British governments have allowed indoctrination centers in mosques and cultural centers
The threat by terrorists to blow up airliners travelling to the United States has been ignored for too long by Britain, a series of American-based analysts have said.
American officials on Wednesday publicly demanded enhanced security for airports in Europe and the Middle East which have direct flights to the US. They did not say whether they had intelligence about a specific plot, but their actions suggested alarm, and a Homeland Security Department official said the request was “based on real-time intelligence”.
On Friday, France announced that it was stepping up security checks at its airports, in response to the US warning.
But many American security and political experts said that Britain had turned a blind eye to the threat for too long.
“British governments have allowed indoctrination centres in mosques and cultural centres, they have turned a blind eye to recruitment operations and they have asserted the rights of those who want to impose sharia rule in their own areas,” said Frank Gaffney, former assistant secretary of defence under President Ronald Reagan.
“They have embraced extremists who are just as determined to overthrow us by professed peaceful means as violent jihadists.
“This has inexorably led to a situation where any good jihadist calculates that it is time to wage violent struggle.”
Mr Gaffney, who has founded the Centre for Security Policy – a neo-conservative national security think-tank – said that Europe was “reaping the whirlwind” of its policies on domestic Islamists.
“Neither Britain nor Europe nor the US world have come to grips with the nature of the enemy that we’re up against.
“The Western jihadists in Iraq and Syria have guns and they have learned how to practice violent jihad and they’ll be returning with that knowledge.
“These people have been indoctrinated in Britain and Europe before they travel to the battlefront. What they learn there are the skill sets to bring violence to us.”
His comments were echoed by Debra Burlingame, a sister of one of pilots murdered in the Sept 2001 attacks.
Miss Burlingame became an outspoken critic of the role of Islamic fundamentalists in terrorism after the 9/11 attacks, when her brother Charles was pilot of the hijacked plane was that was flown into the Pentagon. She founded the Keep America Safe national security group.
“We have known for more than a decade that terrorists wanted to use jihadists with Western passports to attack us and still British and European government have not confronted the concerns about their own citizens,” she said.
“Britain has allowed a whole generation of jihadists to flourish and go on the offensive because they are frightened of criticism for pushing back against a religious minority.
“It’s these failings by your politicians that have created the openings for the jihadists that we are seeing operating now in Syria and Iraq.
“The governments of Britain and Western Europe need to face up to the facts and identify who the enemy is.”
And she accused British and European leaders of “letting down peaceful Muslims” by “refusing to discuss the role of extremist ideology in the terrorist threat that we face.”
She added: “They are terrified of stepping out of line or being perceived not to be multicultural. But this is a war that will last generations and we have to be ready to identify the real enemy if we are going to have a chance defending ourselves.”
Others saw Britain’s desire to respect and tolerate different communities as making them weak on tackling terrorism.
Dr Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, agreed that the airliner threats this week “underscores the need for far tougher action to be taken by the British government against Islamic extremism.”
He said: “This latest development is a reflection of many years of weak immigration policy and the failure of successive governments to tackle Islamic extremism in the UK.
“A great many of the problems began under the Labour Government and are now a problem for the Cameron administration.
“I think it demonstrates why Michael Gove’s campaign to root out extremism from British schools is very important.”
Hassan Mneimneh, a senior transatlantic fellow of the German Marshall of the United States in Washington DC added that European governments failed to eradicate jihadism during the Arab spring.
“There was an opportunity to marginalise jihadism, but the opportunity has passed.
“In Britain and Europe there are immigrant communities which have a disproportionate number of Islamists.
“There is a feeling of alienation which creates a tendency to romanticise Islamism.”
Governments had worsened the situation by their approach to Syria, he added.
“To allow a place like Syria to fester was an invitation to jihadism, so it cannot come as a surprise to governments.
“Syria has acted as an incubator for jihadists and what we have is an invigorated recruitment network of jihadists.
“They are recruiting people who are marginalised, radicalised and then come back and make bombs.”
But Dr Quintan Wiktorowicz, who served as President Barack Obama’s senior adviser on countering terrorism and wrote Radical Islam Rising, took a more nuanced approach.
“One of the challenges is managing social cohesion and terrorism,” he said.
“There has always been this mistake of conflating integration, social cohesion and counter terrorism. Each of these often requires different policies and tools, some of which may be in conflict with one another. In these cases, policy makers need to decide which area is their top priority. If your main priority is social cohesion you may do one thing and if it is counter terrorism, you may do another.”
He added that those most likely to be radicalised were either converts to Islam or those who were born again with low levels of religious knowledge, rather than those who have been observant all their life and have a more thorough understanding of the Koran.
“If you are an alienated youth from Tower Hamlets or Waltham Forest with limited knowledge about Islam, you do not have the knowledge base to judge violent extremist arguments about the religion. Radicalizers are very adept at weaving deceitful narratives and giving vulnerable youth a sense of empowerment through violence.”