Counter-Terrorism: Olympian Politics


July 11, 2012: So far this month British police have arrested 14 people on terrorism charges. Three have been charged with terrorism, mainly because the car they were caught in contained guns and bomb making materials. British police, intelligence, and counter-terrorism are particularly active right now because London is hosting the Olympic Games, which start on July 27th. Many Islamic terror organizations have threatened to carry out attacks during the Olympics and Britain has many residents who support that kind of violence.

The terrorism problems in Britain are worse than they appear. Until two years ago when the Labor party, which had ruled since 1997, lost power, the police were cautioned to be careful not to offend the sensibilities of Moslems in Britain while searching for terrorists. The Labor Party had been dependent on, and beholden to, the million strong Pakistani population in Britain. Labor had been reluctant to move too aggressively against pro-terrorist attitudes in the Pakistani community, although Labor did go after anyone identified as an Islamic terrorist (before or after carrying out an attack).

However, the counter-terrorism situation was more complicated than that. There have long been some disturbing attitudes among the Pakistani origin Britons when it came to Islamic terrorism. For example, two years after the 2005 Islamic terror attacks in London, an opinion survey revealed some 60 percent of British Moslems believed that Moslems were not responsible. Over 20 percent of British Moslems believed that the British government was behind those attacks, despite the positive identification of the attackers as three men of Pakistani descent and one a Jamaican who had converted to Islam.

Where did British Moslems get these ideas? Like most people everywhere, they get such information from mass media. But in the last two decades, cable TV news has become available for overseas audiences in many parts of the world. Thus migrants can move to the West, make lots more money, live better lives, and continue to get TV newscasts from the old country. As most web users now know, news media in different parts of the world report the same events very differently. In the Moslem world the news media likes to push the idea that all their economic and social problems are caused by the West, mainly the Christian West. The general idea is that there's this vast conspiracy by the West to keep the Moslems down and destroy Islam. Since most Moslem states are run by dictators or monarchs, there is often official support for this fantasy. It distracts the people from the real source of their problems. While many Moslems figure out that this myth is, well, a myth, they learn to keep quiet about it, lest they be condemned (and physically harmed) for being a "Western spy" or "unIslamic."

In the past migrants would change their attitudes as they were exposed to Western media (which has its own set of myths but is vastly more open to different ideas). No more. Moslem migrants get off the plane from the old country and within a short time, they are looking at the same newscasts they consumed back home. When they attempt to discuss world affairs with the locals, they quickly find a vast difference of opinions. Most Moslems recoil and retreat into an insular migrant mind set. This is why you have Moslems in places like Britain, or anywhere else in the West, clinging to old country myths, despite a lot of contradictory evidence confronting them daily.

Many Moslems do move away from these fantasies. Thus 40 percent of British Moslems acknowledged that Moslems were responsible for the July 7 attacks. But many of those respondents did not consider the Moslem world responsible. Moslems tend to migrate from parts of the world where civic responsibility is not taken as seriously as in the West. Islam, an Arabic word meaning "submission," has eroded the sense of personal responsibility over the centuries.

The children of immigrants have, historically, more rapidly adopted the attitudes prevalent where they live. But the satellite news stations make it easier for the kids to keep their heads back in the old country. And back there, visions of revenge against the West and support for Islamic terrorism, give many in the migrant communities murderous ideas or an inclination to support such violence.

The Labor government found that a policy of tolerance towards Islamic radicals within the Pakistani community kept most Pakistanis voting Labor. The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government is not beholden to the Britons of Pakistani origin and was more aggressive in cooperating with India and the U.S. to coerce Pakistan into cracking down on Islamic terror groups. There is now less reluctance to go after Islamic radicals in the British Pakistani community or scrutinize the 60,000 Pakistani origin Britons who travel to Pakistan each year. Even the Labor government was forced to cope with the fact that many of these visitors were going to the old country to receive terrorist training.

Labor handled these Islamic radicals carefully, spending huge amounts of money to monitor the activities of thousands of terrorism suspects but only making arrests when there was a near-certainty that a terrorist act was about to be carried out. Calls from the United States to be more active in rounding up terrorism suspects are now being heeded. The United States still considers Britain the main source of Islamic radicalism in the West but at least they now have a ruling party in Britain that agrees with that assessment and is willing to move more aggressively to do something about it. With the Olympics coming to London, these new counter-terror efforts will be put to the test.




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