British jihad attacks: nothing to do with Islam?

In the wake of the two bomb-rigged cars discovered in London and the flaming jeep that crashed into a Glasgow airport terminal, the terror threat level in Britain has been raised to critical. Authorities declined to consider the implications of evidence that the events in London and Glasgow were motivated by the ideology of Islamic jihad. Daud Abdullah, the Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), declared that the plots “can be the work of Muslims, Christians, Jews or Buddhists.” The new British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, appeared to agree, saying that new efforts had to be undertaken to win the “hearts and minds” of Muslims. “We have got to separate,” he added, “those great moderate members of our community from a few extremists who wish to practice violence and inflict maximum loss of life in the interests of a perversion of their religion.”

Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain, meanwhile, expressed exasperation at the fact that non-Muslims expected Muslims to be active in opposing terror activities within the Islamic community: “We are seething with anger about this,” he said – that is, about the idea that jihad plots should be seen as a challenge to the larger Islamic community to do more against terrorism, not about the jihad plots themselves. “As a community,” he said, “not only are we just as likely to be victims as anyone else, but we are also looked to in order to provide direction and in some respects take responsibility for this. We are sick of being defined as a community by terrorism and having to answer for it.”

Saeed’s anger was ironic in light of Brown’ statement. As the plots continued to be investigated over the weekend, no British officials were saying anything at all about the need for Muslims in Britain to redouble their efforts to teach against the jihad ideology of Islamic supremacism, to formulate new understandings of the Qur’an and Sunnah, rejecting the literal and mainstream legal interpretations of a large number of passages, to renounce any intention to impose Sharia in Britain at any time in the future, and to work much more closely with British authorities in order to root out jihadists from their ranks. In Britain, only the ex-jihadist Hassan Butt spoke more realistically about what needs to be done: “It isn’t enough for Muslims to say that because they feel at home in Britain they can simply ignore those passages of the Koran which instruct on killing unbelievers. By refusing to challenge centuries-old theological arguments, the tensions between Islamic theology and the modern world grow larger every day.”

The official silence about the Islamic element of the attacks was all the more curious in light of the revelation that British authorities were deeply concerned by the fact that the London and Glasgow plotters had no clear or readily discernable ties to terror groups: they were “off the radar.” One remarked: “If there is no trace then this means the terrorism situation in the UK is much worse than we have believed.” Indeed it is, because no Muslim group in the United Kingdom or elsewhere has drawn a distinction between themselves and the jihadists that is sufficiently sharp to prevent those jihadists from moving freely among the peaceful Muslims. They have not expelled jihadists from mosques, and they have not instituted comprehensive, compulsory programs to teach against the jihad ideology. And it is entirely possible for a peaceful Muslim to turn into a jihadist under the noses of authorities — as Mike Hawash and others have done in the U.S.

Until the British authorities are willing to face the fact that the plotters couldn’t just as well have been Buddhists, but rather arise from the Islamic community and base their actions upon Islamic principles, they will not be dealing with the root of this problem realistically, and we are going to see many more attacks. Butt stressed that Muslims and non-Muslims must “start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism.” Do Gordon Brown and the rest have the courage to do this?