Be Disclaimed

"It is no good to try to stop knowledge from going forward. Ignorance is never better than knowledge."
Enrico Fermi

August 11, 2006

Leader from the Daily Telegraph

Leader from the Daily Telegraph 11th August 2006
Only Muslim families can stop this infamy


For anyone sanguine enough to believe that the July 7 terrorist atrocities last year were simply an aberration, yesterday's events must have disabused them. Once again we learnt that British-born Muslim fanatics are prepared to commit slaughter on a mass scale in the name of jihad. The apparently successful thwarting of a plot to blow up transatlantic aircraft with bombs fabricated aboard the planes is a sorely needed success for Scotland Yard and MI5 following the controversial Forest Gate raid and the tragedy of the killing of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes. We are all too ready to criticise them when they get it wrong, but we must understand their need to act decisively on the intelligence they receive.

The terrorist strategy of combining suicide bombing with easily concealed explosive ingredients is not new. It first surfaced in 1995, in a suspected al-Qa'eda plot when nitroglycerine was carried aboard a plane in the Philippines in containers for contact-lens solution. What is new is the scale of the alleged plot, with as many as 10 aircraft being targeted, in which thousands of people could have perished. This has led America's Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, to offer the view that it is ''suggestive of an al-Qa'eda plot''. The British authorities are wisely more reticent, stressing that their investigation is at an early stage.

What is not open to doubt is that most, if not all, of the 21 arrested suspects are British-born Muslim youths, most of them of Pakistani ethnic origin, and even one white, middle-class convert to Islam. After the July 7 bombings, Tony Blair called Muslim leaders together in Downing Street for a summit. Its purpose was to encourage the ''Muslim community'' to foster a climate that would prevent young Muslims becoming so radicalised that they are prepared to blow themselves and their fellow citizens to smithereens. Too late, of course. The global loathing for the United States and its ally, the United Kingdom, has helped corrupt the minds of a generation of disaffected young Muslims - a process speeded by extremist clerics who, in far too many cases, have been allowed to come and go with impunity.


And what precisely is this ''Muslim community''?

Is it represented by Khurshid Ahmed, a member of the Commission for Racial Equality, who yesterday expressed his shock that young Muslims could be involved in such a plot and voicing relief that they had been apprehended? Or is it represented by Fahad Ansar of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, who depicted the operation as a cynical ploy by the Government aimed at ''diverting attention away from its policy in the Middle East''? In truth, there is no such thing as a single ''Muslim community''. The Muslim Council of Britain is held by the Government to be the authentic voice of this frequently disparate group, which hails originally from at least a dozen different countries. But is it? A trenchant analysis - When Progressives Treat With Reactionaries - written by Martin Bright, the political editor of the Left-wing New Statesman, concludes: ''The Government has chosen as its favoured partner an organisation that is undemocratic, divisive and unrepresentative of the full diversity of Muslim Britain.'' Too frequently, its leaders depict as mainstream what most people would describe as extreme. Its stand against terrorism has been muted.

For any government grappling with a problem of such dangerous complexity, this may be an understandable mistake. It is time it was rectified. Alienated young Muslims will not be won round by convening Downing Street seminars or sending out gimcrack road shows manned by the very community leaders for whom they have little but contempt. Of course, the Government must maintain a dialogue with all shades of Muslim opinion, but if ministers seriously believe that this will deter potential young terrorists, they are being alarmingly naïve.

In reality, this is not a job for government at all. The one thing that unites Muslims in this country is their respect for the family. It is the bedrock of their society, something that many in this country look at with envy, given the catastrophic social impact of family breakdown among other groups. The long march to win back disaffected Muslim youth must start in the home, and the neighbourhoods of which they are a part. This is not a problem that lends itself to top-down solutions. It has to start at the bottom, with a recognition that fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters and the extended family are the people most likely to spot, and most able to stop, emerging radicalism.

Meanwhile, the events of the past 36 hours have once again achieved the enormous disruption and uncertainty that is always a key element of the terrorist game plan. Air travel will became even more tiresome as security checks become ever more rigorous. There are also profound commercial implications for the way airports and airlines conduct their business. John Reid, the Home Secretary, rose to the occasion yesterday, speaking with quiet eloquence of the sheer evil of the plotters and the heinous nature of what they were attempting. He carefully avoided any note of triumphalism, despite what appears to have been an exemplary operation by the police and the security services. He also, quite rightly, warned against complacency. A wounded animal is always dangerous and, if this is an al-Qa'eda conspiracy, it means the days and weeks ahead will be perilous.

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