The metaphor most commonly used to describe terrorism and its backdrop is the one of the mosquitoes and the swamp, in which the mosquitoes are the bombers and the swamp is the much wider public which sympathises with and supports the terrorists, and from which the terrorists recruit. The metaphor is entirely accurate. It is not wishy-washy liberalism but cold logic to state that the only feasible method of defeating anti-Western Islamist terror in the medium to long term is to ‘drain the swamp’, by removing the grievances which inflame hundreds of millions of otherwise reasonable and tolerant Muslims against the West.
This does not mean surrendering Western values to an Islamist agenda, as some hysterically claim, but implementing common sense ‘do as you would be done by’ principles. Westerners too would be infuriated by foreign powers which occupied them, or which peppered their land with unwanted military bases, or laid siege to their elected governments, or propped up dictators who abused them.
If the West stopped violently interfering in the Muslim world, the Muslim world would stop violently replying. Certainly, a tiny hardcore of mosquitoes would continue to desire conquest of the infidels, but with their swamp dry, they would soon die off.
Unfortunately, what America and its allies have done since September 2001 is build a water pipeline direct to the swamp and turn the taps on full. They have vastly exacerbated Wahhabi-nihilist terrorism by their invasions, occupations and attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, by the crimes of their Ethiopian and Israeli proxies in Somalia and the Levant, and by proving the insincerity of their ‘democracy’ rhetoric by their siege of the elected Palestinian government as well as their continued support of the Egyptian regime as it rounds up moderate Islamists and liberal democrats.
These policies may or may not lead to geo-strategic victories in resource wars, but they certainly won’t lead to protecting Western civilians from terror attacks. In the long term, that war seems to have been decisively lost. (I think Wahhabi-nihilism may well be in the process of being defeated by Muslims who realise its reactionary nature - but that's another story.)
In the short term, effective police work, domestically and internationally, is both necessary and legitimate. In Britain, we have known since the London bombs that Islamist violence could explode against civilians at any moment. We know that a tiny minority of British Muslims, having drunk a volatile cocktail of Wahhabi-nihilism, alienation and righteous outrage at British foreign policy, may be prepared to do the killing themselves. These people must be watched and, if necessary, tried and imprisoned. Sadly, even domestic policing of Islamist terrorists has been bungled.
Although the vast majority of policemen are completely sincere in their efforts to protect us from bombers, power in the American-allied West has focused on exploiting public fears to destroy basic freedoms. I won’t discuss here the normalisation of torture and the suspension of habeas corpus in the US, or the remarkable ease with which the unconstitutional Patriot Act was passed. In Britain, freedom of speech has been compromised not only by a rising Islamophobia which too quickly categorises dissenting Muslim voices as pro-terrorist, but more specifically by the idiocies connected to the 2000 Terrorism Act.
Under this legislation, Samina Malik, the 23-year-old self-styled ‘lyrical terrorist’ from Southall, was found guilty of “possessing records likely to be used for terrorism.” Ms. Malik ‘admitted’ visiting the website of hook-handed Abu Hamza and, worse, owning a bracelet bearing the word ‘jihad’. More sinister still, she used the back of WH Smith receipts to doodle jihadist rap, such as: “Let us make jihad/ Move to the front line/ To chop chop head of kuffar swine.” It reminds me of some of my old Schooly D discs. But it doesn’t make me fear taking the tube. We need to ask ourselves if the war on terror is best fought by criminalising Southall fly girls, who are only working hard to be sexy-bad. Fortunately, Ms. Malik was given a suspended sentence.
Not so Atif Siddique. This Scotsman downloaded al-Qa’ida linked material from the internet, including Arabic documents he was unable to read, and designed a website which provided links to such material. Siddique clearly sympathised with Wahhabi-nihilism. His politics appear to be stupid and simplistic, and potentially dangerous. Beyond a virtual flirtation with the terrorist fringes, he doesn’t seem to have had the intelligence or education to do anything creative with his justified fury at Western crimes in the Muslim world. He’s the kind of angry young man who should be kept under surveillance in case he or the people he communicates with actually cross the line and begin plotting real terrorist acts. In the event, he wasn’t kept under surveillance but imprisoned for eight years. As he did not plot or carry out a terrorist act, Atif Siddique has in effect been found guilty of thought crime.
It gets worse. Siddique was represented in court by human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar. Anwar has a false set of front teeth because the originals were kicked out by Strathclyde police when he was a student organiser at Glasgow University. While they were doing the kicking, the police apparently told him, “This is what happens to black boys with big mouths.” Anwar was the first person to win a civil action against the police in Scotland over a racist attack.
Following the guilty verdict against Siddique, Anwar addressed the media. His statement appeared to criticise the court as well as the verdict. He said: “The prosecution was driven by the State, with no limit to the money & resources used to secure a conviction in this case, carried out in an atmosphere of hostility after the Glasgow Airport attack and ending on the anniversary of 9/11. In the end Atif Siddique did not receive a fair trial and we will be considering an appeal.” For this robust expression of discontent, Anwar has been charged with contempt of court.
The case against Aamer Anwar will be heard at the High Court in Edinburgh on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 April. If found guilty, he faces imprisonment or a fine. Most importantly, he will no longer be allowed to practise law.
If an uppity, politicised lawyer like Anwar can be struck off, many more timid lawyers will be dissuaded from speaking out on behalf of ‘political’ clients. To many people, it seems that the aim of the Anwar trial is to silence ‘big mouths’, black or otherwise. This not only undermines the values which the government claims to be defending, but is counterproductive in terms of security. Bullying tactics may silence those Muslims described as ‘moderate’, but will also make them feel much more foreign than they already do. As for those Muslims tempted by the rhetoric and angry certainties of Wahhabi-nihilism, it will make their journey to bomb making even shorter and surer.