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August 29, 2006

UK Foreign Policy Hangs Above Terror Threat

by Jim Lobe

LONDON - The suspects in the bomb-plot case in Britain are a long way from being convicted, but Muslim leaders are blaming government policy for provoking youths to consider terrorist ways.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ministers have flatly dismissed suggestions that British intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was provocation for the July 7 bombings last year, or for the plot to blow up aircraft that was claimed to have been uncovered earlier this month.

The usually stated reason is that terrorism was around long before the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that no British intervention provoked, for instance, the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Muslim leaders in Britain are now pointing to what is emerging as disastrous Western intervention in Iraq and now its perceived failure to restrain Israel in attacking Lebanon as strong emerging factors that are feeding new anger among Muslim youth.

"You look at whole of the world and you see Muslims being crushed in different areas through different oppressions, like Iran, Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir," Labor Party councilor in Kensington borough of London Mushtaq Lasharie told IPS. "So I think Muslims are becoming more and more disillusioned with the normal processes of international politics and the international community."

Muslims are beginning to react strongly to "double standards" in the Western world, he said. "They are preaching that as the Muslim world we should bring in democracy, but when democracy comes they don't accept it," he said.

"If Palestinians have elected Hamas, they should accept Hamas as legitimate government, if Lebanese have elected ministers in their government, they should accept them as legitimate government, if Iran has elected Ahmadinejad as president of Iran with some 78 percent of the vote, they should accept it as democratic."

The perception of double standards is a major factor now in provoking British Muslim youth to consider violence, or at least to support it, he said.

"I think the majority of them are reacting to the international situation. When you show an innocent one-day-old child being killed by Israeli bombing which is flying from the U.S. through British air space, then Muslims in this country will feel very angry and frustrated that if we can't do anything, should we raise our voices through killing innocent people in the Western world? This is not right, but this might be only way left to protest against the Western world."

Ahmed Versi, editor of The Muslim News in Britain, aimed at the youth, said anger has grown because the young Muslims "are seeing what is happening internationally. Recently we've seen over a thousand Muslims being killed in Lebanon. It has led them to believe that no one cares about the Muslim world any more, so they might want to take revenge."

The dispute peaked with a letter written by Muslim MPs to the government that made a connection between terrorism and foreign policy.

Three MPs of Pakistani origin, Sadiq Khan, Shahid Malik, and Mohammed Sarwar in the House of Commons, and three members of the appointed House of Lords, Lord Patel, Lord Ahmed, and Baroness Pola Uddin, wrote to the government to say: "It is our view that current British government policy risks putting civilians at increased risk both in the UK and abroad; the debacle of Iraq and now the failure to do more to secure an immediate end to the attacks on civilians in the Middle East not only increases the risk to ordinary people in that region, it is also ammunition to extremists that threaten us all."

The government again strongly denied the charge that its foreign policy was emerging as ammunition for extremism.

But several Muslims insist that government policy is only encouraging extremism.

"Extremists within the Muslim community have succeeded in convincing the entire Muslim community that this war on terror is in fact a war on Muslims and Islam," Ghiyasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, an independent group in Britain, told IPS.

"And when President Bush says that this war is a war against Islamic fascists, it convinces the innocent, ordinary people that perhaps there is some sort of conspiracy against Islam. They don't see the total picture, the real picture, that what is behind this war against terror is the war to occupy and control markets and resources for the benefit of multinationals and neocons to determine the future of mankind."

And this extremism was first stoked by government policies of another kind, Siddiqui said. "Extremists are trying to confuse the Muslim community to cover their own tracks. During one time, during the so-called jihad in Afghanistan, they were part and parcel of this scheme, playing the American role. So ordinary people forget the history, they only see what's happening now."

During the Afghan jihad in the 1980s and 1990s "a lot of Afghan jihadi leaders came to Britain to inspire and recruit youth, a lot of these links existed," Siddiqui said. "It is important that the British government recognizes and accepts its own liability, the role it has played. It's no good just blaming some community, which has played no role."

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  • Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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