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Western politics are the main reason for terrorism

Source:Hizb.org.uk
Date:17/08-2006
Interview with Dr Imran Waheed, from Hizb-ut-Tahrir in UK, on The Alleged Airline Terror Plot

Hizb.org.uk: What do you make of the media coverage related to the recent anti-terror arrests?

IW: It concerns me that there is already loose talk in the media about the background of the suspects and that suspects are presumed guilty before any due process. Given the now infamous and fictitious cases (ricin plot, Manchester United Football Club plot and the recent Forest Gate raids) and the despatching of the army to Heathrow airport in 2003, I would urge caution before jumping to conclusions. I hope there is no repeat of the media hysteria and police leaks that followed the Forest Gate raids when reports of "chemical vests" and "bomb factories" turned out not to be true. The Home Secretary has already said that the "main players" are in custody and many in the legal profession are asking whether this has jeopardised any future trial of the suspects in this case.

Hizb.org.uk: If the allegations about a plot to kill many civilians aboard aircraft is true, what do you say about this?

IW: The Muslim community has clearly expressed its condemnation of violence against innocent civilians. The rules of Islam forbid any aggression against civilian non-combatants. They forbid the killing of children, the elderly and non-combatant women even in the battlefield. They forbid the hijacking or destruction of civilian aeroplanes carrying innocent civilians and forbid the destruction of homes and offices that contain innocent civilians. All of these actions are types of aggression that Islam forbids.

Hizb.org.uk: Some politicians have been quick to blame the Muslim community - in your view are we as a community responsible for what some call "Islamic terrorism"?

IW: To hold the Muslim community entirely responsible for the actions of a few is highly irresponsible and will do little for community relations. The Muslim community cannot be held to ransom by these arrests and should not feel that it can no longer speak out about issues that concern it.

Hizb.org.uk: There has been a lot of discussion in the press about what motivates people to "blow themselves up" what are your views on this?

IW: Often, when you try to answer this question, you can be accused of legitimising violence - however that is by no means my intention. The root causes do need to be examined, not to justify, but to comprehend. Since the arrests related to the alleged plot to blow up aircraft, the debate has once again focused on what "radicalises" Muslims. Instead of looking at the obvious politics of the Muslim world - oppression, occupation and dictatorship - and its effect in creating anger, the debate seems to revolve around generalised terms such as "extreme ideology", "Islamic fascism" and "perversion of Islam". Any attempt to discuss the role of foreign policy is censored as appeasing or justifying violence.

Hizb.org.uk: Isn't it true that these people just hate the West's "way of life"?

IW: This notion was addressed in a radio exchange last year between the BBC's political editor, Andrew Marr, and its security correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was left disabled by an al-Qaida attack in Saudi Arabia in 2004. Was it the "very diversity, that melting pot aspect of London" that Islamist extremists found so offensive that they wanted to kill innocent civilians in Britain's capital, Marr wondered. "No, it's not that," replied Gardner briskly, who is better acquainted with al-Qaida thinking than most. "What they find offensive are the policies of western governments and specifically the presence of western troops in Muslim lands, notably Iraq and Afghanistan."

Associate Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, author of "Dying to Win", who has analysed 462 suicide bombings has said that "Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign - over 95 percent of all the incidents - has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw."

Michael Scheuer, worked for the CIA for 22 years, and was the first head of its al-Qaida desk, serving in this capacity for two years. While still working for the CIA, he wrote a book entitled Imperial Hubris: Why the West is losing the War on Terror, which was published in 2004. His view, as summarised in this book, is that "...The greatest danger for Americans confronting the radical Islamist threat is to believe - at the urging of US leaders - that Muslims attack us for what we are and what we think rather than for what we do."

By shifting the discussion on to generalised terms such as "extreme ideology" and "perversion of Islam", Western governments have tried to divert attention away from legitimate political grievances.

Hizb.org.uk: What issues do you have with UK and US foreign policy?

IW: It is very clear that the foreign policy of Western governments has a lot to answer for. It was these policies that have supported many a brutal dictator in the Muslim world e.g. Mubarak in Egypt or Karimov in Uzbekistan. These dictators rule with an iron fist, secure interests for Western governments and silence all political dissent. These policies were responsible for the murderous sanctions regime which took the lives of over half a million in Iraq. The recent war in Iraq was waged on the basis of a "dodgy dossier" that lied about the existence of WMD - as a result over 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed and a loyal and subservient client regime has been installed - all of this benefits the neocons in Washington and the corporations that seek to pillage the resources of the region. The intervention in Afghanistan has resulted in a booming opium trade, minimal reconstruction and a worsening security situation. Russia, India and Israel have been given the green light to continue their oppression in Chechnya, Kashmir and Palestine. These countries have used the cover of the "war on terror" to further their oppressive and brutal policies. In the case of Israel, it has been supported by huge amounts of economic and military aid, and continues to terrorise its neighbours. The legitimate aspirations of millions in the Muslim world to engineer their own political destiny through the return of the Islamic Caliphate has been dismissed as part of an "evil ideology".

Hizb.org.uk: What does the government say in response to this position?

IW: The government has flatly refused to accept any connection with its foreign policy. On the one hand, the government argues that young British Muslims who carry out these violent actions are not motivated by their fury and despair over British foreign policy. On the other hand, they say that British Muslims do feel fury and despair about British foreign policy, and they shouldn't. The clear contradiction between these two standpoints goes unrecognised.

After some Muslim organisations and parliamentarians criticised British foreign policy in an open letter, ministers reacted angrily. Home Secretary, Dr John Reid, said that concerns raised by Muslims about British foreign policy were a "dreadful misjudgement that foreign policy of this country should be drafted under the threat of terrorism". The Transport Secretary, Douglas Alexander, denounced the accusation that British foreign policy towards the Middle East was increasing the threat of terrorism as "dangerous and foolish". Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said that drawing a link between government policy and the terror threat would be the "gravest possible error".

Prime Minister Blair has spoken of what he calls a "perversion" of Islam and argues that terrorist atrocities occurred before the West's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. He attributes the violence to a "wrong and reactionary view of Islam". In his recent speech in Los Angeles he said, "Still now, I am amazed at how many people will say, in effect, there is increased terrorism today because we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. They seem to forget entirely that September 11th predated either. The West didn't attack this movement. We were attacked. Until then we had largely ignored it."

Hizb.org.uk: Were there any political grievances prior to 9/11?

IW: I think the comments of the Guardian columnist Seamus Milne answer this "Blair has argued that, since the 9/11 attacks predated the Iraq war, outrage at the aggression could not have been the trigger. It's perfectly true that Muslim anger over Palestine, western-backed dictatorships and the aftermath of the 1991 war against Iraq - US troops in Arabia and a murderous sanctions regime against Iraq - was already intense before 2001 and fuelled al-Qaida's campaign in the 1990s. But that was aimed at the US, not Britain, which only became a target when Blair backed Bush's war on terror. Afghanistan made a terror attack on Britain a likelihood; Iraq made it a certainty".

Hizb.org.uk: Is it true that the intelligence agencies have warned about a link between foreign policy and "radicalisation"?

IW: It is important to note that when the intelligence sevices use the word "radicalisation" they in reality mean any Muslim who feels a sense of grievence about the treatment of Muslims abroad at the hands of the government. The Joint Intelligence Committee advised the government prior to the Iraq war that the "terrorist threat" "would be heightened by military action against Iraq ". In June 2005, JTAC noted that "Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the UK". The government report "Young Muslims and Extremism" observed that a "strong cause of disillusionment amongst Muslims including young Muslims is a perceived 'double standard' in the foreign policy of western governments"

Hizb.org.uk: The government argue "How can foreign policy be dictated by those who kill and maim"?

IW: The government may argue that it does not want to change its foreign policy under the threat of violence. But the overwhelming majority of people who condemn its foreign policy do not engage in violence. It is not right to maintain a foreign policy that is damaging to millions and has brought increasing instability to the world. If you support brutal dictators, you are not helping to foster stability. If you wage war without due legal or diplomatic process, you are not enhancing security. If you regard civilian life abroad as legitimate "collateral" damage, we should not be surprised that others have displayed similar disregard for people who ride on public transport.

Hizb.org.uk: What do you say about the suggestion that Muslim grievances are "false"?

IW: Prime Minister Blair, speaking to the Commons Liaison Committee, in July 2006, said "You can only defeat it - this extremism - if there are people inside the community who are going to stand up ... and not merely say, "You are wrong to kill people through terrorism, you are wrong to incite terrorism or extremism", but actually, "You are wrong in your view about the West, you are wrong in this sense of grievance that people play on within the community as if Muslims were oppressed by the West. The whole sense of grievance, the ideology, is profoundly wrong. There may be disagreements that you have with America, with the UK, with the western world but none of it justifies not merely the methods but also the ideas which are far too current within parts of the community."

Savid Morrison of the Labour and Trade Union Review has looked at Blair's comments on "false" grievances and commented, "In Blair's view then, "extremism" amongst Muslims in Britain can only be wiped out by Muslims that don't harbour this false sense of grievance convincing the great majority that do that they are wrong. The corollary of this is that any Muslim who does harbour this sense of grievance is an "extremist" - in other words, the great majority of British Muslims are now "extremists" in Blair's eyes." [http://www.david-morrison.org.uk/counter-terrorism/blair-false-sense-of-grievance.htm]

Hizb.org.uk: Muslims are a minority in Britain - why should foreign policy makers respond to their concerns?

IW: This question presupposes that opposition to these policies in the Muslim world only comes from a handful of Muslims. The truth is that many, Muslim and non-Muslim, have realised that Bush and Blair's liberal imperialism is widening the gulf between the Western and the Muslim world such that Britain, the USA and others will be entrenched in the anarchy of Iraq and Afghanistan for decades. Many believe that such a vision is both immoral and dangerous to the world.

Hizb.org.uk: You seem to blame foreign policy - don't you have any sense of responsibility?

IW: As Muslims it will always be Islam that dictates our response. Islam does not call us to kill innocent civilians but rather obliges us to continue to speak the truth on these issues. We will therefore continue to channel anger about foreign policy into political work. Despite the political and media hysteria faced by the Muslim community, we will not remain silent over the real political grievances generated by an increasingly hostile foreign policy towards the Muslim world. We will continue to call and work for an end to political, economic and military interference in the Muslim world by Western governments. We would urge all people who care about bridging divides rather than widening them to look seriously at Muslim concerns and not perpetuate a state of denial that helps no one.

We realise it is an important duty, at a time when many are seeking to widen the divide, to communicate to the people of the West the true reality of Islam and the struggles in the Muslim world, and to enhance understanding of this very different, yet valid, worldview. It is with this aim that we invite people of all opinions and faiths to an open and sincere dialogue on the most critical debate of our time.

We encourage Muslims and non-Muslims to join our peaceful demonstration in London on Saturday to the US Embassy in London. The demonstration will expose continued interference in the Muslim world by Western governments and will provide an opportunity for people of conscience to demonstrate their opposition to hostile foreign policy.