UK Government Crackdown on Muslim Radicals Obstructed by Islamists
by Irfan Al-Alawi
The British authorities, in a ministerial declaration by Home Secretary Theresa May, have announced new government measures to curb hate preaching by Islamist radicals. Deterrent actions were enumerated on December 4 in an official document entitled, "Tackling Extremism in the UK: report from the Prime Minister's task force on tackling radicalisation and extremism."
BBC News, in an unsigned report also posted December 4, under the headline: "Theresa May to 'address gaps' in anti-extremism powers," described the government strategy as including provisions for "Muslim chaplains… trained to challenge extremist Islamic views on university campuses."
Home Secretary May further said the program could include judicial orders banning radical groups; intervention with internet providers to stop extremist materials from reaching the public, and the encouragement of public complaints about such internet content.
According to the same BBC News article, the recommendations were produced by "a taskforce on extremism... set up after the killing of soldier Lee Rigby," slain in London on May 22.
Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, have been charged with the Rigby crime and are now on trial, but deny guilt. Described in the London Guardian on December 9, by Esther Addley and Josh Halliday, in a dispatch entitled "Lee Rigby trial: Adebolajo admits killing but says he was obeying Allah," Adebolajo admitted that he killed and attempted to decapitate Rigby, a British soldier run over by a car before the assault on him. The two men are charged with hitting the victim with the car and then striking him with a meat cleaver and knife.
The Guardian, however, stated in the same article, that Adebolajo said he had acted as a "soldier of Allah," and was therefore free of the accusation of "murder" for his act. According to the Islamist militant, the unprovoked death of Rigby was a "mission" in an "ongoing war" and could not be considered a crime. Adebolajo also declared that he "loved" Al-Qaida, the members of which he called "my brothers. I've never met them but I love them. I consider them my brothers in Islam."
As reported by Cahal Milmo and Oliver Duggan of the London Independent on May 24, in an article entitled, "Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo: The two polite young men that met at university who would become known as the bloodied Woolwich murder suspects," the pair are both British-born, but of Nigerian Christian descent; they became Muslim as adults.
The Guardian on May 23, in an investigative feature headed, "Woolwich attack suspect identified as Michael Adebolajo," with the bylines of Sandra Laville, Peter Walker and Vikram Dodd, disclosed that Adebolajo and Adebowale both studied at Greenwich University in 2004-05. Adebolajo had "attended meetings" of Al-Muhajiroun, an extremist group banned by the British state in 2010.
The same report also revealed that the Adebolajo and Adebowale "featured in counter-terrorism investigations over the last eight years." But, according to the newspaper, it was "understood that, while they were known to the police and security services, they were considered peripheral figures among the many extremists whose activities cross the radar of investigators."
BBC News, in an earlier unsigned report, "Islam4UK Islamist group banned under terror laws," on the prohibition of Al-Muhajiroun, posted on January 12, 2010, when the ruling was announced, said that Al-Muhajiroun had adopted a new title: "Islam 4UK." The name-changing Islamists, however, were shut down under Britain's 2000 Terrorism Act.
In the context of previous lax policies toward men such as Adebolajo and Adebowale, their shared university experience, and the role of Al-Muhajiroun, the UK government task force was formed to "close gaps" in the official British response to radical Islam. The new government plan includes strengthening the powers of the UK Charity Commission, which regulates religious and other charities, to stop hateful preaching, according to BBC News.
The same BBC News account stated, "There will be a public consultation on some of [the government's] recommendations, including whether the home secretary should have new powers to ban groups which preach hatred – if that is what the police advise. And the government will consult on whether people who attempt to spread extremist views should be banned from getting in touch with those who they are seeking to radicalise and whether they should be prevented from entering certain premises, such as schools or colleges."
In contrast to the U.S., where hate preachers and radical ideologues can appeal to the constitutional protection of free speech, Britain has hate-speech laws that treat radical indoctrination and organizing as incitement to terrorism.
The London Daily Mail Online, in an article posted on December 3, by James Chapman, "Hate preachers to be 'silenced' by new anti-terror Asbos ['anti-social behaviour orders'] to block their bile on the internet," quoted Prime Minister David Cameron affirming, "I want to see an end to hate preaching in Britain." Putting the matter bluntly, the Mail led its reportage with: "Preachers of hate are to be 'silenced' with new anti-terror orders based on a dramatically tightened definition of extremism and attempts to block their bile on the internet. The Government is to introduce new civil powers, similar to those used against anti-social behaviour, to target extremists who radicalise others. They are expected to be used to bar people from preaching messages of terror and hate, associating with named individuals thought vulnerable to radicalisation, and from entering specific venues, such as mosques or community halls."
The Mail described the remedy for hateful incitement by Islamists suggested by the Cameron administration as comparable to an ASBO. Under Britain's Crime and Disorder Act 1998: an ASBO may be imposed on anybody who "has acted… in an anti-social manner, that is to say, in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself." An ASBO "prohibits the defendant from doing anything described in the order."
The news of Cameron and May's proposals elicited immediate critical reactions from certain Muslims. The London Independent on December 4, headlined, "Government crackdown on radicals 'will lead to attacks on Muslims,'" by Oliver Wright and Nigel Morris. "A fresh crackdown on Islamist extremism," they warned, "risks backfiring by fuelling anti-Muslim prejudice and driving hardliners underground;" and cited Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Tell Mama, which records anti-Muslim incidents. Mughal expressed his worry that the new official report and its recommendations would reinforce negative stereotypes about Muslims.
The newspaper quoted Prime Minister Cameron, who was travelling in China. Cameron said, according to Wright and Morris, "I thought it was very important to have a proper look through all of the UK's institutions to make sure we really are doing everything we can to drive out radicalization. This is not just about violent extremism, this is about extremism that leads to radicalisation and particularly Islamist extremism."
Cameron asserted that "too many people" were radicalised at Islamic centres or had followed extremist preachers, and that such agitators were not "sufficiently challenged."
"I want to make sure in our country that we do this effectively," Cameron told the Independent. "But we need to go further than that and realise that some institutions have wanted to get rid of radicalisers but have not had the means to do so – so we want to help Islamic centres and mosques to expel the extremists."
British Islamists were quick to condemn the updated Cameron approach. CagePrisoners, a London-based advocacy group that, according to its website, "exists solely to raise awareness of the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other detainees held as part of the War on Terror," accused the British government of an "attempt at creating a state-sponsored, depoliticised Islam… an attempt to criminalise dissent."
The transnational Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir [Liberation Party, or HT], on its British website, proclaims, "With western democratic models in ruins the Muslim world must look to achieve accountability without democracy."
HT commented on the British government's latest effort to contend with radical Islam in a manner similar to that of CagePrisoners; HT alleged that the state aims "to restrain dissenting voices and clamp down on normative Islamic beliefs."
A May 8, 2013 post on Gatestone Institute, entitled "Britain's Feckless, Two-Faced Approach to Radical Islam," warned that in the UK "a necessary, firm, and united opposition to radical Islam remains lacking at the official level." It still remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Cameron has adopted such an attitude effectively -- and if it will be derailed by Islamist opposition.