Editorial by Lord Stevens
WHEN will the Muslims of Britain stand up to be counted?
When will they declare, loud and clear, with no qualifications or quibbles about Britain's foreign policy, that Islamic terrorism is WRONG?
Most of all, when will the Muslim community in this country accept an absolute, undeniable, total truth: that Islamic terrorism is THEIR problem? THEY own it. And it is THEIR duty to face it and eradicate it.
To stop the denial, endless fudging and constant wailing that somehow it is everyone else's problem and, if Islamic terrorism exists at all, they are somehow the main victims.
Because until that happens the problem will never be resolved. And there will be more 7/7s and, sometime in the future, another airplane plot will succeed with horrific loss of innocent life.
Equally important, those British politicians who have seemed obsessed with pandering to, and even encouraging, this state of denial, must throw off their politically-correct blinkers and recognise the same truth—that Muslim terrorism in Britain is the direct responsibility of British Muslims.
If only they would follow the lead of Home Secretary John Reid, whose tough, pragmatic, clear-sighted approach has been a breath of fresh air. Only then can they properly work out how to tackle it.
For instance, every airport in Britain is in chaos over the plane bomb-plot alert as every passenger is subjected to rigorous security checks. Why? They take lots of time, lots of staff, and are extremely expensive.
I'm a white 62-year-old 6ft 4ins suit-wearing ex-cop—I fly often, but do I really fit the profile of suicide bomber? Does the young mum with three tots? The gay couple, the rugby team, the middle-aged businessman?
No. But they are all getting exactly the same amount and devouring huge resources for no logical reason whatsoever. Yet the truth is Islamic terrorism in the West has been universally carried out by young Muslim men, usually of ethnic appearance, almost always travelling alone or in very small groups. A tiny percentage, I bet, of those delayed today have such characteristics.
This targeting of airport resources is called passenger profiling—the Israelis invented it and they've got probably the safest airports and airlines in the world.
In all my years at the front line of fighting terrorism, one truth was always clear — communities beat terrorists, not governments or security forces. But communities can't beat terrorism unless they have the will to do so. My heart sank this week as I saw and read the knee-jerk reaction of friends and neighbours of those arrested in this latest incident, insisting it was all a mistake and the anti-terrorist squad had the wrong people.
I have no idea whether those arrested are guilty or not. But neither have those friends and neighbours. They spoke as if it was inconceivable such a thing could happen in their community; that those arrested were all good Muslims; that Islam is a religion of peace so no Muslim could dream of planning such an act.
But we heard the same from the family and friends of the 7/7 bombers, didn't we?
And the two young British Muslims who died as suicide bombers in Israel. Then there are the British Muslims known to have become suicide bombers in Iraq.
There is currently a huge, long-running and complex alleged Islamist bomb plot being tried at the Old Bailey. And a fistful of other cases of alleged Muslim terrorism plots such as the 21/7 London Underground case are also awaiting trial.
All this would suggest the blindingly obvious—that terrorism is a major problem for the Muslim community of Britain. Of course, there will be instant squealings that this is racism. It's not. It's exactly the same as recognising that, during the Northern Ireland troubles that left thousands dead, the IRA were totally based in the Catholic community and the UVF in the Protestant.
And that, most importantly, IRA terrorism only began to draw to a close when that Catholic community it was based in decided as a whole that it was no longer prepared to back violence as the only way forward. Interestingly, it was Catholic revulsion over republican terrorist atrocities such as Enniskillen and Omagh that fuelled that change.
Well, Muslim terrorism in Britain is based in, has its roots in, and grows in, our Muslim community. The madmen of 7/7 and other suicide bombings didn't hide among the Hindu communities, worship in the Sikh temples, recruit at Catholic churches, did they? It may be true that events in Iraq have angered sections of the Muslim community. I have no doubts, whatever Tony Blair says, that it was a catalyst. I also think it's entirely fair for Muslims, if they wish, to vocally oppose Britain's continuing involvement there.
I can recognise, too, that recent events in Lebanon inflame some people, and they want their voices of protest heard. The absolutely unacceptable problem is that this opposition is used by too many to turn a blind eye to, or excuse, terrorists in their midst.
Blasting a passenger airliner out of the sky, killing hundreds of innocent men, women and children, is NEVER acceptable. Under any circumstances. There is NEVER an excuse.
A terrible tragedy costing Muslim lives in Lebanon or Iraq or Afghanistan is never ever an excuse for terrorism here.
It is totally unacceptable, totally wrong. What one party perceives as a wrong, no matter how strongly they feel, does not, in turn, justify another wrong being done to avenge it.
And until every single member of the Muslim community believes that and preaches that—from an ordinary parent to imam or madrassa teacher—terrorism can't be beaten.
Politicians must accept this truth, and do something about it. One example would be to tackle this chaos at our airports and the passenger profiling I described earlier. Another must is to reconsider ID cards. The importance of knowing whether someone really is who they say they are has never been higher.
This must be combined with improved border controls, logging exactly who goes OUT of the country as well as who comes in should also be reconsidered, whatever the politically correct among us may say. The time terrorism suspects are kept in custody before charge has also caused dissent. Currently the maximum is 28 days—it may well be this should be reconsidered and, if necessary, raised again to, say, 42 days.
Plainly, Muslim terrorism isn't going away. We need to consider everything in our battle to defeat it. But that's the responsibility of all.
Not least the community where, sadly for them, it is festering.
[Site Editor's Note - I think it's worth mentioning that many of the comments below originate from regulars of Little Green Footballs.]