Terror Base UK
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, December 17, 2007

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Neil Doyle, one of the world's top investigative journalists, a pioneering author, and a leading expert on international terrorism. He is the author of Terror Base UK: Inside a Secret War.

FP: Neil Doyle, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Doyle: Cheers.

FP: So what is the level of threat of domestic jihad in the UK at the moment? What has the MI5 found the situation to be?

Doyle: The threat level is currently severe and it's likely to remain that way for some time to come. In November last year, the then head of the Security Service, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, gave a speech in which she said that the organisation was aware of 30 major terrorist plots that were being planned and that 1,600 people involved in 200 cells or networks were under surveillance. She said the threat was serious and growing and that future attacks could involve nuclear and chemical weapons. Last month, the new head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, told the Society of Newspaper Editors that the number had grown to 2,000 and that there is probably another 2,000 that the service is not yet aware of.

FP: Who is involved in these terrorist plots? Why do they want to do harm to the UK and to innocent UK citizens?

Doyle: These are people from a wide range of backgrounds and educational levels. It ranges from teenagers who've only converted to Islam weeks before becoming involved in terror plots, right up to doctors, as we've witnessed in the recent attempted car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow. They are responding to al-Qaeda's aim of attacking UK interests, wherever they are, as retribution for Britain's perceived role in oppressing Muslims in the Middle East and beyond. In extremist circles, UK non-Muslim citizens are seen as complicit, as they vote for the government.

FP: What is the UK government, law enforcement etc. doing about it?

Doyle: The government has introduced a series of new anti-terrorism measures that are aimed at curtailing the growth of extremism. One measure has been a new law that outlaws the glorification of terrorist acts, which sparked a huge debate about the curtailment of free speech when it was first unveiled. Another has been to make the dissemination of information likely to be of use to terrorists a criminal offence. I've been critical of the inaction of the authorities in the past, but I must say that the police and other security services have certainly upped their game significantly. A number of successes in foiling major plots have been chalked up recently and that's a cause for comfort.

FP: What accounts for the growth of Islamic extremism in the UK? Why was there inaction on the part of the authorities in the past?

Doyle: Social deprivation has played a role. 9/11 put America and Britain's foreign policies in the spotlight. I think that some of those who felt dispossessed realised that there was an organisation, in the form of al-Qaeda, that was fighting on behalf of Muslims and the notion that an attack on one Muslim is an attack on all Muslims gained ground. Lack of integration has also been a factor. Many Muslim communities are virtually segregated and that allows militant ideology to spread, which results in some people adopting a siege mentality. The inaction of the authorities in the past is related to the tradition of tolerating dissent and allowing free speech. In the Thatcher era, it was thought that it was best to allow militant Muslim groups to set up shop in the UK and operate openly, on the understanding that those groups did not plan terrorist attacks in Britain. It's since been called an immoral policy, as it placed a low value on the lives of people who were not British.

FP: Well I would stress that many Islamic terrorists do not come from the oppressed, the poor and the downtrodden and actually come from very privileged backgrounds, and many of them have been great beneficiaries of the democratic societies that they despise. We can castigate ourselves for “lack of integration” but there is a reality that a certain group of people in a religion do not want to integrate into a society that offers them integration, and no politically correct day dream will change that reality. There are certain forces that simply hate us and our values because we represent freedom and liberty, and we also represent a society where females can have equality and self-determination, including sexual self-determination -- which Islamic radicals need to decimate in order to survive.

Doyle: Muslim terrorist suspects come from a wide variety of backgrounds. There are those who despise everything associated with Western society, however, there are high-profile former extremists in the UK who have abandoned their hard-line beliefs and are calling for others to do the same. The government is banking on a so-called battle of ideas to undermine the cultish attraction that jihadism can have, though it remains to be seen how successful this will be.

FP: Was it ultimately a mistake to let so many Muslims come to the UK without even checking who they were and what their beliefs entailed?

Doyle: Mass immigration is not the root cause of the problem. The overwhelming majority of Muslims in the UK are opposed to terrorism. The big mistake in the past, going back to the late 1980s, was to tolerate the presence of jihadist leaders in Britain: people like Abu Hamza al-Masri, Omar Bakri Mohammad and Abu Qatada. They had free reign to build up networks of followers, unfortunately, and they took maximum advantage of that.

FP: If jihadist leaders hate Britain so much, why do they come to live there and stay there?

Doyle: The old policy of tolerance attracted them in the first place, as well as our system of state benefits and free health care.

FP: So they like British tolerance, they like British state benefits, and they like British free health care, and they can’t get any of this back in their own Muslim societies, but they hate Britain and venerate their own societies which they don’t want to live in. Isn’t there a psychological pathology here?

Doyle: The same attractions exist for non-Muslim immigrants. For the first leaders of the jihadist movement, those were some of the reasons why a posting to the UK was attractive, I've no doubt. The spread of their influence was, to some extent, state-funded. The direct influence of those people has been curtailed, to an extent, and now their beliefs are being propagated by a younger generation who are UK born and bred. In many cases, they did not grow up hating everything British, but were turned at some point in their lives by an encounter with a jihadist recruiter. They join groups where members are bound by a siege mentality and a particular outlook on life. Those groups can and do convince others in the wider community that their particular grievances are legitimate, which is affirmed by news headlines coming out of Iraq and elsewhere.

FP: What has happened to Abu Hamza al-Masri, Omar Bakri Mohammad and Abu Qatada?

Doyle: Abu Hamza al-Masri was eventually charged and convicted of soliciting murder and stirring up racial hatred. He's currently fighting an attempt by the US to extradite him to face terrorism charges relating to the establishment of a jihad training camp in the state of Oregon. Bakri decided to evacuate himself to Lebanon in the wake of the 7/7 attacks and he's been barred by the government from re-entering the country. Abu Qatada is currently being held in detention pending deportation to his native Jordan.

FP: So are the authorities still tolerating the presence of jihadist leaders? And are they still allowing free reign to extremists to build up networks of followers?

Doyle: The landscape has changed substantially over the past 18 months. The government is trying to implement a zero tolerance policy. So-called "hate preachers" are being targeted and charged wherever possible: they no longer have free reign.

FP: How do you see the struggle ahead?

Doyle: For the authorities, eroding the attraction of the al-Qaeda brand that exists in some quarters is going to be long, difficult and complex.

FP: What advice would you give to the authorities to counter the terror threat?

Doyle: I'm merely an observer. There is a danger that the government's actions will be widely interpreted as proof that Islam is under attack. That's something that the authorities will need to monitor.

FP: Ok, the government has to try its best not to appear as though it is attacking Islam, but radical Muslims. But if many Muslims are offended that Islam is being misunderstood as a religion of violence, then where are all the British Muslims who are outraged that Islamic terrorists in the UK are giving them a bad name and for misrepresenting their religion? Where are the fatwas against terror, against al Qaeda, etc? Where are the Muslim demonstrations denouncing the radicals? Where are the Muslims denouncing the extremists in their midst for Britain being under attack?

Doyle: There is a widespread belief in the Muslim community that the government's foreign policies have played a key role in the rise of extremism. Many, I suspect, would fear that, by coming out and denouncing those who believe that Muslims need to defend themselves, they would leave themselves open to being accused of agreeing with the government and backing military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

FP: Yep, God forbid backing the U.S. military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, two interventions that freed 50 million people from vicious fascist dictatorships. I also think that the rise of Islamic extremism might just have something to do with the hate that Islamic extremist clerics and imams preach against democratic societies.

Neil Doyle, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Doyle: Thank you.

EXFL.COM editors comment