Thursday, July 21, 2005

Terrorists and their Grievances: The Case of British Muslims: Part Two


The previous post argued that Muslim terrorism will be difficult to combat, at least in part because the terrorists are not an isolated group of fanatics, but people animated by "grievances" that are shared by many people in the British Muslim community. These grievances center on the treatment by Western states in general and Britain in particular of Muslims around the world. Consider, for instance, Osama Saeeds's appeal--Saeed is an official spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain--for Britain to apologize for:
Britain's explicit roles in creating the injustices in the Muslim world - from the mess that colonial masters left in Kashmir to the promising of one people's land to another in Palestine. We need to recognise our past mistakes and make a commitment not to repeat them. Western leaders are outraged about London but show no similar anger for other atrocities across the world. What happens abroad matters to British Muslims as much as what happens here.

I stated, without providing any supporting argument, that this "grievance" does not warrant any remedial action by the British government or the British public. Let me say more in support of that claim.

First of all, I want to say something more about Muslim grievances. Again it is important to distinguish "extremist" (and more specifically Jihadi-Salafist) views from "moderate" views such as those expressed by Saeed.

Shortly after 9/11, the British Home Office estimated that there were 10,000 Al Qaeda sympathisers in Britain--perhaps up to a 1000 of which had trained in Al Qaeda camps in Kashmir and Afghanistan. The AL Qaeda symapthizers were likely people who subscribed to a Jihadi-Salafist ideology. To get a sense of the grievances of those who view the world from this perspective, see the following passage from a justification for the 7/7 bombings. Its author mentions the following specific reasons for targeting London:

1. The United Kingdom is an ally of the United States , and hence is part and parcel of the worst front of aggression Muslims are facing in present time. They are even worse than Pharaoh in his war against Moses. Pharaoh attacked Moses and his people on Egyptian soil, while the United States and the UK , through their Crusader alliance, attack or support attacks against the Muslims everywhere in the world. This is another reason to show happiness toward every tragedy in the West, like Moses and Muhammad did by ordering the fast of the `Ashura for their people (Yom Kippur in Judaism and the fast of 10 Muharram in Islam).

2. Britain is an infidel country since it is a Christian one, and hence an enemy of Allah and his believers. “As long as it remains an enemy, it is a Muslim duty to terrorize it…they are allies of the worst devilish idol ( Taghut ) of our times—the U.S. and the Jews—and do their utmost to support them.”


The interesting feature of this "extremist" message is that the first of these two points expresses a point that is present in the "moderate" message of Saeed: Britain is responsible for attacks on Muslims around the world. The second point ("infidel Britain") appeals, I think, only to a very small segment of the British Muslim community--members of Jama'at Al-Muhajirun, Hizb ut-Tahrir, and followers of people like Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal.

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