Tuesday, July 12, 2005


In the 1990s, the UK apparently (I don’t know this for sure) grated asylum to strings of muslim activists and militants. The argument (espoused in the New York Times of a few days ago and in an article last year in the San Francisco Chronicle) goes that because of that, the one place in the world where dangerous nasty militants are congregated is Britain. It’s, in a way, their spiritual home. Hmm.

First of all, let me quote from the SF Chronicle:

[...]London-based organization called Al-Muhajiroun. The radical organization is led by Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, who has long been linked to bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.

The presence of militants like Bakri has earned the British capital the sobriquet “Londonistan” among diplomats and terrorism experts, who see London as a worldwide center of Islamic terrorism.

“The Islamists use Britain as a propaganda base but wouldn't do anything to a country that harbors them and gives them freedom of speech,” Camille Tawil, a terrorism expert at the Arabic daily Al Hayat, told the New Statesman magazine.

[...]Publicly, officials justify what the French call Britain's indulgence of militants by stating that no law is being broken. Britain does not have laws against speech that incites religious hatred. Privately, security sources say that by allowing extremist leaders to speak freely, they are able to keep them under close scrutiny.

Note first that Camille Tawil said above that the Islamists wouldn’t do anything to a country which gives them freedom of speech. Hmm. Last Thursday has proved that just slightly wrong. Also, I can’t help feeling that the terrorists who attacked London might not possess that ol’ fluffy sentimentality about nice countries giving them freedom of speech.

They congregated in this country because it’s in Western Europe, it’s easy-ish to get an education and a job, easy to fit in in London and elsewhere, and very convenient if you happen to want to bomb the fuck out of the place.

Next, the New York Times:

Here’s the problem for the United States: Under our Visa Waiver Program, residents of Londonistan who hold a valid British passport can board a plane for the United States without an interview by an American consular official.

This program also applies to more than a score of other European countries, like France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain, that meet the criteria for visa-free travel to the United States. Unfortunately, while these countries may enjoy a low visa refusal rate, grant reciprocal visa-free travel to Americans and issue machine-readable passports — all criteria for inclusion in the waiver program — many of them have also had a hard time integrating their growing Muslim populations. Even before yesterday’s attacks, there was plenty of evidence from episodes like the Madrid bombings in 2004 that these countries contained sleeper cells with the ability and motivation to carry out major terrorist operations and even, perhaps, to attack the United States itself.

As declining populations in Europe are replaced in part by rising Muslim emigration from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, economic resentment and sectarian strife seem likely to grow. Tinkering with visa regulations might help, but it is unlikely to change the reality that Islamic militant groups in Britain, as in several other major European countries, represent a growing threat to the United States that will continue for many years to come.

Here is a MetaFilter reply (from a UK resident) which should answer what he has to say quite completely:

I would be fucking ashamed if we descended into paranoia and xenophobia, and surrendered our diversity. It’s true that a few clerics should be.. well.. I don’t know what they should be, but they *shouldn’t* be so explicitly calling for violent action against Britain. But issues like that are providing faucets through which seas of bile are being vented at the dreaded Moor/Turk/Saracen/barbarian - and that, not some innate cunning brown evilness, is the reason that “one in five British Muslims feels little loyalty towards Britain.”

This is, to use a rather unfortunate phrase in this context, a storm in a teacup. Britain is no more a nation which consists of, or harbours, ‘tea-swilling terrorists’ than India or Australia or Canada. Religious people gather where they have freedom of speech — and I should point out here that America’s laws on what constitutes a religion are ludicrously loose — and we have freedom of speech here. Terrorists, on the other hand, are ideologically separate from everyday religious people.

Get it, America? Religion, while all rather ludicrous and dangerous in the wrong hands, does not equal terrorist. Brown skin does not equal terrorist. Open minds and civil liberties do not equal danger. This country has freedom of speech and it does not have draconian new terrorism laws like your country does. This country was going to get it in the neck for Iraq and Afghanistan sooner or later, whatever laws it introduced or whoever it allowed to live here.

If this absurd trumpeting by the world’s press has been started by the current US administration in the hope that it can start to suggest the course of UK law a little, it is the US administration which is dressing itself with the garb of terror to fight it. If the administration over in Washington wants the Cabinet in London to follow its lead on government departments and terrorism laws in order to retrospectively legitimise America's increasingly fascist statute-book, it will fail. It must fail. Grrr.

Right, now for some good news. You know Gothamist? Well, to the stable of the ‘ists’, please welcome Shanghai and Paris! (Parisist is in French, by the way.)

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