Britain's failed, politically correct counter-terror strategy
At the anti-terrorism Prevent Strategy's heart lay the cosy conceit that what had motivated the 7/7 bombers was a heretical understanding of Islam rather than a puritanical one. Combined with ongoing multi-culturalism it is hard to see how we're on the path to progress
The sombre scenes of remembrance which took place near Hyde Park on Tuesday, belie the fact that most sought to forget the aftermath of 7/7. In time, those three weeks in July only gave pause to those directly affected by the killings, and to policy makers.
When the War on Terror began in 2001, our fear was Muslims abroad bringing terrorism to the West. Now countries like the UK export much more in the way of home-grown fanatics worldwide.
Examining how politicians struggled with the implications of events in London in 2005, while remaining determined not to take the steps they pointed to as necessary, we can begin to understand why.
London had been through much worse, but all at a time without camera phones, only then starting to become ubiquitous, a development whose psychological impact cannot be downplayed.
The figure of Scotland Yard’s Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, who with a dated English sobriety had referred to a “situation” on London transport on the news that summer morning, had been replaced by evening with grainy footage of smoke and screams from an underground hell.
The first years that followed 7/7 were instructive to those interested in how the UK’s burgeoning Islamic population became the means by which government began surgically removing ancient rights of speech, opinion and protest.
These were freedoms which only a few decades earlier generations of Britons had courageously fought to preserve.
Since 1968, when Enoch Powell’s notorious speech highlighting their repercussions ensured his political suicide, family reunification laws have facilitated the doubling of the Muslim population of Britain every decade.
As the terminus of King’s Cross was renovated soon after 7/7, the memorial garden established to commemorate the atrocity was swiftly erased. Tourists from around the world flocked to have themselves photographed at its replacement, Harry Potter’s platform 9¾.
London’s determination to forget was deep-seated. 7/7 had come the day after the rapturous news that the city would host the Olympics.
After an unfortunate blip, London 2012 was guaranteed to become a triumphant celebration of multiculturalism: a concept which amounts to taking migration, swollen to levels that ensure integration no longer becomes even a pretence, and praising the resulting free-for-all, never mind the self-sealing enclaves in which fundamentalism can find a comfortable place of rest.
By 2005, population numbers had resulted in the recruitment of four British Muslims by an Al-Qaeda operative working from a fried chicken shop in Luton. Since then, thousands have followed similar paths.
All have matured in a Britain supposedly protected by the Prevent Strategy, the anti-terror initiative implemented by the Labour government as a result of what happened in July that year.
At the scheme’s heart lay the cosy conceit that what had motivated the bombers was a heretical understanding of Islam rather than a puritanical one.
With this in mind, it is fair to ask whether we would be imbuing this week’s anniversary with such significance, were it not for last year’s creation of the Islamic State, and the grim recognition of how utterly such a unifying multicultural vision for Britain has failed.
We should do, because now as much as a decade ago, it is only necessary to pierce the surface of events to see where Britain’s inability to exert any meaningful control over its future security truly lies.
In a telling symbolic image, Roma migrants, using it as a doss-house, had to be shooed away from the 7/7 memorial, constructed in 2009, before this week’s commemorations.
As online pictures saying “We Are Not Afraid” were created in their city’s honour, by the week’s end commentators were suggesting that the need for Londoners to walk home together that day, had authored a new Blitz spirit.
A fortnight later, we found out just how much fear there was. Reports of four new bombers emerged on 21 July. When only the initiator-charges of their explosive backpacks detonated, they fled. The air of panic was audible even in the usually restrained tones of the Radio 4 announcer who broke the news.
Blurry CCTV images of four men hurtling down corridors of the Tube were perpetually broadcast. Identification was impossible. London held its breath, and then expelled a sigh on learning that one had been shot dead, trying to board a train at Stockwell station the next morning.
The relief was palpable, as was the subsequent sense of overwhelming guilt originating from Britain’s innate sense of fairness, when it became clear that the police had got the wrong man.
Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was from Brazil. Exhausted security men had been working flat-out. He bore an uncanny resemblance to 26-year old Hussain Osman. The copycat team was apprehended by 29 July.
In truth, neither man should have been where he was. Domestic border policy, once again, defining who could or could not claim the privilege of being British, and its scale, had been a contributory cause of another tragedy. Not the foreign policy on which 7/7 became blamed.
De Menezes had sneaked into Britain through Ireland, using forged papers, when his original visa had expired, whereas Osman had outfoxed the UK’s ring of steel, with little more than a use of his brother’s passport. Catching the Eurostar, he then flew to Italy.
Today our borders are even more porous. If I were to present myself at the same international terminal with an expired passport, I would be immediately sent home. If I were an ISIS terrorist trying to cross the Mediterranean, HMS Bulwark would assist my passage.
In 2005, none could admit that the magnitude of fear had prompted the enormity of the initial sense of relief at de Menezes’s death. So a scapegoat was duly found and despatched. Within weeks, 7/7 was forgotten. Sir Ian Blair was crucified, much to the distress of the massacre’s victims.
Britain’s political Left, more determined to radically change the UK’s demography than to protect its security leapt on the de Menezes killing, while New Labour’s transformative immigration project was just getting started.
They argued that he was more British than the feckless workshy British, innocently cut down while rushing to the first of two jobs at which he worked like a galley slave.
The narrative which emerged after 7/7 was not one of withering scrutiny against a de-humanizing ideology. It became a caricature of an over-bearing state making innocent immigrants bear the brunt of the criticism for the terrible actions of a few.
In the social climate which created Prevent, the government’s cross-departmental focus was on things called radicalization and extremism; vague words meaning nothing more than the possession of dangerous ideas.
Both concepts allow the bracketing of citizens who believe that immigration policy, like any other government policy, should serve the interests of a country’s own nationals rather than the nationals of other lands under the same umbrella as people who yearn to kill.
As fundamentalist preachers stream into Britain, the powers given to her by Prevent led Teresa May to dutifully exclude the anti-Sharia activists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller for five years in 2013.
While the real “extremism” which needs tackling is remarkably easy to define, this is precisely why no one in authority does so. That extremism, of course, amounts to the belief that, aggrieved or otherwise, it is permissible for its adherents to murder infidels.
The failed principles of Prevent, which since 2005 have comprehensively ignored that truth, are now statutory law since the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act passed in February this year.
As with other laws which further fillet away our liberties, one struggles to understand how it resolves the central challenges that our society faces, which really comes down to clearly stating the core problems outlined above.
George Igler is a political analyst in the City of London and the Director of the Discourse Institute
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