I’ve never been a believer in Ed Husain. He founded the Quilliam Foundation, the enormously influential “moderate Muslim” group in the U.K. At the time of Quilliam’s founding, Husain went out of his way to launch a gratuitous attack on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq and me. At that time I had been quite interested to determine whether Quilliam was really the sincere reformist organization it claimed to be — but this unexpected and unwarranted attack made me doubt it immediately. I know Ayaan Hirsi Ali (a Somali ex-Muslim) and Ibn Warraq (a Pakistani ex-Muslim) personally. I know their work quite well. I know that neither is a “racist” or a “bigot,” just as I know that I myself am not one either. I know that they’re deeply concerned about how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism, as I am, and want to preserve Western pluralistic societies with their freedom of speech and equality of rights for all people, as I do.
So what does that make Ed Husain? Well, in this present case he is telling the British government that they better not seize jihadis’ passports, because that will only fuel the perception that true Muslims are unwelcome in Britain, since the jihadis consider themselves to be true Muslims. What the U.K. needs to do, Husain says, is de-radicalize the returning jihadis.
De-radicalization programs have been implemented elsewhere, notably in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Let’s look at how they fared. From the Jihad Watch archives:
Former Guantanamo detainee now top al-Qaeda ideologue — “He was transferred to Saudi Arabia in 2006 where he was placed in a national rehabilitation project.”
This is a high-stakes game. When de-radicalization programs fail, the failure manifests itself in a jihad attack, and the deaths of human beings. Ed Husain is asking the British government to depend on an approach that has never worked, in an arena in which any failure could result in British citizens being murdered. Whereas, if jihadis’ passports were seized, some Muslims may be angry, but a lot of Muslims are already angry. Any Muslim in Britain who becomes a jihad terrorist because other jihad terrorists were not allowed back into the country was already a jihad terrorist.
Ed Husain is asking the British government to roll the dice on the lives of its people. A high-stakes game indeed. I think Ed Husain is not the only “moderate” who will be showing his true colors in light of the advent of the Islamic State.
“Ed Husain: Taking passports would only raise the jihadist threat,” by Ed Husain, London Evening Standard, September 2, 2014 (thanks to Mirren10):
I speak with politicians around the world about the Middle East and terrorism — yet very few understand the depth and breadth of the challenge facing us. Thankfully, David Cameron not only understands it but has shown vision in identifying the ideology and narrative that supports terrorism.
Yet his government has done very little about tackling the mindset that produces British citizens who wish to become jihadists, abroad or at home. The PM has the right instincts and attitudes but the wrong advisers and civil servants surrounding him.
Nice people who work at the Home Office, career civil servants who want a quiet life, do not have the stamina for an ideological fight against extremists who wish to die for their beliefs. Worse, our civil servants simply do not understand the potent mix of warped theology and political ideology.
Ain’t that the truth. They’re forbidden to understand it; if they do, people like Ed Husain will call them “racists” and “Islamophobes.”
Against these odds, Cameron has floated the idea of confiscating the passports of British subjects fighting abroad and forcing others to undergo de-radicalisation programmes. It is hard to forcefully change someone’s mind, but it is worth the effort. That does not worry me. But the removal of British citizenship does.
Those who swear allegiance to an enemy state or entity such as the so-called Islamic State do not deserve the honour of being a British national. Morally, this is the right approach. But legally the Government could be on very shaky ground — as ex-attorney general Dominic Grieve warned yesterday, concerns amplified today by the official reviewer of anti-terror legislation David Anderson QC. The PM seemed tacitly to acknowledge this by failing yesterday to set out concrete proposals on this measure.
But even if the Government succeeded legally, there would be a worse unintended consequence. Strategically, this could raise the stakes for domestic terrorism. Often the most hardline Islamists are non-violent here because they believe Britain offers them an aqd al amaan, a “covenant of security”. They justify fighting other governments abroad because no such agreement or covenant exists. By removing their passports, in their minds we remove their covenant. They would justify attacks on UK interests abroad and target the British isles on the grounds that the Government has now nullified the aqd al amaan.
This would add to their recruitment drive. They would say: “True Muslims don’t have British passports. You are a sell-out and have compromised with the state if you have UK nationality.”
In trying to reduce the terror threat, is the Government unwittingly increasing it? Not every jihadist who fights in Syria wants to fight here in England. By removing their passports, we would risk making them and their supporters here in Britain combatants against our country.
It is wiser to prosecute them, detain them, de-radicalise them. Ours is a culture built on the rule of law— that fundamental principle must not be compromised because a ragtag army threatens us.
Winning the long-term battle of ideas against Islamist radicals is the only solution. Muslim and other communities are in dire need for support to defeat the ideology that produces terror. This Government has yet to support that battle. And time is not on our side.