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July 25, 2005

Denial - It's not Just a River in Egypt

Marc at American Future excerpts a Guardian commentary by Osama Saeed, spokesman of the Muslim Association of Britain. The core of Mr. Saeed's argument is that fighting terrorism is Britain is Tony Blair's job, not the job of the Muslim community.

The position of Muslim organisations and mosques has been consistent for years. Killing civilians is murder, and a crime in Islam. We have consistently said that Muslims must help the police to track down those responsible.

This is why I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now. It's a tacit admission of negligence that I simply do not accept. The prime minister has of course welcomed this attitude. Indeed he has led from the front, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Muslims, laying the responsibility solely on us. "In the end, this can only be taken on and defeated by the community itself," he said last week.


By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves himself of responsibility. Muslims are not in denial of our duties, but who are we meant to be combating? The security services had no idea about all that has gone on in London, so how are we as ordinary citizens to do better?


Unfortunately, a handful of individuals have eschewed this to carry out the attacks in London. You can regard these acts as part of Islam, or as an irrational reaction to injustice taking place in the world. If it's the former you have to explain why this started only 12 years ago and not 1,400. To us it is evident that it is the latter, so we're batting the ball back in your court, Mr Blair.

The commentary is full of denial, finger pointing, tu quoque and so forth. It's not so much an apologia (though there's some of that) but a complete and utter deflection of blame away from Islam and Muslims. And that's OK, in one sense: Saeed is correct that it is in part Tony Blair's job to fight terrorism in Britain. It is also every Briton's job, because every person in a society - at least a free society - has a stake in defending that society.

Now, Saeed may simply be saying that Blair's responsibility is greater, as the society's elected leader, than that of any particular subject of the Crown. That's fine. The alternative, of course, is that Saeed is saying that Muslims are not inherently British nationals, even if they've acquired the status in a legal sense, and therefore not bound to defend the society.

But Saeed should be careful what he wishes for, because there are three options open to the British government: surrender, accommodation of the terrorists, and elimination of the terrorists. But given that the jihadis' goal is elimination of the society, there is a certain point at which accommodation is simply no longer possible, and only surrender or fighting are possible. Assuming that the government does not go very far in accommodation of terrorists before fighting, a safe assumption in Blair's case, then the only two real alternatives are surrender or fighting.

Britain is not going to surrender: there'll always be an England. But how will the British government fight against terrorists hiding in Britain's Muslim community? Most likely, the British will make a determined effort to tackle the problem as criminal, by finding and arresting known jihadis and their enablers. But that will always be a reactive strategy, because it is always possible to hide some, not all, small cells, particularly if the local Muslim population is sheltering those cells. This implies that attacks will continue as long as the treatment of the attacks is as reactive law enforcement.

It's possible, of course, that the jihadis could run out of agents in Britain. But that is unlikely: Marc has an analysis of a survey of Muslims in Britain that suggests that as many as 100,000 of them at least tacitly support the attacks. If even 1% of these tacit supporters - 0.25% of Muslims in Britain - are willing to actively aid or carry out attacks, that still leaves 1000 potential terrorists. Given an average of 4 attackers and, say, 10 supporters (bomb makers, safe house operators, financiers, etc) per attack, and a death/capture rate of, say, 8 terrorists per attack, somewhere around 125 attacks could be made before the jihadis exhausted their pool, and that assumes no one coming in from outside or being recruited given the inevitably greater interference from police. At an average of 20 Britons killed per attack, that's some 2500 dead Britons over a period of a few years. And those are all pretty conservative numbers: odds are you could multiply those final numbers by a factor of 5, given the results in Iraq and Israel, and be nearer the mark.

But treating the attacks as law enforcement is not a stable state with casualty rates like that: no free government can stay in office with its subjects being regularly killed. And the pattern of jihadi activity everywhere it's taken hold is to grow for a while, making statements that are ignored; then to begin small attacks; then to escalate those attacks. At some point, British tolerance with attacks will be surpassed; then what?

Then, it becomes a military fight, and the British will go after not just those who have committed or attempted or helped commit attacks, but those who are likely to commit or attempt attacks. At that point, a very easy method to justify is deportation of the population thought to be most risky. That would be an early step: the English have a backbone of steel, and an immense national pride, and will do anything necessary to defend England, when it comes right down to it. And the community that will be affected by those actions is Mr. Saeed's community, the one he says bears no responsibility to help. (If he's lucky, it will be the British government coming after him: the Brits after all invented football hooliganism, and I would take the British young men over the Muslim community, if it came to a fight.)

Well, I suppose it's up to Britain's Muslims: responsibility now or suffering later.

One paragraph in the article deserves to be fisked point by point:

Mr Blair has attacked the idea of the caliphate - the equivalent of criticising the Pope.

You know, if people were killing innocent civilians in the name of the Pope, I'd be criticizing them pretty strongly. The caliphate is an idea, though, not a person: people are killing to bring about the caliphate. A more reasonable comparison would be terrorists trying to turn Britain into a Catholic nation. Ask the IRA how that went.
He has also remained silent in the face of a rightwing smear campaign against such eminent scholars as Sheikh al-Qaradawi - a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy.

You mean this guy? Yeah, he's a moderate all right, working to reconcile us to acceptance of unequal rights for women (including ritual female genital mutilation), the establishment of a theocracy, and the killing of homosexuals. He's against democracy, and thinks that terrorism is just fine, as long as it's against non-Islamic states. Big moderate, yeah. Now why would PM Blair defend such a person? Why would any person who loves freedom and self-determination defend such a person? Why do you, Mr. Saeed, defend him?
Such actions and omissions fuel the suspicion that we are witnessing a war on Islam itself.

No, but it's certainly the case that there's a danger of that. If, for example, organizations like the Muslim Association of Britain keep telling us to trust that Islam is a peaceful religion, so Muslims of course wouldn't attack innocent civilians, and so we should ignore the evidence of our lying eyes, there will come a point where this will become a war against Islam. And at that point, I would not give Islam a snowball's chance in Hell: have you read anything about how the West fights when it feels its survival is at stake? Or, heck, when it just thinks it would be nice to live in Oklahoma (ask the American aboriginals about that one).
If there is any thought that Muslims are fine but their religion can take a hike then Mr Blair should know that we will never be in the corner, in the spotlight, losing our religion.

If Islam does not reform, and work actively to eliminate the terrorists who kill in the name of its god, then it is only a question of time until Islam is destroyed. Your call, Mr. Saeed, no matter what you think. If you and your fellow "moderates" are unwilling to accommodate us, to worry about our street opinion, to control your worst elements, then it is a matter of time before we will do what is necessary.

I'm sure that some future Prime Minister would issue an appropriate apology.

UPDATE: And via Mark in Mexico, read this editorial from Youssef Ibrahim. That is what we need to here from Saeed and his ilk.

Posted by jeff at July 25, 2005 3:13 PM

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