The Brussels bombings:  no, Islamist terrorism is not a response to a western war on Islam (with clarification of 27 March)

Western governments, including our own, have made plenty of mistakes in the middle east and the Balkans since the blundering NATO attack on Yugoslavia in 1999 and the aggression against Iraq four years later, but it is wrong and dangerously misleading to blame these gross western policy failures for Islamist terrorist attacks on western cities.  The worst act of terrorism against the west so far has been al-Qaeda’s attack on New York and Washington DC in 2001, forever labelled 9/11, and that occurred before the western military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.  Before 9/11 the biggest western military interventions were actually in support of Muslim communities and against predominantly Christian forces that were oppressing them – in Bosnia and Kosovo: hardly examples of a western ‘war against Islam’.

There seems to be an incurable itch affecting mainly leftish observers of the international scene in the west (who include myself, although I’m not afflicted by this particular itch) to blame ourselves for the misery and suffering caused by the wickedness and criminality of others.  To scratch the itch, these compulsive penitents urge a change of attitudes and policies — not those of the criminal terrorists, but our own.  An admission of western guilt for the phenomenon of international terrorism is demanded, including the grave western offence of ‘Islamophobia’.  The only cause of Islamist violence that it is forbidden to mention is Islam itself, and the effects of Islam on the behaviour of some, but not all, of its adherents.  Passionate adherence to particular religious sects, Christian (Protestant and Catholic), Jewish, Hindu and many more, has been a major cause of man’s inhumanity to man (more often man’s than woman’s) down the ages; it just so happens that extreme forms of Islam are currently the principal causes of international violence and murder.  The idea that a solution to the problem of Islamist terrorism is to be found in a change of our own attitudes and policies is both perverse and naïve.  There are many powerful arguments for various changes in western policy in the middle east and elsewhere, but putting an end to international terrorism is not one of them.

A friend recently passed on to me an article in Ceasefire magazine by a writer who exemplifies many of the psychological inhibitions and compulsions that I describe.  Here are some extracts from the article, with my comments.

Deep down, I knew that as long as we bury our heads in the sand, as long as we do not face a problem that seems more existential by the day, what happened in Brussels on Tuesday, will happen, again and again, more ferociously, everywhere in the world. I think of it like I think of global warming. If you do not try to understand where it is coming from, and try to fight it, at its roots, try to make the sacrifices it requires and the changes it needs, the storms will become more fierce and the hurricanes and the tsunamis will destroy everything in their paths.

So we have to understand it and to “fight” it, presumably not militarily or physically, just by reasoned argument.  But passionately held religious belief is notoriously proof against reasoned argument:  otherwise our churches, synagogues and mosques would have gone out of business long ago. Worse still, it is argued that it is we in the west who must “make the sacrifices [terrorism] requires”. What sacrifices are these?  Must we sacrifice our values of justice, tolerance and personal liberties, and substitute the cruel injustice of Sharia law, in order to placate those who threaten to kill us because our western values threaten their religion?

Despite the rage that we are feeling today, we must try to think rationally and try to understand, which is very different from condoning, what led them to commit such terrible and heinous crimes. It will not help anyone, and it will definitely not save future lives, to be hateful ourselves, to ask for revenge and demand ‘an eye for an eye’. The perpetuation of the cycle of violence has to stop. The racist rhetoric of “they do not love life the way we do”, is utter nonsense and needs to be carefully refuted.

This is a wonderful example of tilting at imaginary windmills.  No-one in the west, bar a handful of psychotics and criminals on the distant right, is asking for “revenge” against Muslims or advocating a “cycle of violence” against them. The policy of western governments everywhere is to denounce anti-Muslim actions and attitudes, to represent Islamist terrorism as a perversion of genuine Islam, and to seek official Muslim leaders’ support in eradicating violence, not in practising violence in revenge for Islamist violence.  I have never heard it said that “[Muslims] do not love life the way we do”, but to call such a statement ‘racist’ is nonsense. In fact the phenomenon of suicide bombing does imply an attitude to death, and belief in an afterlife in which the indiscriminate murder of non-Muslims is rewarded by unlimited access to virgins, that differ sharply from the attitudes to death of the great majority of ordinary people in the west, probably including many Muslims.  To try to suppress the expression of this obvious truth by calling it ‘racist’ is unacceptable.

What is certain is that the people in power, despite telling us that they want to protect us, actually care very little about the safety of their citizens. The response of the Belgian authorities following the Charlie Hebdo and the Paris attacks was to put thousands of soldiers on the streets and raise the security alert. Despite this, and the massive and pretty much unlimited funding that the intelligence services enjoy, two of the most obvious targets for terrorists, an airport and the metro system, were hit. It can only be called what it is, an utter failure on their parts, both in their overall strategy and in the specific response they adopted to “defeat terror”.

It’s difficult to believe that a rational adult can have written this rubbish, and that even the most dementedly ideological organ can have agreed to publish it.

The terrible crimes they committed may have made sense to them, and to their twisted vision of the world, but I struggle to believe that anyone could kill another human being for fun, for the sake of it. Their journey from disfranchised youth to murderous terrorists is one that we need to study, seriously, step by step, to move forward and hope for a better future for society as a whole.  … If you look at what happened in France and Belgium, if you study all the footage and read all the media reports and analyses, you will realise most of them focus on “security”, “militarisation” “hitting back” and “war”. Only a few are concentrating on what the terrorists said or wrote. Why did they do it? What did they say while doing it? If you read these … you will realise that all the attackers are talking the same language. They were politically educated out of the destruction of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, the drones bombing in Pakistan, Yemen, the torture of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and the colonisation and occupation of Palestine. While most identified themselves as Muslims, they also said they were horrified by the ideological war the West has carried out against what it wrongfully calls “the Muslim world”. This is the main motivator behind them becoming killers… 

 No-one is suggesting that Islamist terrorists kill “for fun”, although the hope of reward in a supposed afterlife, a kind of posthumous fun, does seem to be a recurrent motive.  As for the need to study “seriously, step by step” (what does that mean?  not frivolously, not all at once?) what causes young people to become terrorists, that exhortation is surely redundant: this is a major subject for study and possible explanation all over the western world.  Anyway, we already have a pretty clear idea of the basis for the Islamic extremists’ violent hostility to the west and their passionate desire to damage it – i.e. us.  They hate many aspects of western culture as it has evolved in recent years, rightly regarding them as not just incompatible with Islamic teaching and values, but also as a direct threat to them:  the sexualisation of western culture apparent in (e.g.) its advertising, literature, entertainment and women’s clothes; the belief in gender equality (increasingly replacing the assumptions underlying male domination of women) and respect for gays and other practitioners of variants on traditional sexual relationships, including sex workers; the steady erosion of religious belief and growth of indifference or hostility to organised religions (not just Islam);  the inherent frivolity of pop music and the titillating character of some styles of dancing; the prevalence of alcohol and other drugs; decline of respect for the old and for religious authority; freedom of speech and of the press that licenses insults to venerated religious icons, both personal and literary, such as the Prophet and the Koran, Christ and the Bible; and acceptance of intermarriage between different religious and racial communities, which progressively weakens the coherence of each community and the authority of its traditional leaders.  Islamists rightly fear that the magnetic attraction for young people and others all over the world of these features of western culture pose an existential threat to the practice of Islam and to the authority of Muslim leaders, so grave a threat, indeed, that resistance to their spread by all available means, including the mass murder of ‘innocent’ practitioners of this infidel decadence, is not only justified but actually obligatory.  No deep research is required to confirm any of this.  And a vital but little noticed corollary of it is that there is nothing that the west can do to satisfy these Muslim objections to so many aspects of our culture:  the possibility of compromise over them is zero.  We do what we can to encourage the assimilation of Muslims into our wider community, but since Islam encompasses a whole way of life and not just a set of religious beliefs, the practical difficulties of assimilation are necessarily formidable;  and Islamists naturally resist assimilation as a threat to their religion and to the authority of their leaders.

Islamists and many other more moderate Muslims do of course object to what they regard as unwarranted military attacks by western powers on Muslims in, for example, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other parts of Africa, and Syria, which impinge on the widely held and inherently creditable sentiment that all Muslims belong to the same community, the Ummah, and that therefore any attack on some Muslims is an attack on them all.  It is relatively easy to exploit these strong feelings of indignation in order to aggravate anti-western sentiment and to recruit young Muslims to the cause of jihad and ultimately of murderous terrorism, even suicide in the cause.  But it does not follow from this that western governments have a duty to change their middle east policies and actions, if they are necessary and justified on other grounds, in order to appease Muslim objections to them and in the hope of reducing the risk of terrorist atrocities in their own cities.  Appeasement of what amounts to blackmail is almost always doomed to failure.  In any case, a western decision to take or not to take military action against, for example, an Islamist movement such as ISIS in Iraq and Syria can have no effect whatever on the real roots of Islamist terrorism, namely Muslim objections to the fundamental features of western culture described above, objections with which obviously no compromise is possible.

What we need is a total, radical and deep rethinking of the way we see society, of how we see each other within it, of who makes decisions on our behalf. In short, a spiritual and philosophical revolution is what it required…   It is also time to look at the policies of European governments towards immigrant youth, who are very often, from the earliest age, vilified for every problem their societies face. We need to challenge our governments and the decision-makers every step of the way. For our own sake.

Where is the evidence for the astonishing assertion that European governments pursue a conscious policy of “vilifying immigrant youth… for every problem [our] societies face”?  What kind of “spiritual and philosophical revolution” on the part of western society and culture is being demanded here?  It’s hard to resist the suspicion that underlying these prescriptions is the old familiar itch to blame our own culture and history for all the ills that beset and challenge us, with the necessary implication that it’s up to us to abandon our fundamental values in the vain hope of appeasing and placating those who hate them because of the threat that they pose to their own mediaeval doctrines, and accordingly believe themselves to be justified in killing us on a grand and growing scale. 

Is this ‘Islamophobia’?  Certainly not.  Islamists who espouse mass murder and mayhem as a just response to western culture are a small and unrepresentative minority of Muslims world-wide.  But the article in Ceasefire magazine, and so many similar commentaries, reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the real motives of the Islamists for wishing to attack us and the misguided nature of the response to terrorism that they consequently advocate.  Such misunderstandings, and such misguided prescriptions for our response, only aggravate the threat they pose to the security of our society. The west has been responsible for plenty of costly and murderous crimes around the world over the centuries, without the need to invent yet more by blaming terrorist atrocities on our own societies when in sober fact we have no responsibility whatever for them.  We need to support our police and intelligence services in seeking to detect and pre-empt terrorist crime and criminals, not to apologise for them or invent excuses for them.

Footnote (27 March 2016): I am mortified to discover from a friend’s private email that my blog post (above) is open to misinterpretation on at least two counts — obviously in both cases the result of my own lack of clarity.  The first relates to my catalogue of aspects of western culture to which some Islamists take literally violent objection: i.e., the list beginning “the sexualisation of western culture…”.  I have been castigated for seeming to lump gay people in with sex workers by including them all in the same list, and for implying that same-sex partnerships are not “traditional”.  I should have made it clear, or clearer, that I regard the items on my list as having only one thing in common, namely their rejection by some Muslims as incompatible with and a threat to their own religion and culture.  Some of these aspects of our culture deserve our pride and approval, such as full equality of respect for all kinds of partnerships and sexual orientations, freedom of speech, and gender equality.  Other items, such as the over-sexualisation of many aspects of western life, alcoholism and drug addiction, are obviously negative and to be deplored.  The inclusion of the negative and the positive in the same list in no way implies equating them.  I am all for same-sex marriages and partnerships if people want them, and in mentioning them in the same breath as “‘variants on traditional sexual relationships”, I was referring only to relationships that were regarded until relatively recently in most western societies as legally, morally, religiously or aesthetically unacceptable, but which are now generally regarded as normal parts of the human condition.  Secondly, I evidently need to make it clear that in writing of western “acceptance of intermarriage between different religious and racial communities, which progressively weakens the coherence of each community and the authority of its traditional leaders”, I strongly welcome intermarriage between people of different racial, religious and national backgrounds, precisely because it weakens the coherence of exclusive racial or religious communities whose persistence is an obstacle to their members’ assimilation into our western society, and because it undermines the authority of those communities’ leaders who too often have a vested interest in keeping their members fenced off from the language and culture of the country in which they or their parents or grandparents have come to live, and in perpetuating some of the retrograde aspects of the culture of their country of origin. As the product myself of the intermarriage of a parent of Polish-Jewish ancestry with a gentile parent with German Lutheran (and several other) roots, I have always loved the lyrics of the old Blue Mink song, which rightly says, among other excellent prescriptions, that –

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world and all it’s got
And keep it stirring for a hundred years or more
And turn out coffee coloured people by the score.

Amen, or rather hear, hear, to that!


9 Responses

  1. Thanks for this important piece.

    “What we need is a total, radical and deep rethinking of the way we see society, of how we see each other within it, of who makes decisions on our behalf. In short, a spiritual and philosophical revolution is what it required…”

    An impossibly stupid ignorant undemocratic sentence, written (of course) by a hard Leftist who hangs out with Chomsky. That’s exactly what the most deranged Islamists and ISIS/ISIL/Daesh demand and seek to impose.

    Why do people who emit such nonsense assume that if there is a ‘total, radical deep rethinking of the way we see society’, the outcome will be better or even pleasant?

    *swoons in despair*

  2. Brian says:

    Brian writes:  I’m grateful for your comment, Charles.  We seem to be in complete agreement at last!  Just to be clear:  the paragraph in quotation marks in your comment is of course taken from the article in Ceasefire magazine which I have tried to deconstruct and demolish in my blog post as dangerously misguided.  I have never hung out with Chomsky!

  3. David Campbell says:

    Wonderful eloquence, Brian.

    That said, I have some sympathy with the sandal-wearing, corduroy-trousered, bleeding-heart liberal you excoriate. Not much, but you too exaggerate. Outrage with the West is not, surely, entirely an existential matter? Long before 9/11 we found it all but impossible to be even-handed over Palestine. This, I think, has been an underlying cancer, exacerbated many times over by the other Western blunders you describe. Recognising this need not be dismissed as an exercise in masochistic self-flagellation. Nor need it involve a total, radical, deep rethinking of the way we see society. We could start by trying to correct some of the petty abuses, such as insensitive stop and search operations, or pontificating about the Koran (à la Blair), or expecting teenagers to listen respectfully to grey bearded, “moderate”elders.

  4. Phil says:

    Curses – I’ve just written a very long comment and had it disappear into the ether, thanks to a glitch in the comment verification software. I don’t suppose it’s been caught in a virtual sink trap anywhere? Anyway, I’m not inclined to spend the next ten minutes rekeying it from memory; I may come back later.

    Brian writes: Phil, I am very sorry about this mishap. It happens to everyone sooner or later (not only to those trying to post comments on this blog) and it’s always deeply frustrating. I have searched all the folders in which your long comment might conceivably been automatically saved, but I’m afraid without success. I’m asking my IT guru who manages this website for me to see if he can identify and eliminate any bug in the relevant software, but my suspicion is that it’s just another example of the innate perversity of electronic communication. I don’t need to tell you that the only precaution one can take against having one’s deathless prose disappearing inexplicably into a black hole is to keep saving it into some handy backup vessel such as Notepad or even Word, from which it can easily be retrieved in case of need. (I’m hastily saving this as I write.) I just hope that in spite of everything you will find the time and energy to write your comment, or at worst a précis of it, once again and post it here, saving it repeatedly in the process!

  5. Rob says:

    This is a seriously persuasive article. However, you write:

    “The west has been responsible for plenty of costly and murderous crimes around the world over the centuries, without the need to invent yet more by blaming terrorist atrocities on our own societies when in sober fact we have no responsibility whatever for them”.

    Really? but by your own admission:

    “Islamists and many other more moderate Muslims do of course object to what they regard as unwarranted military attacks by western powers on Muslims in, for example, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other parts of Africa, and Syria…”

    Out of the billion or so “moderate Muslims” come seriously dangerous factions hell bent on revenge.  Moderates “object” (an odd choice of word in this context); angry young radicals rage – react in blind fury.  Nothing new here?

    Islam is at war with itself. Paris and Brussels with perhaps more to come are collateral damage. No amount of increased intelligence can keep us entirely safe.

    David Campbell writes “Long before 9/11 we (the West) found it all but impossible to be even-handed over Palestine”. So how about the Khartoum Resolution for even-handedness: “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel”. Be reasonable David, and if you can’t be reasonable then try a bit of balance. There are usually conflicting narratives.

  6. robin fairlie says:

    I agree in principle with the message, Brian, but it is inadequate to suggest (as, no doubt unintentionally, you do) that if none of the post-9/11 Western idiocies had happened, we would find ourselves in much the same difficulty with Islamist terrorism as we now do. Western malfeasance did not cause 9/11, or the initial phenomenon of al Quaida, but there is surely little doubt that the ability of its successors to appeal to a significant proportion of Muslim youths has been enhanced a thousand-fold by the blunders of the West. Sure, the desire of Islamist fanatics to attack and destroy Western (and competing Islamic) societies is something we are no way responsible for, nor able to combat by re-examining our ways of life, or any other mad recipe. Nevertheless, we have brought upon ourselves, by our own ill-considered actions, the situation where we are confronted not just by a small group of crazy fanatics hiding out in Afghanistan, but by substantial numbers of disaffected members of our own communities, many (if not most) of whom could never have been recruited without (in particular) Iraq. The fact is we have our own crazies (Bush) and sycophants (Blair); what we need is not – as you rightly say – a reconsideration of our own fundamental beliefs and values, but a return to policies which reflect these beliefs and values.

  7. Brian says:

    Brian writes:

    In reply to David Campbell:  Thanks. I agree with much of what you say — indeed, some of it echoes my original post. I’m not sure what you think I have exaggerated, or what you mean by your reference to “Outrage with the West … not, surely, [being] entirely an existential matter”.  I certainly don’t think that the challenge to the west posed by Islamic terrorism is an existential threat, i.e. I reject the assertion often made that terrorism is a threat to our way of life or to our existence as independent sovereign states.  It’s obviously to be taken seriously, like any outbreak of major crimes, but it’s a matter for the police and the intelligence and security authorities, not a justification for suspending our basic liberties and rights or for changing our policies if they are otherwise sound.  ISIS (or Daesh) does represent a significant up-grading of the threat level, because it occupies territory, acts like a government in some ways, and has been able in consequence to recruit supporters from western countries whose ability to mount attacks in western cities either on their return or through their friends and relatives at home is obviously a worry.  But it seems extremely unlikely that ISIS control of territory in Iraq and Syria will be allowed to continue for very much longer and we should not exaggerate the threat that it poses in the medium or long term. It’s the only element in international terrorism that obviously calls for a western military response, and it’s getting one.

    I do however agree with the Islamists that the western way of life and its global attractiveness, especially to young people who are prevented from sharing it, does represent an ‘existential’ threat to Islam both as a set of religious beliefs and as a social and political programme, with which it is largely (but not wholly) incompatible.

    Please also see my response to Rob and Robin, below.

    In reply to Rob and Robin:  Once again, I agree with much of what you both say, and am grateful for it.  I acknowledged unambiguously in my post that blundering western military interventions in Muslim countries have easily been exploited by Islamist extremists to whip up indignation on the part of Muslims in western countries and thus not only to foster support for terrorist attacks in the west but also to aid recruitment of supporters from the west to take part in ISIS’s military campaign in Iraq and Syria (on which please see my response to David Campbell above).  My purpose was not to deny or side-step any of that, but to reject the inferences often drawn from it that (a) western military interventions have caused Islamist terrorist attacks on western cities, (b) if we stopped our military activity in the middle east, such as bombing ISIS, terrorist attacks on us would cease, or (c) since our middle east policies arouse such violent opposition among some Muslims both locally and at home, we should abandon them in favour of new policies of which militant Muslims might approve, even if existing policies are otherwise sound and successful (I don’t say that they all are, of course).  IOW, if we are to change our policies and actions in respect of Muslim countries, there need to be solid reasons for changing them other than the fact that Muslim terrorists and their sympathisers object to them.  I don’t think any of you would seriously disagree with that.

    On Robin’s querying the implication of my post that we would still be facing an Islamist terrorist threat even if there had been no western military interventions in Muslim countries, I would just remind him and others of the point in my post: the worst atrocity committed by Muslim terrorists against any western cities (so far) was 9/11, which occurred before any of the western military interventions that have aroused such strong feelings:  apart of course from the western interventions in Bosnia and Yugoslavia (in connection with Kosovo), both of them undertaken in support of Muslims, not against them.

    Please also see the clarification that I have today added to my post as a footnote.  Some of it may be controversial.

  8. Phil says:

    Once more into the comment box…

    I’ve got a few points in response to the original post, but first I’d like to pull this out of Brian’s restatement of his position, or rather the position he’s objecting to:

    (a) western military interventions have caused Islamist terrorist attacks on western cities, (b) if we stopped our military activity in the middle east, such as bombing ISIS, terrorist attacks on us would cease

    I don’t think it’s a semantic quibble to object to the word ’cause’. If we believe in free will, there is (strictly speaking) no cause and effect in human affairs, only reasons for acting. The question then is whether Western military interventions are

    the only reason why IS attacks us
    the main reason
    one of a number of reasons or
    not a reason at all

    Also, whether Western military interventions are

    the only reason why people are joining IS

    This is at least as important a question as the first one; rather a high proportion of new recruits to IS end up dead or deserting, so the organisation needs a continuing supply of new recruits in order to function. If we could crack that one, IS might not lay down its arms, but it could well shrivel up and die.

    It’s a tediously pedantic way of setting out the issues, but I think it’s worth doing. The danger of discussions like this is that people whose actual positions are 2. and 3. end up accusing each other of believing 4. and 1., and heat rather than light gets generated.

    As for the points I originally made: firstly, anthropological research I’ve seen – from researchers who have spent considerable amounts of time with jihadis and their (surviving) relatives – suggests that the ‘reward in heaven’ model, 72 virgins and all, is a very minor motivating factor for suicide attackers, if it’s a factor at all. People have always given their lives in extreme situations, be it a kamikaze pilot or a bus driver who stays at the wheel in a crash to save his passengers. The fact that suicide attacks are a known tactic brings added social pressure to bear: I doubt they’re handing out white feathers in Syria, but I imagine something similar goes on. Saying that ‘they’ don’t love life like ‘we’ do may not be racist, but it’s certainly not accurate or useful.

    Secondly, I’m as liberal as the next child of the sixties – i.e. not very liberal at all, if you talk to my children – but I don’t think it’s very helpful to set up Islam, or even Islamism, as a creed of monolithic social conservatism which threatens our way of life. Even the things which seem most obviously objectionable about political readings of Islam – the status of women, for instance – are more complicated than they look from the outside. I’ve got several female Muslim students; some dress like any other young woman, some are beautifully turned out but keep their hair covered, while a few take ‘modesty’ to the point of eschewing makeup and dressing entirely in black. It doesn’t say anything about their attitude towards men – even strange men in positions of authority; the more ‘modestly’ dressed students are, if anything, more likely to look me in the eye and argue back.

    In any case (thirdly) taking account of the presence in our society of a sizeable number of people who believe in a conservative form of Islam needn’t amount to ‘appeasement’. Goodness knows I wouldn’t want to live in a society where women know their place, regular religious observance is mandatory, and blasphemy and homosexuality are illegal – which is to say, I wouldn’t want to go back to the society I was born into – but if there are people who do want to turn the clock back, shouldn’t their views be allowed some expression? In the case of British Muslims, they really aren’t at present. (A recruiting opportunity for UKIP? Perhaps not.)

    Lastly, another loaded term: blackmail. If the British government was influenced by IS’s actions when formulating foreign policy, would this amount to submitting to blackmail? I remember arguing with you about the term ‘blackmail’ back in 2005, Brian, and I don’t suppose we’re going to agree now. But I’ll have a crack at it. Put simply: if we know that a certain transnational agency is likely to do X if we do A rather than B, surely it’s only rational and responsible to take that into account. Or does this cease to be the case if the agency in question is a criminal conspiracy? I don’t see that it does. Bear in mind that taking IS into account doesn’t necessarily mean ‘doing what IS want’. Let’s say that the  Blackpool amusements are in the hands of a local criminal gang, and the British government becomes aware that the Sicilian Mafia intends to take over, with associated bloodshed. The responsible action would be not to ignore this information – let alone to step aside and give the Mafia what they want – but to address the underlying problem by taking steps to clean up the amusements industry. Similarly, if we know that IS is proving dangerously appealing to young British Muslims, the appropriate response is not to ignore this but to address the ‘push’ factors – the factors which are making those people disengage from the British state, prior to giving their loyalty to IS. This wouldn’t at all amount to giving IS what they want: on the contrary, what IS want (they’ve been quite clear about this) is a Britain which is as mono-cultural and hostile to Islam as possible. Conflating Islam with Islamism and Islamism with IS plays into their hands.

    Phew, made it to the end. Let’s hope it goes through this time!

  9. David Campbell says:

    I welcome the way you’ve refocussed the argument. The Easter Rising Centenary raises the issue you address in a longer perspective, and bears out the importance of avoiding provocation. Depressing, that it has taken a hundred years for the antagonists in that dispute to dare speak publicly in a more conciliatory way. I’d like to hear security vs human rights debated in a similar spirit, with young Muslims joining in. A vain hope, perhaps, in the era of tweeting.