One of the three assailants in the June 3, 2017 London attacks has come to be a Pakistani, Khuram Shazad Butt (born April 20, 1990), a British citizen born in Pakistan. Every time there is an act of terrorism, educated Pakistanis dread that a Pakistani will be involved or the terrorist may have some link with Pakistan.
If Muslims, including any Pakistanis, love their religion and feel strongly about going to paradise then they should opt for living in a country that facilitates their going there. Why live in a country of non-believer where people are walking around in exposed clothing, drinking and eating non-halal food. It does not make sense. Khurram Butt’s father was from Jhelum district located in the Punjab and applied for political asylum in 1992. His son betrayed the country that had given his whole family asylum. These Muslims want the best of both the worlds: they want to be in paradise in the life hereafter but at the same time want to live in paradise in this life as well but on their terms.
But the British Prime Minister Theresa May has said to the London Bridge murders by saying: “There is, to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.” And, she suggested, British Muslims should become more assimilated: “We need to live our lives not as a series of separated, segregated communities but as one, truly United Kingdom.”
Her remarks echoed the approach of her predecessor David Cameron who rejected multiculturalism, which respects the desire of immigrant communities to live by their own values, in favor of greater integration. It is no longer enough to publicly condemn attacks. People should also be required to reject the ideology that leads to violent jihadism. Otherwise, the staunchest jihadi may publicly denounce acts of terrorism while clandestinely keep supporting such activities.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the UK’s TV channels would generally seek out the most extreme ‘Islamist’ they could find and demand a clearly stated condemnation of whatever jihadist violence had just occurred. More often than not the answer would take the form of a rant about Western foreign policy.
As it became increasingly widely understood that sympathisers of violent jihad were unrepresentative of mainstream British Islam, a second phase of media coverage began. More ‘moderate’ Muslim guests were put on screen and subjected to a gentler line of questioning. Generally these interviewees would argue that the violent jihadists did not understand the true meaning of Islam.
In the wake of the Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge attacks that assertion is now being challenged. While many still insist that violent jihadism is a perversion of Islam (leading to phrases such as ‘so-called Islamic State’) others argue that the violence can in fact by justified by reference to Islamic texts and long established Islamic thought and practice. Violent jihadists, some say, may be in the minority but they cannot be written off as non-Muslims.
The conservative Spectator magazine reacted to the London Bridge attack by publishing an article discussing the proposition that the UK could do with “less Islam”. The article’s author, Douglas Murray, had recently made a short film that argued: “Countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have very little Islam and very little Islamic terror. By contrast, France has a great amount of Islam and a great amount of Islamic terror.” And he said that while he supported the attempts of some in the British Muslim community to counter extremist thinking, he was not confident they would succeed. “In the history of Islam there have been many reformers and most of the time they have ended up being the ones on the brunt of the violence and the ones being killed,” he said.
Those remarks led to Mr Murray receiving vitriolic abuse from some Islamist websites and a series of complaints, some to the police. But the hostility to the public discussion of these issues is a diminishing factor.
‘Govt’s Prevent strategy’
Alongside these theoretical debates about the origins of violent jihadism, there are acrimonious arguments about the British government’s Prevent strategy which is designed to identify people who might become violent jihadists before they actually cross the line and kill someone.
Supporters of the scheme give examples such as a London schoolchild who began to express anti-Shia prejudice being given one-on-one sessions with a Muslim scholar over a period of a year. By the end of it the schoolboy came to believe that those who had been encouraging him to hate Shias were self-interested, intolerant and manipulative. Defenders of Prevent also argue that, as a result of early intervention, hundreds of children have been persuaded not to leave school to fight in Syria.
But critics of the scheme, including the recently elected Mayor of Manchester have called for Prevent to be scrapped. “It is creating a feeling in the Muslim community,” he said last year, “that it is being spied upon and unfairly targeted. It is building a climate of mutual suspicion and distrust. Far from tackling extremism, it risks creating the very conditions for it to flourish”.
His comments get to the heart of the debate. Do the discussion about the ‘Islamic sources of violent jihadism’ and the states’ attempts to identify potential violent jihadists lead to a greater sense of discrimination and the unintended consequence of less integration?
An increasing number of British Muslims are willing to put their head above the parapet and send out the message #notinmyname. But others insist that they should not have to apologise for something they are not responsible for. And all the while other questions are mounting up: Do faith schools lead to the isolation of young Muslims? Is Muslim immigration too high? Some have even been asking: Should suspected violent jihadists be detained without trial? As the attacks keep on coming, the public debates are becoming less polite and more blunt.