Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary, has waded into the debate over MI5 and whether this was a factor in radicalising Muhammad Emwazi with what appears to be a clear and categorical contradiction. On the one hand he claims, “We are absolutely clear; the responsibility for acts of terror rests with those who commit them,” yet in the same breadth he contradicts himself by saying, “But a huge burden of responsibility also lies with those who act as apologists for them.” So are those who undertake acts of terror solely responsible? Or do other factors play a role? Clearly the self-contradictory statement from Philip Hammond doesn’t clarify these questions. It is not surprising that high level government officials make such inane statements when their words are attempting to fit a square peg in a round hole.
The government is trying to peddle a narrative claiming that political violence has no external political context but is rather a particular problem within the Muslim community. Therefore, irrespective of what the government policies are, violence from Muslims would always occur. Muslims are thus collectively responsible for any acts of violence perpetrated by anyone who happens to share their faith. It’s a collective failure of their mosques, community centres, madrasas, parents and imams. Therefore the Government must step in to police the Muslim community, control their institutions, define their religion and re-educate them on how not to engage in barbaric violence. This preposterous theory conveniently makes the Muslim community the scapegoat for any acts of violence and absolves the Government of any responsibility.
This theory however, has little or no academic backing and lacks empirical evidence, in fact it contradicts what we clearly know. For instance if the problem is inherent in the Muslim community then why, prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, were there no politically motivated violent acts perpetrated by Muslims in the UK? Furthermore according to Europol crime statistics from the years 2006 to 2012 less than 0.5% of all failed, foiled or successful terrorist acts were conducted by Muslims or were “religiously inspired” in the EU. There are some 15 million Muslims living in the EU. It is also known that every convicted or known Muslim perpetrator of political violence has attempted to justify their violence based on UK’s foreign policy and in particular the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Even the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) had reported before the Iraq invasion that this will increase the likelihood for terrorist acts not reduce it. Many, if not all, of these individuals were not “radicalised” by any Islamic institution but were isolated from the majority of Muslims having been known and interacted with by the intelligence services for years.
Denying the role of British foreign and domestic policy in fostering the anger and frustration that leads to violence is disingenuous. Indeed this is not a justification for violence, nor the sole factor, but it does bring a more honest and open discussion of the factors that lead people to violence when Government’s policies are brought in for questioning. If then the Government is serious about reducing the threat from political violence (chances of being drowned in the bathtub being greater than being killed in a terrorist attack), then acknowledging the role of these policies is needed. For instance, in Emwazi’s case emails sent to Cage demonstrate that the security services prevented him from starting “a new life” in Kuwait where he had a career and his fiancée waiting. Did this lead him to feel isolated, losing hope for any recourse to justice and thus fostering anger and resentment that ultimately led him to become the notorious ISIS executioner?
To even attempt to bring in an open and honest discussion on the wider political context and draconian state policies has led to a hysterical response. And in the case of Philip Hammond an illogical self-contradictory statement. It is well known that the ‘war on terror’ has never been about reducing violence, but a convenient rhetoric to justify foreign policy to secure ‘national interests’. Western governments akin to Middle Eastern dictators whip up public opinion to justify their policies and hide from the people the real reasons for going to war such as the corporate tycoons that desire to exploit raw materials, the geopolitical competition between Western nations and the political awakening of the Muslim World.
Challenging such a narrative leads to questioning the underlying nature of Capitalism as a world order thereby threatening the material interests of the corporatocracy. As such there will be attempts to curtail the voice of anyone who attempts to tell the other side of the story, even if it means contradicting the very “British Values” they are claiming to defend.