Iraq war 'triggered UK bomb plots'
Ex-MI5 chief says Iraq posed little threat before 2003 but war raised risk of attack.
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2010 16:02
Britain's support for the war in Iraq was connected to a series of deadly bombings in London and sparked a rise in domestic attack plots that "swamped" security services, a former intelligence chief has said.
Eliza Manningham-Buller, director of the MI5 between 2002 and 2007, told a public inquiry in London on Tuesday that the 2003 invasion "undoubtedly increased the threat [of domestic attacks], and by 2004 we were pretty well swamped".
She said that the war had "radicalised a whole generation of young people," and that some British Muslims perceived the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to be an attack on Islam.
Between 2001 and 2008, Britain investigated about 16 "substantial" domestic plots, of which about 12 were stopped, she told the hearing into the Iraq war.
In July 2005, four suicide bombers detonated bombs on London's transport network, killing 52 commuters and injuring hundreds more.
Video messages left by the attackers referred to Britain's role in Iraq.
'No link to 9/11'
Manningham-Buller told the five-member inquiry panel, appointed by Britain's government, that the decision to invade Iraq had also likely provided an impetus to al-Qaeda.
"Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad, so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before," she said.
By contrast, the former MI5 chief told the inquiry, Iraq had posed little threat to Britain in the years leading up to the war.
"We did not believe they had the capacity to do much in the UK," she said.
She added that there was a lack of evidence linking Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, to the September 11 attacks in the US.
"There was no credible intelligence to suggest that connection and that was the judgement, I might say, of the CIA," she told the inquiry.
"It was not a judgment that found favor with some parts of the American machine.''
"It is why Donald Rumsfeld started an alternative intelligence unit in the Pentagon to seek an alternative judgment," Manningham-Buller, who was a frequent visitor to the US, said.
The inquiry, chaired by former civil servant John Chilcot, was set up last year by Brown to learn lessons from the war.
Previous probes have cleared the government of any wrongdoing.
Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is expected to appear before the inquiry in the coming weeks.
The inquiry is expected to conclude at the end of this year, but will not apportion blame or assign criminal liability for mistakes made.
Former MI5 chief delivers damning verdict on Iraq invasion
Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller tells Chilcot that invasion increased terrorist threat and radicalised young British Muslims
Hundreds of Muslims attend anti-terror summer camp
By Julie Jammot (AFP) – Aug 9, 2010
COVENTRY, England — "Follow the Prophet Mohammed, don't follow bin Laden!" That was the message from an anti-terrorism summer camp led by a top scholar which attracted hundreds of young Muslims this week.
Al-Hidayah (The Guidance) was led by Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who earlier this year issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, against terrorism.
His message to the roughly 1,300 people attending the three-day event on a university campus in Coventry, was clear -- terrorism is anti-Islamic.
And it was welcomed by members of the British Muslim community, which has been in the spotlight since the July 7, 2005 suicide attacks on London's public transport system killed 52 innocent people, plus the four young British Muslim extremists who blew themselves up.
"The thing he said about terrorism is a big thing to say," Anam Nazir, a young woman who attended the event, told AFP.
"I'm from Pakistan and I have never seen any scholar say things like that in the media because they're too scared... he's brave."
The event, which ended Monday, cost some 200 pounds per person to attend, including accommodation.
On the agenda were lectures about issues faced by Muslims living in the West such as terrorism, suicide bombing and integration as well as music and sports, plus prayers in the room which is usually the students' disco.
But for many attendees, one highlight was the opening speech by Tahir-ul-Qadri, the Canadian-based founder of moderate Islamic NGO Minhaj-ul-Quran International, during which he spoke out against Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Afterwards, Tahir-ul-Qadri said Islam states that followers can only voice disagreements with laws in a peaceful manner, and that it was a religion that preached integration.
According to Islamic law "these countries that protect your life and your wealth and your honour... are peaceful countries so you're not allowed to become terrorists against these countries and these societies," he said.
"This is the commandment of the Holy Prophet and Islam and Allah, to be integrated in the society where you're living."
The event was covered widely in the British media, much of which more usually depicts Islamic preachers as extremists like hook-handed Abu Hamza al-Masri rather than as moderates.
Hamza, the former imam of a London mosque, is serving a seven-year jail term for inciting followers to murder non-believers.
The European Court of Human Rights recently blocked his extradition to the United States, where he is facing terror charges.
Naseem, a young man attending the event who runs a hairdressing business, said the summer camp would help him to explain the true nature of Islam to the customers from all backgrounds who he serves.
"I believe (Tahir-ul-Qadri's) challenge to radicalisation, terrorism is very good -- terrorism is a danger towards mankind," he told AFP.
"I run a barber shop, I get all sorts of people from different walks (of life), I can give the true view of what Islam says".
Timothy Winter: Britain's most influential Muslim - and it was all down to a peach
It was the sight of peach juice dripping from the chin of a teenage French female nudist that led a Cambridgeshire public schoolboy to convert to Islam. Thirty-five years later, Timothy Winter – or Sheikh Abdul-Hakim Murad, as he is known to his colleagues – has been named one of the world's most influential Muslims.
The hitherto unnoticed Mr Winter, who has an office in Cambridge University's Divinity Faculty, where he is the Shaykh Zayed Lecturer of Islamic Studies, has been listed ahead of the presidents of Iran and Egypt, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, and the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Mahmoud Abbas. "Strange bedfellows," he concedes.
Tall, bookish, fair-skinned and flaxen-haired, a wiry beard is his only obvious stylistic concession to the Islamic faith.
To the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre (RISSC), which is based at the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in the Jordanian capital, Amman, Winter is "one of the most well-respected Western theologians" and "his accomplishments place him amongst the most significant Muslims in the world". Winter is also the secretary of the Muslim Academic Trust, director of The Anglo-Muslim Fellowship for Eastern Europe, and director of the Sunna Project, which has published the most respected versions of the major Sunni Hadith collections, the most important texts in Islam after the Qur'an.
He has also written extensively on the origins of suicidal terrorism.
According to the RISSC, the list highlights "leaders and change-agents who have shaped social development and global movements". Winter is included because "[his] work impacts all fields of work and particularly, the religious endeavors of the Muslim world".
In the 500 Most Influential Muslims 2010, Mr Winter is below the King of Saudi Arabia – who comes in at number one – but ahead of many more chronicled figures. He is ranked in an unspecified position between 51st and 60th, considerably higher than the three other British people who make the list – the Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi; the UK's first Muslim life peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed, who was briefly jailed last year for dangerous driving; and Dr Anas Al Shaikh Ali, director of the
International Institute of Islamic Thought – making him, at least in the eyes of the RISSC, Britain's most influential Muslim.
"I think that's very unlikely," says Winter, seated in front of his crowded bookshelves. "I'm an academic
observer who descends occcasionally from my ivory tower and visits the real world. If you stop most people in the street they've never heard of me. In terms of saying anything that makes any kind of sense to the average British Muslim I think they have no need of my ideas at all."
The son of an architect and an artist, he attended the elite Westminster School in the 1970s before graduating from Cambridge with a double first in Arabic in 1983. His younger brother is the football correspondent Henry Winter. Tim says: "I was always the clever, successful one. Henry just wanted to play football with his mates. I used to tell him, ‘I'm going to make loads of money, and you'll still be playing football with your mates.' Now he's living in a house with 10 bedrooms and married to a Bond girl." (Brother Henry insists on the telephone later: "She was only in the opening credits. And it's not as many as 10.")
If this seems an improbable background for a leading Muslim academic, his Damascene moment on a Corsican beach is unlikelier still.
"In my teens I was sent off by my parents to a cottage in Corsica on an exchange with a very vigorous French Jewish family with four daughters," Winter recalls. "They turned out to be enthusiastic nudists.
"I remember being on the beach and seeing conjured up before my adolescent eyes every 15-year-old boy's most fervent fantasy. There was a moment when I saw peach juice running off the chin of one of these bathing beauties and I had a moment of realisation: the world is not just the consequence of material forces. Beauty is not something that can be explained away just as an aspect of brain function."
It had quite an effect on him: "That was the first time I became remotely interested in anything beyond the material world. It was an unpromising beginning, you might say.
"In a Christian context, sexuality is traditionally seen as a consequence of the Fall, but for Muslims, it is an anticipation of paradise. So I can say, I think, that I was validly converted to Islam by a teenage French Jewish nudist."
After graduating, Winter studied at the University of al-Azhar in Egypt and worked in Jeddahat before returned to England in the late eighties to study Turkish and Persian. He says he has no difficulty reconciling the world he grew up in with the one he now inhabits. "Despite all the stereotypes of Islam being the paradigmatic opposite to life in the west, the feeling of conversion is not that one has migrated but that one has come home.
"I feel that I more authentically inhabit my old identity now that I operate within Islamic boundaries than I did when I was part of a teenage generation growing up in the 70s who were told there shouldn't be any boundaries."
The challenge, he feels, is much harder now for young Muslims trying to integrate with British life.
"Your average British Asian Muslim on the streets of Bradford or Small Heath in Birmingham is told he has to integrate more fully with the society around him. The society he tends to see around him is extreme spectacles of binge drinking on Saturday nights, scratchcards, and other forms of addiction apparently rampant, credit card debt crushing lives, collapsing relationships and mushrooming proportions of single lives, a drug epidemic. It doesn't look very nice.
"That is why one of the largest issues over the next 50 years is whether these new Muslim communities can be mobilised to deal with those issues. Islam is tailor-made precisely for all those social prolems. It is the ultimate cold turkey. You don't drink at all. You don't sleep around. You don't do scratchcards. Or whether a kind of increasing polarisation, whereby Muslims look at the degenerating society around them and decide ‘You can keep it'."
It is not this, though, that contributes to some young Muslim British men's radicalism, he says, since their numbers are often made up of "the more integrated sections".
"The principle reason, which Whitehall cannot admit, is that people are incensed by foreign policy. Iraq is a smoking ruin in the Iranian orbit. Those who are from a Muslim background are disgusted by the hypocrisy. It was never about WMD. It was about oil, about Israel and evangelical christianity in the White House. That makes people incandescent with anger. What is required first of all is an act of public contrition. Tony Blair must go down on his knees and admit he has been responsible for almost unimaginable human suffering and despair."
He adds: "The West must realise it must stop being the world's police. Why is there no Islamic represenation on the UN Security Council? Why does the so-called Quartet [on the Middle East] not have a Muslim representative? The American GI in his goggles driving his landrover through Kabul pointing his gun at everything that moves, that is the image that enrages people."
Is there a similar antagonistic symbolism in the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero?
"If the mosque represented an invading power they would have every right. Muslims in America are there as legitimate citizens with their green cards, with jobs, trying to get by. They are there in humble mode.
"Would you oppose the construction of Shinto Shrines at Pearl Harbour, of which there a number? How long must the Muslims of lower Manhattan have to wait to get a place to pray five times a day? With Islam there are certain liturgical requirements. It's not like a church that you can build on the top of a hill and say, we've only got to go once a week and it looks nice up there. Muslims need to pray five times a day, they can't get the subway out and back. It should be seen as a symbol of reconciliation not antagonism."
Last year Winter helped set up the Cambridge Muslim College, which offers trained imams a one year diploma in Islamic studies and leadership, designed to help trained imams to better implement their knowledge and training in 21st-century Britain. This year's first graduating class have recently returned from a trip to Rome where they had an open audience with the Pope.
In an increasingly secular Britain, sociologists suggest with regularity that "football is the new religion". Winter understands the comparison. "Football has everything that is important to religion," he says. "Solidarity, skill, ritual, the outward form of what looks like a sacred congregation. Except it's not about anything." Just don't tell his brother.
Research reveals fear and suspicion against British Muslims
By SHABANA SYED
Published: Aug 23, 2010 17:30 Updated: Aug 23, 2010 17:31
A research project that looks at "Perceptions about Islam and Muslims" and why Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the West has been published by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA).
IERA is not political but a Dawa organization, whose mission is to propagate Islam. Their latest initiative is aimed at highlighting the wider community’s attitude to Islam and Muslims and that to some extent explains why there is an escalation of hate crimes against the community.
The research was spearheaded by Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a young Greek convert to Islam who has made quite an impact in the area of understanding between Western and Islamic thought and is a well-known debater.
The project involved 500 randomly selected non-Muslim Britons being interviewed by non-Muslims. The survey highlighted, for example, how 80 percent of Britons had very little knowledge of Islam.
Also that 93 percent of non-Muslims had very little knowledge of the Qur’an. How 75 percent believed that Muslims were a negative contribution to society while 32 percent believed that they contributed to community tensions. The research showed 61 percent did not respond positively when asked about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and 63 percent believed that "Muslims are terrorist: while 70 percent believed that Muslims preached hatred.
The report has come at a crucial time when the reputation of Muslims in Britain is at its lowest point; most Muslim groups are confused on what to do, as any action pursued is viewed with suspicion.
Instead of dealing with the real issue of media and government collusion in covering up key questions regarding 9/11 and 7/7 while perpetuating Islamophobic hysteria, many Muslim organizations are tripping over each other trying to prove to the authorities that they are "anti-terror" while at the same time organizing mundane interfaith dialogue conferences, knowing full well that Islam has no issue with Christianity.
Maybe if they followed examples of groups like "Cageprisoners" and intellectuals like Gilad Atzmon and Norman Finklestein, and media outlets like Press TV, they might be able to confront the source of their problems.
Meanwhile, Zionist organizations continue to fuel the fires of communal discord unhindered. One such organization is Cafepress.co.uk whose latest venture to sell T-shirts, caps and baby suits with inflammatory anti Islam statements such as "Allah Sucks," "Bomb Iran," "Mohammad Sucks" and one that even shows a picture of a person standing with dirty shoes on a Qur’an. However, in order not to be seen as propagating hate Cafepress also sella items that express love for Israel and Jews, with T-shirts saying "cool Jew" or "I love Jews." Had the situation been reversed and the statements were against Jews or other ethnic groups there would have been an uproar with cries of anti-Semitism or racism.
However, this is not the case for Muslims who today are the "suspect community" and this, according to some, legitimizes any form of discrimination.
The confidence with which Cafepress can market its "hate" products without feelings of justice or humanity should be seen as a warning sign for Muslims that worse is yet to come.
Especially now that many of the "Friends of Israel" are mostly in the Conservative Party, which is now in government, and therefore will of course be supporting Zionist policies that are based on perpetuating anti-Muslim feeling. Already mass hysteria is being whipped up through media campaigns against another so-called weapon of mass destruction — the niqab.
Cases of assault and racial abuse have increased against hijabed women — a few have been told to get off the bus as the driver doesn’t feel safe with them onboard, and some have been attacked in streets and shopping centers.
Research carried out at the European Muslim Research Centre at Exeter University has highlighted how "common and vitriolic" attacks against Muslims have become.
The situation in the West doesn’t look hopeful, but Muslims are ever optimistic and many believe that if Islam was better understood as a philosophy then the hatred will begin to diminish.
And that is the stated aim of IERA who believes that the only way Muslims can sidestep this torrent of hysteria, and help eradicate misconceptions is to work on grass roots level and teach non-Muslims about Islam.
IERA’s founder Abdurraheem Green, a respected Islamic scholar known internationally, argues: “We may not be able to control what the mass media propagates, but we can at least help our situation on an individual level. Our obligation as Muslims is to convey the message of Islam to the wider society; we did the research so we could learn what non-Muslims thought of us in order to help to change their perceptions.”
He points out: “Despite the negativity, facts verify that when the wider community gets to know the real Islam many convert, that’s why Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world.”
The report supports other studies that have shown that Muslims have been under attack as never before. Government policies aimed at combating extremism have encouraged spying on Muslims in schools, colleges and mosques. Those exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully have been subject to arrest and heavy sentencing, for example at the recent demonstrations against Israel’s action in Gaza most of the demonstrators were forced to give their names and addresses while some were given heavy court sentences.
While there is no one accusing Cafepress of advocating hatred and extremist views, Muslims cannot even attempt to follow the age-old tradition of debates on university campuses, without being visited by anti-terror police and put on government watch lists.
There have been many cases where students have been approached by government officers and asked to spy on fellow Muslim students. Even IERA, which is a non-political organization, was forced to send out an official statement defending their position when some of its members were accused of fomenting extremism.
Hamza, a senior researcher at IERA who recently made quite an impact by taking part in “The Big Debate” which involved discussions about the existence of God with prominent atheists and academics, explains: “Accusations that our speakers are "radical," "extremist" are completely baseless, for this would equate to condemning the entire corpus of Islamic scholarly tradition as such.
“The current trend amongst sections of the media and some think tanks to conflate the promotion of established theological positions and certain social values as ‘conveyor-belts’ to violent extremism are damaging in their implications.
“The absurdity of the conveyor-belt theory would lead to us saying that a Conservative would inevitably become a hard-line nationalist to a fascist.”
Green points out: “Christianity has always seen itself as a religion that promotes its world view and is still continuing to take its message around the world and no one sees its preaching as propagating extremism.”
He argues: “For example if we see the workings of Campus Crusade for Christ International, it raised over $677 million in 2008 for their activities. It employs 25,000 full-time missionaries, trained 225,000 volunteers and operates in 191 countries. We need to train our youth to bring the peaceful message of Islam to the world and positively engage with wider society at all levels. Yes we have many obstacles put in our way, so we all need to give Dawa wherever it is possible, and in the process change the negativity and misconceptions surrounding Islam.”
However noble the efforts of organizations like IERA, Muslims still need to get to the source of who is instigating Islamophobia, why and for whose agenda? Meanwhile, more fires are being fueled, an American church, followers of Jesus’ message of peace, has announced that on Sept. 11 they will be holding an "International burn a Koran day."
British Muslims visit Afghanistan
LONDON, Sept 4 (APP)- A delegation of British Muslims recently visited Afghanistan to challenge misconceptions about the reality of life for Muslims in Britain and to learn how the UK Government is contributing to the international effort to stabilise Afghanistan.
The delegation went as part of the Projecting British Muslims project and consisted of Haji Mohammad Siddique , Imam Asim Hafiz, Dr Usama Hasan and Mufti Yusuf Akudi.
During the visit to Afghanistan the delegation were given the opportunity to visit Kabul, Lashkar Gah and were able to glimpse life on the front line in Nad e Ali.
Speaking about the visit Imam Asim Hafiz commented:
“It was interesting to learn from these communication advisors that support for the Taliban still exists amongst many Afghans because there was still a lot of work to be done around providing security in many areas, and the Afghan government along with ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] are working tirelessly to provide this security.”
The delegates, according to a FCO release, also held a meeting with the director of Hajj. The delegates learnt that since the director had brought an Afghan delegation to the UK after a previous Projecting British Muslim trip, the membership for his scholarly council had increased from 38 to 312 as he was able to accurately inform audiences of life as a British Muslim.
The Projecting British Muslims project is part of a process of developing and building relationships between Afghans and Britons. The way has been paved for a subsequent reciprocal visit by Afghan scholars to the UK, and for future UK delegations returning to Afghanistan.
Report Claims British Muslims Radicalized in Prison
British security experts say Britain is facing a "new wave" of amateur terrorist attacks by lone individuals. The Royal United Services Institute says hundreds of potential terrorists may emerge from Britain's prison system over the course of the next decade. But, Britain's Ministry of Justice strongly disputes the report's findings, saying most of the 6,000 people in high security prisons are not Muslims.
The report published by the security think tank RUSI says the nature of terror tactics are changing. In Britain, it says, a shift is taking place that will see less large-scale terror attacks. Instead, individual extremists without serious training or resources will pose an increasing threat during the next decade.
Michael Clarke heads the think tank and co-wrote the report. He says this new form of terrorism would strain Britain's security service.
"Lone individuals are much harder to track. If they are not part of a cell structure they cannot be penetrated so easily. If they are not dealing with other people they are not going to give as many leads to the intelligence services," he said.
Clarke says Britain's prisons will be one hot spot for the radicalization of Muslims. It says influential extremist Muslims who are behind bars in Britain may indoctrinate others.
"We do have in the United Kingdom a group of Muslims in prisons who we know are subject to pressures of radicalization," said Clarke. "And if one in ten of those prisoners are being successfully radicalized then in the next few years there are going to be several hundred people who will take a more radical view as they emerge from prison."
The report says up to 800 "potentially violent radicals" could be released from jail in the next decade who could pose a serious threat to Britain's security.