Douglas Murray has a comment piece published in the Daily Express yesterday adding righteous indignation to that already seen in the Daily Mail about the PM’s speech last week about British Muslims blaming anyone and everyone for radicalisation but themselves.
Murray introduces the issue of the three young girls from Bethnal Green Academy Shamima Begum, Amira Abase, and Khadiza Sultana, who absconded last year and fled to Syria.
He writes, “Keith Vaz MP invited the families to testify in front of his House of Commons committee. There they blamed the police, among others, for failing to stop their daughters joining the terrorist group.”
Murray goes on to deride the suggestion that the Metropolitan police be blamed by the girls’ families, particularly the father of Amira Abase after footage of him attending a protest organised by Anjem Choudary’s group emerged.
It is perhaps fair that Murray should question whether Hussen Abase taking his daughter along to the demonstrations could have played a role in her radicalisation but the point about blaming the Metropolitan police is inaccurately put.
The families contended that the Met Police had failed to alert them to the risk faced because a letter informing them of the departure of a fellow pupil at the school was handed to the girls, who concealed them, not to the families.
As some of the family members related to the committee, they were caught completely unawares because the fateful letter, which may have given them cause to probe the girls about the disappearance of a fellow pupil known to each of them, was never received.
It would be churlish indeed to suggest their criticism of the Met’s handling of the situation was intended to deflect their own responsibility for what transpired.
Murray goes one to criticise the families’ lawyer, Tasnime Akunjee, who attended the session in parliament alongside the families of Shamima Begum, Amira Abase, and Khadiza Sultana because he “is not only linked with the extremist group Cage (of Jihadi John fame) but has also claimed that the security services “created” Michael Adebolajo, one of the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby.”
The designation of the human rights group CAGE as an “extremist” organisation has been quick to take root following the media campaign against the group for suggesting that the security services may have played a role in the radicalisation of “Jihadi John”.
The claims of its being an “extremist group” are based on no empirical evidence of anything CAGE may have done to merit the description. It is a subjective labelling intended to cast Muslim organisations, as Baroness Warsi puts it, “beyond the pale”.
Furthermore, the belief that the security services have contributed to the radicalisation of young Muslims is one shared by over a third of Muslims according to a poll released earlier this year.
Moreover, the role of the security services in the radicalisation of Michael Adebolajo surfaces in the report by the Intelligence and Security Committee on the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. The report states, in relation to Adebolajo’s claims of mistreatment at the hands of the security services:
“SIS did not adequately assess Adebolajo’s allegations of mistreatment. They viewed them in the context of assurances given before the allegations were made and by an organisation whose credibility they were not in a position to evaluate.
“When considering Adebolajo’s allegations of mistreatment there was relevant background that SIS failed to take into account. The Committee does not agree with SIS’s assessment that this evidence was irrelevant.”
Saying the security services have “created” terrorists is quite a leap but Akunjee is surely entitled to his view. And questions raised elsewhere about the role of the security services and the police in the process of radicalisation hardly fits Murray’s claim that Muslims are always wanting to blame someone other than themselves.
Murray refers to the most recent incident of the three sisters from Bradford complaining that “The families and their supporters asked why the British police had not stopped the women?”
In fact, the women’s husbands have done more than ask why more was not done to stop the women. The men have suggested, in a letter sent by their lawyer to the chair of the Home Affairs Committee, that the North East Counter Terrorism Unit may be “complicit” in the womens’ radicalisation alleging that their wives were “encouraged” to make contact with their brother who had already fled to Syria.
This is not on par with suggesting the husbands are looking to point the finger of blame at anyone but themselves. They are seeking answers to questions they hope can help them understand what has happened; how it happened and why.
Murray goes on to generalise about Muslim reactions to counter-terrorism policy and policing stating:
“This is far from an unusual position in Britain’s Muslim communities, where a pushback against any and all government surveillance and counter-terrorism programmes has been rife for years.
“For at least the past 14 years almost every Muslim leader and “community spokesperson” in the UK has complained about police “spying”.
Well, let us recount the reasons why Muslim communities have been “pushing back” against encroachments on their civil liberties shall we?
How about Operation Champion in Birmingham where cameras were installed in a densely Muslim populated area of the city before the local council was forced to take them down?
How about cases of Muslim nursery school children being “spied” on by officers from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit?
How about the questionnaire recently circulated to schoolchildren in Waltham Forest asking young people leading questions about their approach to religion?
How about claims evaluated in the report by the Institute of Race Relations and authored by Arun Kundnani about Prevent money being used to “spy” on Muslim communities?
How about the response from the former Director of Prevent, Debbie Gupta, and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson responding to concerns about “spying” on Muslims refuting the allegations uncovered by a newspaper investigation? Or indeed, the assurances from former MP Shahid Malik and David Hanson refuting claims that the Prevent programme was “spying” on Muslims. No smoke without fire, hey?
And then, what about claims that university students are not immune from the clutches of the policy with “grooming” of student spies on campus?
The Communities and Local Government Inquiry into Prevent and the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into the Roots of Violent Radicalisation which reported “We remain concerned by the number of our witnesses who felt that Prevent had been used to ‘spy’ on Muslim communities” and “[T]here is a lingering suspicion about the Prevent Strategy amongst Muslim communities, many of whom continue to believe that it is essentially a tool for intelligence-gathering or spying” respectively.
If Muslims have been “pushing back” over the last 14 years it is because they have felt the effects of a “toxic” policy which has only served to alienate, stigmatise and marginalise them.
Or are British Muslims not allowed to say that without inviting accusations of self-indulgence?