the terrorists were suicide bombers and British. We could have coped with the outrage more easily had the murderers been foreigners, raised in squalor, brainwashed under a theocratic dictatorship and shipped here to massacre people for whom they had no kindred feelings. It is more plausible that we could defend the country against an exterior threat than defeat one that comes from within. We can hope to monitor comings and goings at our airports and to keep tabs on people who stand out because they are visitors. But the task is almost hopeless if the perpetrators live among us. If four young men who had enjoyed the advantages of life in Britain decide to kill themselves and as many others as possible, then why should there not be 400 or 4,000 more? Once we understand that, we feel less safe. Also, things have got worse over the past year. Although there has been no anti-Islamic backlash it seems that many British Muslims feel victimised by the authorities� response to terror. They think they face discrimination when stopped and searched. The bungled police operation in Forest Gate has become an emblem of supposed repression. Even peace-loving Muslim spokesmen feel obliged to give credence to the perception that their community is being unfairly harassed. It causes some young Muslim men to withdraw further from a British society claimed to be hostile. At best that surrounds the terrorists with a penumbra of disaffected Muslims who may not condemn their crimes or denounce their murderous plots. At worst it enlarges the pool from which new bombers can be recruited.
It is there that Al-Qaeda has scored its greatest success. More significant for the long term than the bombs is the impact that terror has in dividing the groups that make up our society, and in increasing the appeal of militancy to those who can be duped into seeing themselves as repressed. Muslim complaints about being victimised are perversely directed. Muslims are victims of the bombers, not of the state or the police. It is the terrorists who make Muslims potential objects of suspicion and fear because the bombers murder in the name of Islam. Muslims have every right to be outraged, but their fury should focus on the men of violence. The police action in Forest Gate was cack-handed and the shooting of one of the �suspects� was indefensible. But given the profile of the terrorists, Muslims are bound to be more affected. By analogy, when police are looking for a rapist they interview males without anyone believing them to be institutional men haters. There are those who in the interests of community relations denounce linking the word Islamic to �violence� or �extremism�. They object that we did not call the IRA �Catholic terrorists�, nor do we speak of �Christian extremism� or link Christian fundamentalism to violence. There are good reasons for that. Although the IRA is rooted in the Catholic community, its aims are political and secular. Although there certainly are Christian extremists today, just now they are not murdering people in the name of purifying the world. By contrast, across the globe human beings are being slaughtered in large numbers by Muslims quoting from the Koran and vowing death to infidels, including other Muslim sects. Their objectives are political and religious.
So to try to condemn the expression �Islamic violence� is a dangerous attempt at censorship that would hamper our understanding of the threat we face. The term is certainly offensive to Muslims, but the offence is caused by the bombers, not by those who describe the process.
Last week Tony Blair caused a furore by calling on Muslims to do more to control, denounce or deliver up the men who preach and practise violence. Some Muslim spokesmen said that was a divisive remark that stigmatised Muslims instead of recognising that the problem was one for British society as a whole.
The prime minister�s exhortation was valid. The bombers are not casualties of British society. Shehzad Tanweer, the Aldgate murderer, was only 22 yet left �121,000 after tax. The bombers� grievances cannot be bought off with more money for schools or a new youth centre. They were corrupted, I assume, by theoreticians of annihilation from within their community. Their training was probably perfected in an Al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan.
Abdur-Raheem Green is an imam who believes that he preached to some of the 7/7 murderers and hopes that nothing he said encouraged them. When asked last week whether he would turn over to the authorities young men who were moving towards terrorism, his answer was ambiguous. He argued that it would be better for him to dissuade them rather than denounce them because that would risk creating further alienation. That is not the response that Blair, speaking for most Britons, is seeking.
There is another disagreeable ambiguity when some spokesmen link terror to British foreign policy. Anas Altikriti, the director of the Islam Expo (now taking place at Alexandra Palace in north London), wrote last week: �We will not stand for our country and people being terrorised nor will we stand for our government terrorising any other peoples.� That is presumably a reference to Iraq and Afghanistan. What does �will not stand for� mean?
Even Dr Taj Hargey, chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, a brave opponent of the fundamentalists who argues that the Koran does not authorise violence, calls on Britain to reappraise its foreign policy. In many Muslim minds, apparently, terrorism in Britain has to be understood (even if not condoned) as a reaction to Afghanistan and Iraq. The chronology undermines that argument. The allied invasion of Afghanistan was a response to the terrorist murder of nearly 3,000 civilians in New York and Washington. No serious figure denies that Al-Qaeda organised the crime from its bases in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Iraq is a more controversial case. It has become a mess. But relatively few Iraqis died when we invaded and overthrew their genocidal dictator. The vast majority of Muslims who have been killed since have been murdered by other Muslims � by Al-Qaeda, by Sunni and Shi�ite extremists or by Saddam Hussein loyalists. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq and a Sunni, urged death to Shi�ites whom he described as poisonous snakes and atheists. Al-Qaeda is determined to destroy the West, but in the short term most of its victims will be Muslims in any place where it can topple their government to replace it with a regime as repressive and homicidal as the Taliban�s was. Many British people object to Blair�s foreign policy. But only Muslim suicide bombers claim it as a justification for murder. In Tanweer�s videotape released last week he links his crime to Afghanistan and Iraq. But just in case anyone is tempted to think that Britain could avoid terrorism by withdrawing from those countries, Tanweer also calls on us to end our military and financial links with America and Israel. The United States was attacked in 2001 not because it had invaded another country (except to save Muslim lives in Bosnia), but because it is rampantly secular and supports Israel�s right to exist.
If the drifting apart of the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Britain has increased the danger of terror, it follows that reconciliation and integration would make us safer. I do not mean what I write here to exacerbate the divisions in any way. Rather I believe that we can move closer if we are more honest about what is happening. Mayhem is being unleashed globally in the name of Islam. There is no point denying it, especially since most of those butchered have been Muslim. The British state is not the problem but part of the solution. A tolerant society can survive only if it bands together to suppress intolerance because we are all victims of that intolerance.
Every Briton must join in that effort, no ifs, no buts and no excuses.