Radical Muslims seeking to spread their ideology in the United Kingdom have found a surprising ally—the British government. London has had many successes in combating terrorists like Al-Qaeda. Yet it is helping more politically adept Islamists gain power and prestige by accepting their pose as “moderates.”
Several recent appointments in the government show how the Islamists are gaining access inside the government. Azad Ali has been chosen to sit on a panel to advise the Crown Prosecution Service’s counter-terrorism chief, for example. Ali has previously lamented U.S. support for the “terrorist slaughter machine of the Zionist state of Israel,” and has spoken highly of Abdullah Azzam, the Muslim Brotherhood mentor of Osama Bin Laden, and Anwar al-Awlaki, the Al-Qaeda-linked imam in Yemen that was admired by Major Nidal Malik Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, although he recently said he rejects al-Awlaki’s views.
Ali has also expressed his support for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an extremist group seeking to resurrect the caliphate and destroy Israel and “the new crusaders.” The Telegraph reported that he said he found “much truth” in a remark saying Muslims are required to kill U.S. and British soldiers in Iraq, but debate has ensued about whether Ali was referring to that specific statement. Whatever the case, Ali’s views cannot be placed in the “moderate” category.
Another individual, Asim Hafeez, described as a “hardcore Salafi” by one of his colleagues, has been chosen as the head of intervention at the Office of Security and Counterterrorism. Mockbul Ali requested that the British government permit one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s top theologians, Sheikh Youself al-Qaradawi entry into the country and has been promoted to “Head of Prevent, Counter Ideology” at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He also used his position to try to get a visa for Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, a member of Bangladesh’s parliament, despite his statement that the U.K. and U.S. “deserve all that is coming to them” for forcibly removing the Taliban from power.
Mockbul Ali also serves as a member of the Foreign Office’s Engaging with the Islamic World Group and has been accused of promoting the Muslim Brotherhood. He “had a key role in coordinating seven Muslim taskforces set up by Tony Blair to tackle extremism in the wake of the July 7 bombings [of 2005].” Prior to his career in government service, he was an editor of a newspaper published by the Union of Muslim Students that praised a Palestinian female suicide bomber who killed two Israeli civilians in Jerusalem in March 2002.
The Department of Communities and Local Government is talking to the Muslim Council of Britain’s former secretary-general, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, about involving the group in the government’s efforts. This move came despite an earlier decision made by the British government earlier this year to end its relationship with the organization after its deputy director-general, Dr. Daud Abdullah, signed the Istanbul Declaration that called for Muslims to “carry on with the jihad and resistance against the occupier until the liberation of all Palestine,” meaning until Israel is destroyed. The declaration also called on Muslims to attack any foreign forces trying to stop the flow of people or arms to the Gaza Strip, where Hamas was facing an Israeli offensive. This meant that British naval forces involved in such efforts could be targeted.
The Centre for Social Cohesion reports that the British government has awarded $80,000 in taxpayer money to the Muslim Brotherhood to help fight extremism. The funding is going to the Muslim Welfare House, a member of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, which the Centre says acts as the representative of Muslim Brotherhood on the continent. Three of the five directors of the Muslim Welfare House also served as directors of the Muslim Association of Britain, another Brotherhood affiliate, until 2007. The report says that one of those three directors has openly supported Hamas.
The British government has made the mistake of thinking such organizations are “moderate” just because their tactics are less dramatic than Al-Qaeda and they do not support attacking civilians, except for Israelis.
“Although the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] does not present a direct terrorist threat, it promotes an ideology which helped create modern jihadist terrorism and is fundamentally incompatible with western notions of statehood,” the Centre for Social Cohesion’s Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens writes.
Even extremists found guilty of engaging in terrorist acts are being given soft treatment by the British judicial system. Three senior judges ruled in July 2008 that “Care has to be taken to ensure that the sentence was not disproportionate to the facts of the particular offences. If sentences were imposed which were more severe than the circumstances of the particular case warranted, that would be likely to inflame rather than deter extremism.”
The judges’ political analysis of what causes extremism has therefore influenced policy and as a result, up to 30 “high-level” convicted terrorists are going to be released. This includes terrorists involved in a foiled suicide bombing plot in 2005 and two who called for acts of violence in retaliation for the publication of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed in Denmark. The Sunday Times also found that “An analysis of the appeal court cases shows that of the 26 terrorism cases it has heard, 25 have led to men with terrorism convictions having their sentences reduced.”
The British government should realize that not all extremists follow Al-Qaeda’s methods, and embracing those who subscribe to the ideology of groups like Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood is no solution to the problem of Islamic radicalism.