In Mumbai President Obama was asked by an Indian student for his “take or opinion on jihad”. He began his answer with the observation that “the phrase jihad has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations.” In its report of the discussion, The New York Times noted that Obama “carefully avoided saying that he was opposed to jihad”. (I ask – How could he be opposed if he is aware of its two real and true meanings in Islam? The Greater jihad is the inner struggle for self-improvement to become a good Muslim. The Lesser jihad is struggle against oppression – oppression as in Israel’s occupation and treatment of the Palestinians, for example).
Obama went on (my emphasis added): “I think all of us recognize that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified. And so, I think, one of the challenges that we face is, how do we isolate those who have these distorted notions of religious war?“
He is, of course, right about the nature of the particular challenge. It is to isolate those who can be correctly labeled as Arab and other Muslim terrorists. The question is – How can that be done effectively?
Part of the answer is not the way President George “Dubya” Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair set about doing it, a counter-productive way with bombs and bullets.
Today there are few if any real experts who would deny that Bush and Blair’s approach to counter-terrorism made the two of them the best recruiting sergeants for violent Islamic fundamentalism in all of its forms and franchises. (In the past I have imagined Osama Bin Laden on his knees giving thanks to his god for the folly of the Bush-and-Blair approach).
There is, in fact, only one tried and tested way of defeating non-state terrorism. (State terrorism is that directed and executed by an agency of state such Israel’s Mossad and America’s CIA). In Volume Three of the American edition of my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, I get it down to 146 words, which I would expect an averagely intelligent child to understand, as follows:
Terrorists cannot operate, not for long, without the cover and the practical, emotional and moral support of the community of which they are a part. When that community perceives itself to be the victim of a massive injustice, and if that injustice is not addressed by political means, the community will cover, condone and even applaud the activities of those of its own who resort to terror as the only means of drawing attention to the injustice, to cause it to be addressed. It follows that the way to defeat terrorism – the only successful and actually proven way – is by addressing the genuine and legitimate grievances of the host community. The community will then withdraw its cover and support for its terrorists; and if they continue to try to operate, the community will oppose them by exposing them – reporting them to the authorities if reasoning fails.
I go on to say there are many case studies to support this analysis. In Northern Ireland, for example, the British Army did not defeat Provisional IRA terrorism. The terrorists called off their campaign when they had no choice – because the Catholic host community would not cover and support them any longer. And that happened only because the British government summoned up the will, about half a century later than it should have done, to risk the wrath of militant Protestantism by insisting that the legitimate grievances of the Catholics of Northern Ireland be addressed.
It follows that the only effective way to defeat Arab and other Muslim terrorism is by addressing the legitimate grievances of its host communities. What are those grievances? The list is quite long but at the top of it is the double standard of Western foreign policy as manifest in its refusal to call and hold Israel to account for its defiance of international law, while at the same time making demands, often backed with punishment including war, for Arab and other Muslim regimes to act in accordance with international law.
It’s worth recalling that in May 2004, the most senior official at the British Foreign Office, Permanent Secretary Sir Michael Jay, wrote a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull. It was a warning to Prime Minister Blair and his ministers that Britain’s foreign policy was fuelling Muslim extremism. (We were not supposed to know about that letter but it was leaked to The Observer).
- It said that British foreign policy was a “key driver” behind recruitment by Muslim extremist groups.
- It said that a “recurring theme” among the underlying causes of extremism in the Muslim community was “the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq.” (If written today Afghanistan would be added to the context).
- It said that “British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating a feeling of anger and impotence among especially the younger generation of British Muslims.”
For a while it seemed that Prime Minister Blair was taking the Foreign Officer’s advice. But he subsequently demonstrated his total contempt for it and his absolute rejection of it. He said, “Muslims have a completely false sense of grievance against the West.“
At the time I wrote that if there was a prize for the most dangerously irresponsible statement of recent times, I would recommend it be given to Mr. Blair for that statement. In my view, the least that could be said about it was that it cut the ground – not all of it but a lot – from under the feet of moderate Muslim leaders who are trying to stop the drift to extremism in their communities caused in large part by British foreign policy – correction, by Blair’s foreign policy and in the American context Bush’s foreign policy.
A policy which despite his rhetoric (sometimes) to the contrary, Obama is continuing and, with targeted assassinations by drone attacks over Afghanistan, has escalated.