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Daniel Pipes: Britain's Homegrown Terrorists

Daniel Pipes, at frontpagemag.com (7-11-05):

[Mr. Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum. His website address is http://www.danielpipes.org. Click here for his HNN blog.]

In a confidential report, Young Muslims and Extremism, prepared jointly by the Home and Foreign offices in mid-2004 and presented to Prime Minister Tony Blair, we learn something about the inner thinking of the British government. Leaked to the Sunday Times of London, the report is now available in four parts in .pdf format at the newspaper's site.

Its goal is"to encourage moderate Muslim opinion to the detriment of extremism" and to that end proposes an"Operation Contest." Along the way, it contains much of interest in it, including these points:

  • "A number of extremist groups are actively recruiting young British Muslims" (pdf 1, p. 10).
  • These"extremist recruiters" are" circulating among university-based religious or ethnic societies" (pdf 1, p. 5; pdf 2, p. 10).
  • "By and large, most young extremists fall into one of two groups: well-educated undergraduates or with degrees and technical professional qualifications in engineering or IT; or under-achievers with few or no qualifications, and often a criminal background" (pdf 2, p. 9).
  • "Often disaffected lone individuals unable to fit into their community, will be attracted to university clubs based on ethnicity or religion, or be drawn to Mosques or preaching groups in prison through a sense of disillusionment with their current existence" (pdf 2, p. 12).
  • Islamist terrorists include"a significant number" who come from"liberal, non-religious Muslim backgrounds" or who converted to Islam in adulthood (pdf 2, p. 9).

The report's policy recommendations are also interesting, such as the one (from pdf 1, p. 8) urging the importance"to persuade the public and the media that Muslims are not the enemy within." It goes on to propose that the government"needs to look for opportunities to highlight Muslim success stories and examples of Muslim contributions to society at national and local level."

Besides that,"the term 'Islamic fundamentalism' is unhelpful and should be avoided, because some perfectly moderate Muslims are likely to perceive it as a negative comment on their own approach to their faith" (pdf 2, p. 2).

In general, the authors of Young Muslims and Extremism are too politically worried to understand the phenomenon they are contending with. Take the matter of Muslim individuals and organizations: if they are willing to mouth certain pieties, and not overtly challenge the existing order, that is good enough to consider them moderate. My particular favorite"moderate Muslim" is Hamza Yusuf (pdf 1, p. 13), for he explicitly has denied this appellation, as I documented on my weblog at"Hamza Yusuf Fails My 'Test'."

They assert as fact points that need thoughtful consideration:"A strong Muslim identity and strict adherence to traditional Muslim teachings are not in themselves problematic or incompatible with Britishness" (pdf 1, p. 9). One could fill a long and substantial seminar on this topic.

The point that most of all interested me, however, in reading Young Muslims and Extremism is where it draws on MI5 information to make this astonishing statement:

Intelligence indicates that the number of British Muslims actively engaged in terrorist activity, whether at home or abroad or supporting such activity, is extremely small and estimated at less than 1% (pdf 2, p. 9).

If one accepts the report's estimate (pdf 2, p. 5) that the Muslim population of Great Britain numbers 1.6 million, then up to 16,000"British Muslims actively engaged in terrorist activity."

"Extremely small"? Excuse me, but that number strikes me as an extremely large.

That the British authorities do not recognize that they should worry about thousands of terrorists in their midst is reason to worry what planet they inhabit. Their waffling, myopia, and general incompetence make one despair for their country.