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The truth about the radicalisation of British Muslims

Iraq war caused community division

It has been a debate which has dominated British politics for nearly decade. It has radically changed domestic policy including the flawed, ‘Community cohesion’ agenda, and the even more flawed, ‘Prevent agenda’.

At the same time the debate fed into a monstrous lie that would demonise a philosophy/policy -multiculturalism- that had ensured Britain was at the forefront of a positive race equality agenda.

But now the truth is out and official: British Muslims were not radicalised by multiculturalism as was vehemently argued by a whole range of politicians, journalists and key community figures, but rather the seeds of extremism were to be found in British foreign policy and in particular the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war.

This unequivocal assertion did not come from a politician, journalist or shock jock radio DJ, but rather from the former Head of the UK’s security service at MI5, Eliza Manningham–Buller.

Manningham-Buller yesterday stated on the record at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war that, ‘Our involvement in Iraq radicalised a whole generation of young people-who saw our involvement as being an attack on Islam’.

Manningham-Buller’s comments cannot easily be dismissed as were our comments during the long protracted and damaging debate. The fact is that MI5’s work necessitates that they acutely understand why individuals act in an anti-government manner. Their motivation could for example be money, politics, influence, bribery, insanity, or religion, but whatever it is they need to understand it in order to effectively deal with it, and their conclusion is straight forward and damming: The war in Iraq.

Damning for a number of reasons, not least because the contenious war meant that terrorism came closer to the UK, but also that the ideal of ‘multiculturalism’ was an easy scapegoat that had a ready army of detractors, including Lord Norman Tebbitt, Rod Liddle, Trevor Phillips, Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn, some of whom were ready to pontificate in one way or another on the miscalculation that: multiculturalism = separatism = radical Muslims = home grown terrorism. The tragedy has been that some politicians, including the then Prime Minster Tony Blair, knew the opposite to be true -given MI5 chiefs, would have been informing them- yet continued perpetuating a falsehood.

For example, in his attack against multiculturalism the then Prime Minster stated that,

‘The right to be in a multicultural society was always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white.’

And whilst the opposition leader David Cameron had less information at hand he broadly sung from the same sheet in what was seen as a ground breaking speech to explain Muslim extremism:

‘Multiculturalism had reinforced divisions, treating communities as “monolithic blocks” not individuals and leading to social housing being allocated along ethnic lines.’

I’m not saying that every aspect of multiculturalism has been executed correctly or that as time progresses there may be different ways of interpreting what we mean, but at its core the philosophy of multiculturalism has been empowering different communities to achieve greater equality. Moreover, it is constantly being argued that delivering greater equality ensures a more cohesive society.

Thank you Lady Manningham-Buller for highlighting the blindingly obvious, and in doing so killing the lie.

By Simon Woolley

OBV Director

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5 Responses

  1. I have a very strong gut feeling that you are wrong and even if I am not, why should we, the mainstream, tolerate the prejudices of an alien intrusion in the body politic?

  2. >>>>But now the truth is out and official: British Muslims were not radicalised by multiculturalism as was vehemently argued by a whole range of politicians, journalists and key community figures, but rather the seeds of extremism were to be found in British foreign policy and in particular the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war.<<<<

    And yet hundreds of British Muslims went to Afghanistan in which undertake terrorist training before 9/11 and the war on terror. Then there's how Abu Hamas's children were caught red handed killing British tourists in 1999. It also transpires that radical preacher Abdullah el-Faisal was sacked as Iman at Brixton mosque for his radical preachings in 1993 , 10 years before Iraq. That didn't stop him and in Feb 2003 (again before Iraq) he was found guilty of racial hatred and jailed for 4 years .
    Do you wish me to carry on.

  3. Hi Farouk,

    I mentioned that foreign policy, even before the second Iraq war were part of the seeds that extremists used to radicalize the vulnerable. Foreign policy along with both the second Iraq war were key elements in which preachers of hate pounced upon. They were also able to site rampant islamaphobia too. But lets be clear preachers of hate had nothing to do with multiculturalism, unless that is you feel all faiths other than Christianity should be banned.
    The flaw with that argument has always been, why didn’t multiculturalism radicalize other not-Muslim racial and ethnic groups?

  4. Indeed Simon. I’ve always wondered why:

    a) those communities that could be described as more insular e.g. Chinese or Orthodox Jews are seldom mentioned in the debates about integration and cohesion. It is almost always Muslim communities;

    b) if multi-culturalism spawns radicalisation, why are those treated the least well by the state, in my opinion African-Caribbean men, arguably the most ‘integrated’? And the odd individual aside have they not turned to terrrorist means as a way to express their feelings of exclusion and victimisation?

    c) if multiculturalism hasn’t worked, why does the ‘mixed race’ category show some of the largest comparative growth in population projections? It is far higher than the rates for Asian or Black populations.

    Farouk, you will note that Simon did state British foreign policy AS WELL AS Iraq (as he has replied above).

    The track record historically and within my life-time (since 1976) shows that the Anglo-American foreign (economic as well as diplomatic) policy was very useful for those wishing to radicalise people.

    Palestine, Iran, Iraq and Saddam (remember we sold him the weapons he used on his people in the 80s), complicity with Iraq and Turkey over the Kurdish situation, are just a few examples.

    I am not saying it is THE explanation, I am saying it is part of AN explanation. Those who wish to criticise multiculturalism not only deny this analysis they constantly fail to acknowledge the points raised above (see a-c).

    I’m not one who would even ascribe to the definition of multiculturalism (because I believe it is an ill-defined and restrictive pigeon-hole). However, what does get called multiculturalism, as Simon correctly points out hasn’t always been perfect.

    That doesn’t mean it should be used as a cover for those who are against change and evolution to ply their trade (and it is a trade, some of them have even admitted they don’t actually believe what they write).

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