Not an anti-terror weapon
They love fish and chips; how could they be terrorists? The usual protestations of innocence from the families of the British Muslims who were just arrested raises another common misconception that I hear all the time: that American pop culture, or Western pop culture in general, will ultimately defeat Islamic radicalism. Muslims, in this view, will choose Big Macs and Britney over the Sharia and caliphate.
Unfortunately, there is already abundant evidence around the world that this is not the case. Even the most radical Muslims already have abundant access to Western culture, and many of them don’t see any contradiction to their worldview in slugging down a Coke “” the existence of Mecca Cola notwithstanding. When the journalist Charles Glass was taken hostage in Lebanon in the late 1980s, he found his captors listening to Michael Jackson records. Michael didn’t move them to call off the jihad.
From AP, with thanks to Jean-Luc:
RELATIVES of young men arrested in a police anti-terrorist sweep that netted half a ton of potentially explosive fertiliser proclaimed their innocence today, while British Muslim leaders called for vigilance against terrorist activity.
Unlike most previous terror suspects arrested here, the young men are all British citizens, products of quiet, racially mixed suburbs whose residents expressed shock – and fear for their community.
“The police say they are Muslims, Pakistanis – it causes problems,” said a 26-year-old resident of Crawley, the dormitory town near Gatwick Airport where three were arrested.
“Things like that are going to mess up Crawley,” said the man, a taxi driver who gave only his first name, Malik.
In fact, police would not confirm media reports that the suspects were of Pakistani origin and said nothing about their religious affiliation.
Police were questioning the eight men, aged 17 to 32, at London’s high-security Paddington Green police station today.
They were arrested in London and surrounding counties yesterday on suspicion of “being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism”.
Police also recovered half a ton of ammonium nitrate – a chemical fertiliser used in many bomb attacks, including the October 2002 explosions that killed 202 people on the Indonesian island of Bali – from a self-storage warehouse in west London, a few miles from Heathrow Airport.
Ansar Khan, a taxi driver who works at Gatwick airport, said his 18-year-old son Ahmad was arrested, along with two cousins. He said the youths were not terrorists.
“These boys are the cricketers, the Manchester United fans. Fish and chips is their favourite food,” said Khan, 48.
Relatives claimed the three Crawley youths had drawn the attention of the intelligence services. Ansar Khan and another relative said the family bought tickets to Pakistan for two of the suspects after an agent of the MI5 intelligence agency suggested they should leave the country for a year.
“He said if they would be willing to leave, it would make (the security services’) life easier,” Khan said.
Security sources dismissed the claims. The government had no official comment.
Others in Crawley, a workaday modern town 50kms south of London, uniformly described the arrested men as quiet, polite and unremarkable.
Today police stood guard outside several modern red-brick houses with tiny, tidy lawns in Crawley’s Langley Green area. In one, forensic experts in blue coveralls worked gathering evidence.
The three suspects “came in here three or four times”, said Jafar Nazir, 34, co-owner of a local Internet cafe whose computers were seized by police yesterday. “They’d just come in, browse the Internet for 20 or 30 minutes, and go.
“They were just normal kids. I don’t know what they got up to.”
Worshippers said the Crawley Islamic Centre, a small brick mosque near the suspects’ homes, was not a site of radical preaching. A representative of the mosque, who refused to be named, said it worked closely with police to combat extremism.
National Muslim leaders appealed today for vigilance against terrorism. In a letter to 1000 British mosques, the Muslim Council of Britain admonished that “Islam categorically forbids violence and killing of innocents, let alone indulging in violence which can cause death and mayhem”.
“We are urging vigilance and also urging Muslims if they have any suspicions or evidence of criminal activity or wrongdoing taking place then that the information should be given to the police,” said Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the group.