London attack raises issue of radicalisation in UK

Many are now calling for government to take a tougher line on Islamist groups at a time when terror threat level re­mains at 'severe.'

Confronting terror. Armed police officers walk past tributes in Parliament Square following a recent attack in Westminster, on March 24th. (Reuters)

2017/03/26 Issue: 99 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mahmud el-Shafey

London - Following the March 22nd attack in London, ques­tions are being asked about how the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe are working to combat radical extrem­ism at a time when lone-wolf at­tacks directed and inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS) are on the rise.

More than 300 people have been killed and 1,200 injured in more than 20 terror attacks in Europe since the start of 2015. While ISIS has claimed responsibility for the vast majority of these attacks, including the one this week near parliament, analysts say that the priority must be to com­bat the dangerous Islamist ideology that underpins the group.

ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, is heavily influenced by ideology pro­moted by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has been designated a terrorist organisation in a number of Arab countries but remains active in Europe and the United States. All three groups have said that their ob­jective was to establish an Islamic caliphate and implement sharia law. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi and al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and founder Osama bin Laden have a history with the Brotherhood.

There has always been a lot of overlap between Islamist groups, but while ISIS and al-Qaeda are be­ing directly confronted, the Muslim Brotherhood is able to continue to peddle its ideology in the West and particularly London, which until recently was the headquarters of its international organisation.

In a 2014 interview, Qatari-based Muslim Brotherhood preacher Yu­suf al-Qaradawi confirmed that Baghdadi had been a member of the Brotherhood. Qaradawi was banned from entering Britain in 2008, with former prime minister David Cam­eron describing him as a “dangerous and divisive” preacher of hate. “The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence,” the UK Home Office said.

Although the UK government re­leased a long-awaited review into the Muslim Brotherhood in late 2015, it stopped short of an out­right ban on the group. “Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with vio­lent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism,” said then prime minister David Cameron following the release of the report.

Many are now calling for the Brit­ish government to take a tougher line on Islamist groups at a time when the UK terror threat level re­mains at “severe”, meaning an at­tack is highly likely. There has also been talk of banning the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States following the election of Donald Trump as president.

“Aspects of the Muslim Brother­hood’s ideology and activities… run counter to British values of de­mocracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality and the mutual respect and tolerance of difference faiths and beliefs,” said the UK Mus­lim Brotherhood review.

“The main findings of the review support the conclusion that mem­bership of, association with, or in­fluence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism,” the report said.

Mahmud el-Shafey is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.

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