“There’s a Mecca that Muslims should visit, and the mecca of jihad that is London.”
“Was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab radicalized in London?,” by Robert Marquand and Ben Quinn in the Christian Science Monitor, December 28 (thanks to James):
For young Muslims especially, London is a city like no other. It is a mecca for jobs and education and provides freedom from the prying eyes of family back home. The grand metropolis also beckons as a bastion of religious freedom and as a refuge from corrupt home country politics….
That was the world that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – the young Nigerian accused of seeking to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas -immersed himself in as a student between 2005 and 2008, when the petri dish of political Islam in London was stirring strongly.
For at least a decade sub-cultures of radical thought that promote borderless Islam and an uncompromising return to Sharia law have flourished in Great Britain’s capital – despite some reportedly effective efforts to tamp down extremist views, and despite worries among moderate London Muslims about the trend.
“There are basically two meccas,” argues Egyptian-born Mamoun Fandy of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “There’s a Mecca that Muslims should visit, and the mecca of jihad that is London.”…
The availability of every kind of message Islam has to offer is part of the London scene. Most mosques have easy byways for students to meet and learn a more intense Koranic view; groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, which seeks a return to early Islam with all Muslim states under one ruler, post members around mosques on Friday. They offer cards with phone numbers and invitations to study groups that discuss jihad. One of their common Friday hangouts is an East London mosque that Abdulmutallab allegedly attended.
“I’ve felt for a long time that if radical Sharia law comes to the rest of the world it will start on the streets of London,” says a Pakistani expert on militant Islam who asked not to be identified. “Too many clerics today, even moderate ones, don’t talk on Muslim life in a secular state. Young Muslims are smart, raised as British citizens. If they come from abroad, many have great hope and are often disillusioned. They live between worlds, in the cracks. When they go home to their families they are often more radical than their friends.”…
Agence France-Presse cited family members’ claims that Abdulmutallab was a quiet individual who was “radicalized” during his stint in London. The London daily Independent quoted a school friend: “He always did the bare minimum of work and would just show up to classes” and “he always would go off to pray,” said Fabrizio Cavallo Marincola. “He was pretty quiet and didn’t socialise much or have a girlfriend that I knew of. (…) You would never imagine him pulling off something like this.”
Critics of lax border security in the UK point out that more than 42,000 British student visas were issued to Pakistani students between 2004 and 2007 but it was only in 2009 that applications have been checked against an expanded set of terrorist watch lists. A concern is that student visas are being secured to study at educational institutions which don’t exist.
The Pakistani analyst, who has close ties to London mosques, argues that nearly every Pakistani radical he knows in London has gone through a “night club” phase. They try out a “clubbing life” that is ultimately unsatisfying. “They try to experience something like a dream of life in the west. About a year later they show up in the mosque, grow beards and are ‘good Muslims,'” he says.
And the peaceful Muslims whose peaceful religion has putatively been hijacked have no effective rejoinder to their claim to be “good Muslims” when they turn to jihad violence and Islamic supremacism.
Many Muslims in the UK complain of the “double standards” of Western policies, particularly as regards the Middle East. British Palestinian Muslims have complained, for example, that when British Jews go to Israel and fight for the Israeli army, they come home as praiseworthy heroes; but when Palestinians go to fight or aid the local struggle, they come home and are considered terrorists.
Uh, yeah. Maybe if the British Jews had been blowing people up on buses or in restaurants, this might be different.
In July, a determination in London that Al Qaeda threats have diminished lowered the terrorist threat level from severe to substantial, and relaxed measures such as ‘stop and search’ powers. Britain has spent heavily on reconciliation projects – sponsoring ‘moderate’ preachers – aimed at stemming the influence of Islamist messages over young British Muslims. UK campuses remain in the frontline of struggle to prevent the radicalization of students although the British government continues to resist calls to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, accused of attempting to infiltrate Muslim student societies.