With Britain facing a ‘severe’ level of terror threat, Dispatches investigates the roots of Islamic extremism in the UK and examines the government’s attempts to win the battle for British Muslims’ hearts and minds
Britain Under Attack
With Britain facing a ‘severe’ level of terror threat, Dispatches investigates the roots of Islamic extremism in the UK and examines the government’s attempts to win the battle for British Muslims’ hearts and minds.
Reporter Phil Rees, an expert on Islamist violence, explores the Koranic teachings that lie behind the concept of jihad and examines Muslim fury over Western foreign policy. He meets the clerics who justify and encourage attacks on British soil and analyses the government’s response - to de-politicise Islam and to silence radical views.
Haras Rafiq, a government advisor on preventing extremism, tells Rees that between 15 and 20 per cent of British Muslims sympathise with Islamic militancy. To understand why there appears to be so much support for taking up arms, Rees examines the fundamental tenets of Islam that lie behind global jihad - such as ‘Ummah’ - a notion of Islamic brotherhood which encourages Muslims to act on behalf of one another - which can cause conflict with notions of patriotism.
Former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg who travelled to Bosnia and Afghanistan to help fellow Muslims and took up arms, tells Rees that Ummah is more powerful than the bond of nationhood. “Faith identity is much stronger because it’s based on a belief whereas the national identity is one that’s based on geography and where you happen to be born.”
Shahid Butt, who fought as a jihadist fighter in Bosnia describes the Ummah as an integral part of Islam, he says: “Telling Muslims to take the Ummah out is like asking me to cut my heart out of my body...Defending another Muslim is a compulsory act in Islam. You have to do it...if somebody came to my house and kicked the door down and tried to attack my family I’m gonna go in the kitchen and get the knife and I’m gonna defend them.”
Another belief which is central to many Muslims living in the West is the ‘Covenant of Security’ which prevents Muslims from attacking their home nation if they are offered safety and freedom to pray. Rees visits an Islamic Centre in Luton where young men are taught to accept and honour the covenant. The teacher, Abdul Qadeer admits that persuading his congregation to reject more extremist interpretations is, “a fight for the minds.”
In stark contrast, Rees meets an Islamic scholar who believes the British government has broken this covenant through its foreign policy in the Middle East so attacks can be theologically justified. His extreme views have seen him barred from Britain but he still communicates to his followers in Britain via the internet. Rees examines how the government is responding to these debates within British Islam. He discovers that the widely accepted cause of militancy is radical preaching - ignoring the grounds for violence cited by the London bombers - the West’s foreign policy.
The government’s plans to combat extremism involve allocating millions of pounds to projects that nurture a non-violent, non-political Islam. But Rees discovers these projects have been met with suspicion by the Muslim community. Mufti Mohammed Zubair-Butt from the Institute of Islamic Jurisprudence in Bradford is critical of the new anti-extremist curriculum drawn up for schools in the city: “Is this a government initiative to make the Muslims pliant and just follow the government agenda and not question whatever they have to say?”
Rees concludes that government plans to tackle extremism which do not take into account the radicalising affect of its foreign policy and refuse to engage with its critics are unlikely to succeed - as long as aspects of Islam can be seen to justify violence when Muslims are under attack.
Media Articles Commenting on UK Channel 4 Dispatches “Britain Under Attack”
Channel 4 platform for radical who wants ‘war’
August 7, 2007
By Duncan GardhamLast Updated: 2:14am BST 07/08/2007
Bosses at Channel 4 are under fire for offering a platform to an Islamic extremist who said he would be happy to be labelled a terrorist and called on fellow Muslims to arm themselves against non-believers.
Using the name “Abu Muhammed”, the man was interviewed with his features disguised by a scarf as he claimed British Muslims were “at war” with the government and said the July 7 bombings were “very justified’’.
The man is banned from entering Britain, but has held meetings here in the past and maintains contact with other radicals through a website he runs.
Interviewed in an unnamed European location, he told the Dispatches programme that Britain was waging a “war against Islam” and that retaliation was justified.
“A Muslim in the UK should realise that we are in a state of war and that the covenant [of security] has been broken by the British government and its Western allies,” he said.
“They want to kill you unless you turn back from your faith.”
Asked by interviewer Phil Rees if the July 7 suicide attacks that killed 52 people were justified, he said: “Of course, it was very justified because Allah says if someone is committing aggression against you, you commit aggression towards him. “
He also said: “Even if you need to deceive the British government and get a visa to get into the country to perform your duties as a Muslim.
“If Allah orders us to terrorise the kuffar [non-believer] and I am doing something that will be labelled as terrorising them then I will be happy to have a label on my forehead that says I am a terrorist.”
Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee, said he supported fighting British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Saudi dissident Muhammad al-Massari, who runs an extremist website from London, said it was a ‘’weighty’’ justification for July 7.
Anjem Choudary, a former leader of the group al-Muhajiroun, said: “For every action you need to look at the evidence. It’s not for me to say if it’s justifiable.”
Channel 4 said yesterday: “The interview is featured as part of a balanced examination of the roots of Islamic extremism in the UK.
The investigation also features moderate voices from within the Muslim community which reject the more violent interpretations of Islam.
The inclusion of the interview is important as ‘’’Abu Muhammed’ still communicates to followers in Britain via the internet”.
Mr Rees said: ‘’Muslims can get hold of this sort of thing over the internet and where they feel they don’t have a voice they are pushed into violence.
“We should feel our civilisation is strong enough to counter these beliefs.”
Channel 4’s The Mark of Cain, in which mocked-up scenes showed troops abusing Iraqi captives, was criticised by Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, who said it handed a publicity coup to insurgents.
Channel 4 under fire for letting Muslim extremist defend 7/7
By SIMON CABLE09:44am on 7th August 2007
The Daily Mail
Channel Four has defended itself after it broadcast an interview with a Muslim extremist who justified the London bombings and claimed Britain was waging “a war against Islam”.
Company bosses have been questioned over their decision to give a platform to Abu Muhammed, who has already been banned from entering Britain.
In a report for the Dispatches programme on Monday night, Muhammed - who had his features disguised by a scarf - was interviewed by Phil Rees.
Calling on fellow Muslims to retaliate against “non-believers”, he said the July 7 suicide attacks that killed 52 people two years ago was justified.
“Of course, it was very justified because Allah says if someone is committing aggression against you, commit aggression towards him.”
Interviewed in an unknown European location, he said: “Even if you need to deceive the British government and get a visa to get into the country to perform your duties as a Muslim.
“If Allah orders us to terrorise the kuffar (non-believer) and I am doing something that will be labelled as terrorising them then I will be happy to have a label on my head that says I am a terrorist.”
Channel 4 said the interview was a balanced report of Islamic extremism in the UK which also featured more moderate Muslim voices condemning Islamic violence.
Mr Rees said: “Muslims can get hold of the this sort of thing over the internet and where they don’t feel they have a voice they are pushed into violence.
“We should feel our civilisation is strong enough to counter these beliefs.”
Earlier this year Channel 4’s The Mark of Cain, in which mocked-up scenes showed troops abusing Iraqi captives, was criticised by Defence Secretary Des Browne, who said it handed a publicity coup to insurgents.
BANNED IN BRITAIN, BUT EVIL FANATIC IS ALLOWED TO RANT ON OUR TV SCREENS
Tuesday August 7,2007By Macer Hall, Political Editor
CHANNEL 4 Television provoked outrage last night by broadcasting an Islamic extremist openly supporting terror attacks in Britain.
The Dispatches documentary showed the fanatic — who is said to be banned from Britain — applauding the 7/7 bombings in London and calling for British Muslims to “arm themselves.”
Programme-makers that claimed that the interview with the man, named as “Abu Muhammed”, was part of “a balanced examination of the roots of Islamic extremism in the UK.”
But MPs were furious that an extremist promoting violence was given TV time for his views.
Tory David Davies said: “This man must never be allowed to appear ranting on our television screens again.”
Fellow-Tory MP Philip Davies, a member of the Commons Media and Culture Committee, said: “It is appalling that an extremist like this should be given a free platform to express his obnoxious views.
“Of course, viewers can always reach for the off button, but broadcasters should give more careful consideration to what is right and decent.”
The programme, Britain Under Attack, was shown at eight o’clock last night. It included a range of views from both moderate and radical Muslims. But the remarks of Abu Muhammed were likely to cause most offence.
He appeared on camera with his face hidden by a headscarf: the programme made it clear that Abu Muhammed is not his real name. It also said the man is banned from Britain for extremist activities and is closely linked to the Al Qaeda terrorists.
“A Muslim in the UK must realise that we are in a state of war and that covenant has been broken by the British Government,” Abu Muhammed told the programme. “There is no covenant at this point. We are in a state of war.”
The extremist claimed that the 7/7 attacks on the London transport system which claimed 52 people were “very justified”.
“Allah says if someone committed an aggression against you, you commit aggression against them. If somebody transgresses against you, transgress against them the same way,” he said.
He was said to have addressed small groups of radical Muslims at meetings in private homes in Britain, and to be spreading his views over the internet.
During the programme, he was shown attempting to use quotations from the Koran as justifying his view that Muslims cannot live peacefully alongside Christians and Jews.
“Allah is telling us forget it, don’t even entertain the idea of a covenant or entertain the idea that the war is against some bad people or some oil or some politics,” he said.
“It’s a war against Islam because they will never be satisfied until we meet one condition — to follow their own religion.”He added: “Now this one is more serious. They will never cease fighting — physical struggle — they want to kill you unless you turn back from your faith.”The man claimed that British Muslims need to arm themselves against the threat of unbelievers — “Kaffir” — entering their homes.
He went on: “They need to arm themselves to prevent the kaffir coming into their home terrorising their families, frightening their children. We will lose people, we will have many people arrested. We will have many people living in hardship but that is part of the price to pay.
“They must arm themselves to make it known that you are not going to come to my home and terrify my family. I’m not going to sit there, if I’m going down, I’m taking you down with me.”
Tory David Davies called the documentary “disgraceful”.
“Channel 4 would be unlikely to broadcast the views of a fascist,” he said, “but they seem happy putting this violent extremist on television.”
A Channel 4 spokeswoman said: “The interview is featured as part of a balanced examination of the roots of Islamic extremism in the UK.
“The investigation also features moderate voices from within the Muslim community which reject the more violent interpretations of Islam.
Programme director Phil Rees in an article in the Guardian newspaper yesterday, defended his decision to include the Muhammed interview.
He described the extremist as “a courteous, intelligent man” and related how “we sipped tea and discussed events in the Middle East” at a London hotel earlier this year.
The Home Office said that because the man used an alias, it could not confirm that is banned from Britain. A spokesman said: “We have prevented 126 individuals from coming to our country on national security grounds, and have refused to admit another 62 for glorifying terrorism or other unacceptable behaviours.”