New antiterrorism measures proposed by Britain’s Labour government in late January–including curfews, electronic tagging, and house arrest for terror suspects–were a step in the right direction for a nation increasingly beset by radical Islamists.
The fact that British authorities have arrested dozens of suspected Islamic terrorists and terror sympathizers over the past year and thwarted several terrorist plots (including one which involved crashing airplanes into Heathrow Airport and London’s financial district) merely underscores Britain’s dubious position as al Qaeda’s leading European target.
Yet, despite the almost-daily reports of terrorist schemes and anti-Semitic attacks coming out of Scotland Yard, some leading Labour-party officials still don’t grasp the severity of the Islamist threat–in fact, they are advancing ideas and policies that would strengthen it. A case in point: Labour MP and Energy Minister Mike O’Brien, who penned a shamelessly pandering op-ed in Britain’s Muslim Weekly newspaper last month titled “Labour and British Muslims: Can we dream the same dream?“
O’Brien’s fear that Labour’s Muslim constituency will abandon the party in Britain’s upcoming general election owing to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s strong support of President Bush was evident in his opening paragraph:
Are some Muslims about to vote against the best friend they have ever had in government? Can people really claim that the Labour Government is a friend of Muslims after Iraq?…Understandably, many Muslims are very angry about the war… But the real question is whether there is a danger that anger may be causing Muslims to vote against their own long-term interests.
For the record, O’Brien supported Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq. Still, he feels compelled in his editorial to offer Muslims what is, in essence, an apology for Britain’s involvement in that war. After addressing Iraq, O’Brien–adding a touch of anti-Americanism for good measure–moves on to the other pet grievance of Islamists worldwide:
The reality is that the only way a Palestinian state will be created is if Israel is prepared to concede land it currently occupies on the West Bank and Gaza. Whether we in Britain like it or not, the reality of the modern world is that only the Americans can influence Israel. And it seems only Tony Blair has any influence with the Americans.
And just how does O’Brien want Blair to use that influence?
The Labour Party and the Prime Minister have a record of arguing strongly that the creation of a Palestinian state…must be based upon land being given for peace in line with UN resolution 242. When the Americans and Israelis refused to negotiate with Yasser Arafat, Tony Blair promptly sent myself, as the Foreign Office Minister, to visit Yasser Arafat in the Muquata in Ramallah to convey the message that we had not abandoned him. Tony Blair’s message was clear: we will work with the elected leader of the Palestinians, even if the Americans will not.
In other words, the Labour party–according to O’Brien–is ready and willing to condemn Israel, appease terrorists, and anger Britain’s staunchest ally, the U.S., in the pursuit of a Palestinian state, whose establishment, whether viable and legitimate or not, would conceivably earn Labour the lifelong allegiance of Britain’s 1.8-million-strong Muslim population.
It should come as no surprise, then, that O’Brien also engages in a subtle bit of anti-Semitism in his piece, saying of Blair’s chief opponent in the upcoming election, Conservative-party leader Michael Howard (who happens to be Jewish):
Ask yourself what will Michael Howard do for British Muslims? Will his foreign policy aim to help Palestine? Will he promote legislation to protect you from religious hatred and discrimination? Will he give you the choice of sending your children to a faith school? Will he stand up for the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab? Will he really fight for Turkey, a Muslim country, to join the EU? . . . Remember, the last thing we want is to vote in anger and repent at leisure as Michael Howard, with a big smile on his face, walks through the door of No. 10.
Given that the Tories supports most, if not all of the above measures, the thinly veiled suggestion here by O’Brien–as Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips has pointed out–is that Howard would oppose them simply because he is a Jew.
Yet, interestingly enough, O’Brien’s piece also advocates “a new Crime Bill…to toughen the laws on incitement to religious hatred” and trumpets Tony Blair’s promise to “introduce a new law banning religious discrimination.” While O’Brien calls these measures–which are essentially a craven effort by Labour to make amends to Muslim voters still angry over Iraq and soon to be roused by the proposed antiterror legislation–”a major victory for the Muslim community in Britain,” Philips notes, quite aptly:
The idea that such a law should be introduced by the British government at the behest of a minority seeking to suppress any discussion of the role of their faith in global terror is alarming in the extreme… A law that has the power to shut down legitimate comment about Islam; potentially put[ting] Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, secularists and others in the dock for speaking the truth…is being introduced to buy Muslim votes. The price to be paid for invading Iraq, in other words, is to be Britain’s freedom of speech.
Under the twisted, Orwellian logic of O’Brien and some in the Labour party, any comments that would dare criticize Islam or its role in an overwhelming percentage of the world’s terrorist acts are not only off-limits, they are punishable by law. Radical Islamists, on the other hand, are apparently still free to publicly espouse the most incendiary views imaginable.
For example, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the extremist London cleric who has openly pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and held rallies honoring the 9/11 hijackers, is known for using Islamist websites to urge young Muslims to carry out suicide attacks and wage jihad (a charge which he has recently denied). Last month, Mohammed held a conference in London at which a group of 600 British Muslims were urged to join al Qaeda, according to the London Times.
Despite his blatant incitements to commit acts of terrorism, Mohammed continues to move freely about London, although his nefarious activities are under investigation by British authorities.
Similarly, last summer, the Egyptian-born Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a leader of the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood movement and a vocal advocate of suicide bombings, also spent time in London, where he was given a hero’s welcome by the city’s ultra-Leftist mayor, Ken Livingstone.
Livingstone, who was booted out of the Labour party in 2000, was just recently accepted back into the fold by Tony Blair. At a January 11 press conference, Livingstone defended his decision to host Al-Qaradawi, saying at one point, “On behalf of the people of London, I want to apologize to the Sheikh for the outbreak of xenophobia and hysteria in some sections of the tabloid press which demonstrated an underlying ignorance of Islam.”
Livingstone went on to call Al-Qaradawi, “a progressive figure who is moving [Islam] in the correct direction,” andsuggested that the criticism of the fundamentalist sheikh was part of a Zionist plot. Mind you, this is the same Sheikh Al-Qaradawi who has issued a fatwa (religious decree) calling for the abduction and killing of American civilians in Iraq, and who has endorsed suicide bombings against Israeli civilians as well. Al-Qaradawi has also advocated the use of female suicide bombers, and has written a book supporting wife-beating.
But to Livingstone and some of his misinformed Labour colleagues, extremists like Al-Qaradawi represent the very face of moderation. Rather than condemn the rise of Islamism in Britain, they seek to appease and cajole the country’s restless and growing Muslim minority by bowing to its every demand, no matter how much it would infringe on the rights of the British majority.
If it is indeed Muslim votes that Labour is seeking, some recent news should cause them to take heart: A study by Britain’s Office for National Statistics showed that “Mohammed” has become one of the most popular names for baby boys in England and Wales, entering the top 20 most commonly chosen in 2004.
Britainistan, it would seem, beckons.
–Erick Stakelbeck is senior writer for the Investigative Project, a Washington, D.C.-based counterterrorism research institute. Nir Boms is vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East.