Islamic terrorism more than triples in 5 years in Great Britain
Britain is losing the fight against extremism
The authorities are wrong to think that the power of reason is enough to rehabilitate fanatics
For the second time in just over two months, terrorism on Britain’s streets has descended into lethal farce. On Sunday Sudesh Amman, an Islamist who had just been released from prison even though he was considered so dangerous that he was being shadowed by armed police officers, seized a knife from a shop in Streatham and stabbed two people before those officers shot him dead.
Last November Usman Khan, an Islamist released from prison 11 months earlier, murdered two people at a conference that he was attending on London Bridge organised by a prisoners’ rehabilitation project.
This provoked much head-shaking about the risks of letting terrorists out of jail too early and accepting too easily that they’d been deradicalised. Now, some are saying we can’t go on like this.
Easier said than done. For what’s required is a step-change in attitudes which Britain has been unwilling to make.
The problem is not just that scores of other Islamists have been released from jail, with many more due to be released soon. Keeping them inside for longer won’t change the fact that when eventually they are released they may well still be dangerous.
For all the evidence suggests that deradicalisation programmes both inside and outside prison are singularly ineffectual. That’s not just because of the chaos in the under-resourced prison and probation system. It’s because of a conceptual error: the belief that the power of reason can be used against fanatics who believe in killing infidels and “martyring” themselves in the name of God, and wear mocked-up bomb-belts to encourage the police to kill them.
In a BBC radio programme a few days ago Ian Acheson, who conducted a review of extremism in prisons, explored why deradicalisation was proving such a failure. Prisoners were manipulating such programmes by parroting the jargon of moderation and “healthy identity” that they knew officials were desperate to hear.
Most tellingly, according to Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of the counterextremist group Faith Matters, prison imams were frightened of charismatic and aggressive prisoners who sometimes seemed to know more than they did about Islamic concepts.
That last point should surely give us pause. Islam’s history features holy war and conquest, punctuated over the centuries by attempts at enlightenment and reformation that were suppressed. So could it be that these charismatic prisoners, who further radicalise other Muslim inmates, are more faithful to Islam than the hapless imams sent in to persuade them of the error of their ways?
Within the Muslim world there are different interpretations of Islam, some of which are peaceful and apolitical. And it should never be forgotten that Muslims are the most numerous victims of Islamist extremism. In Britain, many are cultural Muslims with scant interest in religion at all.
Nevertheless, Islamist extremism is an interpretation based on the literal reading of religious texts and propagated by the most powerful religious authorities in the Islamic world.
Yet in Britain and much of the West, we persist in claiming that such extremism is a perversion of Islam, whereas to its followers it is a holy duty that trumps all secular values.
Since this threat emerged in Britain more than three decades ago, the establishment has refused to acknowledge the danger inherent in what these people believe, not just in what they do. So it lets prisoners out of jail too early, it’s easily duped over its deradicalisation programmes, and it denounces anyone who criticises the Muslim world as Islamophobic.
It’s vital that we safeguard the majority of Muslims who are loyal, law-abiding British citizens. But it’s also important to recognise that a troubling number of British Muslims nod along with the goals, if not the tactics, of Islamist extremists. A Policy Exchange poll in 2016 revealed that more than 40 per cent of British Muslims wanted to see at least some aspects of Sharia in force in the UK.
In 1971, the home secretary Reginald Maudling caused outrage when he said IRA attacks couldn’t be eliminated but only reduced to an “acceptable level”. It’s beginning to look as if that defeatist mindset is being repeated, through cowardice and error, towards a far greater danger.
To begin to confront that threat properly, the government should admit what is staring it in the face: for the terrorists, we are the infidels in a holy war that will be fought to the bitter end. It is time that those states which still fund the most poisonous anti-western preachers took responsibility for the hatred they are spreading and time we shamed them into stopping it.
Liberalism’s flaw is that it believes reason is the antidote to all problems, including a religious death-cult. “We can’t go on like this” means our own society taking steps which won’t seem very liberal — be they tougher sentences or new restrictions on hate preachers.
But if a society is so liberal it refuses to defend itself properly, it will vanish.