This article consists of an interview:
Four young British Muslims in their twenties – a social worker, an IT specialist, a security guard and a financial adviser – occupy a table at a fast-food chicken restaurant in Luton. Perched on their plastic chairs, wolfing down their dinner, they seem just ordinary young men. Yet out of their mouths pour heated words of revolution.
“As far as I’m concerned, when they bomb London, the bigger the better,” says Abdul Haq, the social worker. “I know it’s going to happen because Sheikh bin Laden said so. Like Bali, like Turkey, like Madrid – I pray for it, I look forward to the day.”
On the one hand, this talk is scary because they appear to be normal well adjusted members of western society aligning themselves with the goals of the terrorists. On the other hand, they also appear to be talking out of their asses:
“If we want to engage in terrorism, we would have to leave the country,” he says. “It is against Islam to do otherwise.” Such a course of action, he says, he is not prepared to undertake. This is why, Sayful claims, it is consistent, and not cowardly, for him to espouse the rhetoric of terrorism, the “martyrdom-operations”, while simultaneouslylimiting himself to nonviolentactions such as leafletting outside Luton town hall.
Effectively they are fans or cheerleaders of a global baseball team called Islamism. They are not players. A generation ago, many westerners supported Communism in the same way and perhaps for the same reasons. Its just not clear what sort of substantive danger these people really pose.
Update: The New York Times has a more threatening version of the above type of feature. The above article made if clear that these folks were not active because of the “covenant of security. According to the NYT, failure to acceed to Osama constitutes a breach of this covenant.
On Thursday evening, at a tennis center community hall in Slough, west of London, their leader, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammad, spoke of his adherence to Osama bin Laden. If Europe fails to heed Mr. bin Laden’s offer of a truce — provided that all foreign troops are withdrawn from Iraq in three months — Muslims will no longer be restrained from attacking the Western countries that play host to them, the sheik said.
Even more worrying, said a senior counterterrorism official, is that the level of “chatter” — communications among people suspected of terrorism and their supporters — has markedly increased since Mr. bin Laden’s warning to Europe this month. The spike in chatter has given rise to acute worries that planning for another strike in Europe is advanced.
And here it is clear that attempting to respond doesn’t necessarily help (its not like Saddam was a religious leader, right?)
“Iraq dramatically strengthened their recruitment efforts,” one counterterrorism official said. He added that some mosques now display photos of American soldiers fighting in Iraq alongside bloody scenes of bombed out Iraqi neighborhoods. Detecting actual recruitments is almost impossible, he said, because it is typically done face to face.
The question is whether the firebrands or the moderates have more influence:
Mainstream Muslims are outraged by the situation, saying the actions of a few are causing their communities to be singled out for surveillance and making the larger population distrustful of them.
Muhammad Sulaiman, a stalwart of the mainstream Central Mosque here, was penniless when he arrived from the Kashmiri frontier of Pakistan in 1956. He raised money to build the Central Mosque here and now leads a campaign to ban Al Muhajiroun radicals from the city’s 10 mosques.
However I’m not optimistic. See my prior post on structurelessness. Here is where it gets most scary.
“We may be caught up in the target as the people of Manhattan were,” he told them.
And he warned Western leaders, “You may kill bin Laden, but the phenomenon, you cannot kill it — you cannot destroy it.”
“Our Muslim brothers from abroad will come one day and conquer here and then we will live under Islam in dignity,” he said.