6 June 2017 (Serifos, Greece) – Oh the utter hopelessness of political parties predictable reversion to type. Jeremy Corbyn has taken the traditional left-wing line of blaming foreign wars before calling for more public spending on the police. Theresa May has ramped up the right-wing rhetoric, declaring “enough is enough” and talking tough about harsher sentences and potential new offenses.
But can they both be right? And what of the argument being made that neither leader has addressed a real problem, which is that there are young men living in Britain today who feel so little connection with their fellow citizens that they are willing to blow themselves up in a crowded foyer in Manchester or drive a van into innocent people walking along London Bridge? Rachel Sylvester lays out this latter argument in The Times this morning as follows:
The truth is that all the longer sentences or extra police officers in the world will never stop somebody buying a knife and going on a rampage in the name of Allah. You have to prevent them wanting to do it in the first place.
There is growing evidence of a link between segregation, deprivation and extremism. According to an analysis by the Henry Jackson Society think tank, published in March, a tenth of Britain’s convicted Islamist terrorists came from just five heavily Muslim council wards in Birmingham. More than three quarters of Islamist-related offences were committed by people living in the poorest 50 per cent of neighbourhoods in England and almost half by individuals living in the most deprived 20 per cent. Dame Louise Casey’s recent review on integration highlighted the vicious circle of sectarianism and poverty, arguing that “the less integrated we are, the more vulnerable communities and individuals become to the divisive narratives and agendas of extremists and potentially the greater the likelihood becomes of hate crime, sectarian violence and terrorist attacks”. But — for different reasons — neither Mr Corbyn nor Mrs May is able or willing to confront the fatal consequences of social division.
With two days to go until the UK election, Sylvester’s position is the political parties are trying to fit the terror threat into their campaign messages: for Labor, the choice is “investment versus cuts”; for the Tories it’s “security or risk”. Both are missing the point, she says: “Whoever is elected prime minister must be ready not only to deal with the terrorist threat but also to confront the segregation and deprivation in which extremism thrives.”
I like the statement “buying a knife and going on a rampage in the name of Allah”. But I have some problems with her argument.. The barbaric attacks we have witnessed in recent times are not pleas for greater integration – they are entirely the opposite. The West is at war with an enemy whose supporters must be brought to account before we consider their welfare needs. Young girls, mothers, policemen and newly wed couples – blown up, maimed, stabbed and run down in the street – didn’t make life hard for the jihadists. We are making excuses.
Salman Abedi … the Manchester bomber … studied business management at Salford University and provided IT support to his local mosque so I really cannot tag him as educationally deprived or challenged. His mother was a nuclear scientist. He had enough money to travel abroad including Germany and Libya. This does not seem to constitute a deprived background. As we have seen in the past highly intelligent and educated individuals are quite capable of betraying their country. Anthony Blunt anyone?
But as for blaming foreign wars and misguided attempts to address terrorism … hoo, boy, blame all around. UK buddy Anthony Hollis frames it like this:
For May, the genesis for any deficiencies in her period from 2010 to 2015 as Home Secretary starts with Labour’s Tony Blair and his adherence to all things GW Bush, which led to the Iraq War that so destroyed the Middle East, leading to ISIS and what we now have to face in home-grown and imported terrorism. The like of which we have never seen.
Thirteen years ended which brought in the Coalition government of Cameron and Clegg and gross misfeasance. Something that seems often to escape our memories today. And Osborne, all-powerful and in charge of austerity under which all Ministers, including the Home Secretary, were pawns. Followed by a year of Cameron in sole charge of the most stupid act of my life in giving us the referendum of last year that he couldn’t afford to lose, followed by Cameron jumping ship.
Ten months later May has been trying to run the country and steer us through the biggest decision of our lives – to leave the EU. The most thankless task any PM, particularly one as unprepared as May, has had to face since WW2 and the years of austerity that followed.
During that time someone appears to have screwed up in disastrous fashion in allowing a known candidate for acts of terrorism to escape the proper attention that was needed, particularly after the authorities (the police and MI5) had been made aware of a potential threat from members of the public. Twice. Our pathetic intelligence services have been preparing to combat the wrong types of attacks.
I have just returned from a trip to the Middle East, my third this year. Much of it centered on the effects of the 50 years of Israeli occupation of Palestine which included the launch of a new book Kingdom of Olives and Ash, a collection of essays by celebrated international writers bearing witness to the human cost of those fifty years.
But I also spent a lot of time discussing the “new new” of terror: the clash, on home turf, of civilized society versus primitive society and all their related principles and standards. As most of my cohorts opined “civilized society has to win this fight or it will be submerged. Europe has to rigorously control its immigration, or it will lose the fight”. With respect, there are 4 million Muslims in Britain with 3,000 active jihadis and a further 23,000 recorded. Restricting immigration is coming a little late in the day with such huge numbers in Britain. We already have a pan-European insurgency on our hands and we had better take action on internal as well as external fronts. Most members of the intelligence community I spoke with were of the same track: certain freedoms must die. There is no choice. It’s too late now. We need to halt the immigration of all those with terrorist links, electronically tag them or expel them, impose travel restrictions and prevent them preaching messages of hate as well. There is no other solution. Otherwise Europe will continue to be dotted with floral tributes to the dead and memorial concerts.
And granted, I work from a deficit. I do not live in the UK and therefore I surely miss many nuances. But I can think of no current UK politician capable of getting to grips with guiding the country through Brexit and radical Islamic terrorism. In the current crop of pols I hear only soundbites and platitudes.
I struggle with religion. But then again, I am an atheist. However I know it is not our responsibility to cure the problems of the Muslim faith. They have more than enough mullahs and their followers to advise any and all. We are not responsible for the murderous intents of the disaffected. But damn – of the three main monotheisms, only Muslims appear to be susceptible to murderous radicalization (yes, Christians, I know; you had your “time” in the fire). These young men in our European metropolitan areas, currently turning their warped theology into violence, merely reflect much larger numbers of orthodox, radicalized, murderous and even genocidal Muslims across the Middle East. The problem is that we imported these nutters into Europe and now it appears, we’re stuck with them. If certain freedoms must die, so be it.