Wisdom, not intelligence
By Khaled Diab
al-Qaeda is working to set up a cell in
The programme reported that British intelligence services were investigating the claims but no one yet knows whether the call to arms posted on a password-protected website popular with ‘jihadists’ is genuine.
“You don’t ignore this sort of thing,” Pauline Neville-Jones, the former head of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, told Jeremy Paxman. “It may not be a threat from an existing cell... but it does represent a move in the propaganda game.”
And we most certainly mustn’t. Whether or not this is really al-Qaeda or simply a dose of psychological warfare, the best way to eliminate the threat on British soil is not to tighten security, since any possible attackers are likely to be homegrown, but to strike at the root causes.
The biggest single and most spectacular act
I am constantly astounded by those who claim that there is no causal link between the terror meted out by the Anglo-American war machine and anti-western terrorist activity. Even normally enlightened circles can be prone to viewing terrorism in an existential and historical vacuum – it is far easier on the conscience to deny any culpability in making the world more dangerous.
But al-Qaeda has no such hesitation. It uses western military action in Muslim countries as a rallying cry to recruit the young and disillusioned.
“In the case of the
Last June, Prospect Magazine, ran an interesting but rather shallow investigation into what motivated the young British bombers who took part in the July 2005 London attacks which left some 50 dead.
In his editorial to the edition, Prospect’s editor David Goodhart claimed that the investigation “decisively refutes the claim, often heard in the weeks after 7/7, that [one of the attackers, Mohammad Sidique] Khan had been a well-integrated British-Pakistani Muslim driven to angry despair by the war in Iraq.”
almost exclusively blames the tension between first and second-generation
British Muslims for Khan’s decision to kill himself
and other innocent civilians. Meanwhile,
While intergenerational conflict almost certainly plays a part in the radicalisation of a small minority of British Muslims, their socio-economic marginalisation also plays a crucial role. But these are only contributing factors when it comes to the few driven to violent action.
Few people give themselves to a cause for purely abstract or political reasons – scratch below the surface and there is invariably a personal motivation. From the suicide bomber who blows himself up because he can’t bear the indignity of unemployment and the daily humiliation of living under occupation, to the shunted lover who runs off and joins the French Foreign Legion, to the passionate anti-Aids campaigner who lost a loved one to that killer disease – in the right circumstances, the personal sublimates itself to the universal.
Crispin Black suggests that it is American
culture that makes American Muslims not desire to be disloyal, as opposed to
the case in
I would say it has more to do with the
differences in the circumstances of the two communities. A large proportion of
European Muslims are descendants of the manual and semi-skilled workers who
In America, a large percentage of Muslim and Arab immigrants are successful and well-to-do professionals whose relative wealth and education enables them to get on better in society and cushions them against the harshness of being at the bottom of the ladder, distrusted and feared.
Some find it hard to accept that anti-western terrorism is ‘blowback’, but these people are deceiving themselves. In physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In politics, this law of nature is distorted – either magnified or diminished – by relative might.
Thus, a small and weak country like
Since its easier and less emotionally
challenging to grasp something when it occurs to others, perhaps it would be worth
considering ‘blow back’ in a non-western context. In
One Islamist intellectual became so bitter and hate-filled at the torture he endured that he penned polemic works in prison which declared that all Muslim societies were ‘infidels’ and living in ‘Jahiliyyah
’, paving the way for the violent jihadists movement that threatened to tip Egypt over the edge in the 1990s.
His successor, Anwar el-Sadat, courted the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups to neutralise the power of the leftists and Nasserists who believed he was not a worthy successor to Nasser. When the Islamists started to oppose him, he cracked down hard on them, rounding up thousands, and eventually a radical splinter group assassinated him.
It’s not too late for Britain to take the wind out of the ‘blow back’ of its military misadventures, but it needs to act soon. Wisdom is far more effective than unreliable intelligence.
This year is the European year of intercultural dialogue and it is a golden opportunity for the European mainstream and the Muslim minority to have an honest and sober debate that goes beyond the symptoms and diagnoses the cause of the dis-ease.
This column appeared in The Guardian Unlimited’s Comment is Free section on 16 January 2008. Read the related discussion.
ă2008 K. Diab. Unless otherwise stated, all the content on this website is the copyright of Khaled Diab.