July 11, 2005
[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
I’ve read through all four PDFs of the “leaked No 10 dossier“. That was some really painful reading. I would say nine-tenths of the opinions and recommendations can be summarized by this: the British government needs to make things easier and better for Muslims.
Below are a few thoughts on some specific parts of the documents. Note that page numbers refer to the PDF page number, not the printed page number that is visible in the scanned documents.
The documents are full of the obligatory and politcally-correct reference to the notion of the “small minority”. Everything is always qualified by reminding us that we’re talking about a “small minority” of Muslims who are extremists. I really wish people would stop saying that. Of course it is a minority: if it wasn’t there would be all-out civil war in Britain and in many other countries.
The second document tries to record just how tiny that minority is. On p. 1 it mentions that an ICM Poll “published by the Guardian on 15 March 2004 recorded 13% of British Muslims as thinking that further terrorist attacks on the USA would be justified.”
Depending on what the subject is, I would agree that sometimes 13% can be considered a small minority. But if 13% of a 1.6 million member religious community think that indiscriminate murder is justified, my first reaction is not “phew, thank God that’s a ‘small minority'”, but rather, “uh oh, that’s a whole hell of a lot of bad people.” And if you look closely at the poll you see it’s actually a full 15% of those under 34 years of age who believe al-Qaeda attacks against the United States are justified. And the Muslim population in Britain is very young.
(Note: the actual question on the poll, which you can find here, was: “Would you regard further attacks by Al-Qaeda, or similar organisations, on the USA as justified or unjustified?”)
On p. 2 of the second document, we’re warned that we might offend some Muslims if we use the term “Islamic fundamentalism”. In other words, we should stop calling a thing by its name:
Policy objectives include persuading young Muslims that they can be Muslim and British, and that Islam is not regarded with hostility. In this context, 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.
P. 13 of the second document contains praise of the mainstream muslims:
The mainstream Muslim community has been vocal in its public condemnation of extremism. For example, the Muslim Council of Britain expressed sympathy with the people of Spain after the Madrid bombings…
That was mighty big of them. And I seriously question the accuracy of the assertion made there. Is is really true that mainstream muslims have been vocal condemning extremism? Or is it more like they are vocal condemning terrorism? I’m sure everytime there is a terrorist attack they do come out and condemn it. But what about if an Imam preaches about the re-establishment of the caliphate? Do they raise a fuss like they should? I seriously doubt it.
On p. 14 I am glad to see this note of caution: “But it is important to identify moderates correctly — some of those who are influential in the extremist world purport to be moderates.” (Ken Livingstone skipped that page.)
P. 9 of the third document contains a nice reminder for those who are so insistent on pointing to Iraq policy as the clearest cause of terror: “up to 80% [of polled Muslims] disapproved of the war in Afghanistan.” Personally, I don’t hold out any hope for people who are against the war in Afghanistan.
Many parts of the documents (see esp. p.2 of the second document) contain the familiar refrain about British foreign policy being a factor in the disaffection experienced by British muslims. The fact that this matter is brought up so often within the documents makes me worry that the touchy-feely side of western governments is too often ready to help make terrorism pay. (The fact that billions were alotted to the Palestinians at G8 is an example of what I’m talking about.) If I were a British islamicist, I would read through these documents and think, “We can really push them on the foreign policy stuff — a little terror here, a little terror there, and an army of do-gooders in social services and other government branches who are always on the lookout for the ‘root causes’ of our disaffection. That’s a nice combo we can use.”
Hopefully I’m wrong about that. But if I were to have written the document, the entire discussion of foreign policy would have been one small paragraph:
Apparently the foreign policy of HMG is seen as a contributor to the anger and disaffection experienced by British muslims. The Muslim community should be reminded again and again that unlike so many others among the ummah throughout the world, British Muslims can peacefully express their disagreements in public and can affect change by exercising their right to vote. They should be further reminded that any among them who publically suggest or carry out non-democratic and/or violent means of affecting change shall be watched closely, considered threats to the community and, when necessary, dealt with severely.