Cartoon of the Week


We must be mad to give £90m to these fanatics – and I should know, I used to be one

By Shiraz Maher/ Mail Online

You don’t have to be a supporter of Britain’s involvement in Iraq to feel sickened by the ugliness of what happened at the homecoming parade of the Royal Anglians in Luton.

The war wasn’t of their making. They didn’t ask to be sent to Basra. They simply did their duty and risked their lives in the service of their country. Twelve of their comrades paid the ultimate price.

But these troops came home to find themselves openly insulted and abused by Islamist fanatics    people who have made this country their home and accepted its generous hospitality.

 Contempt: Muslim protesters at Tuesday's parade in Luton 

Contempt: Muslim protesters at Tuesday’s parade in Luton

What is more, these are the same people on whom this government has spent a staggering £90million, supposedly trying to divert young Muslims from violent extremism.

I write as someone who would once have lined up alongside those protesters.

For three years, I was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamic organisation committed to creating a puritanical Muslim state.

That is why I can now see how completely wrong the approach of the fanatics    and the Government   is.




Indeed, in a recent report written for the think tank Policy Exchange, entitled Choosing Our Friends Wisely, I, with fellow author Martyn Frampton, warned that a generation of young Muslims is being radicalised by the very policy that is supposed to combat violence.

The disgusting scenes in Luton provide the perfect illustration. They speak volumes about the way public money is being squandered, the hopeless inadequacy of official policy, and the damage the Government’s obsession with multi-culturalism is wreaking on society.

Yes, the band played on Tuesday. Crowds cheered as the Royal Anglians marched past. The overwhelming mood in Luton was expressed by one home-made notice. ‘Thank you’ it said.

But it was the protest that captured the headlines: the snarls of hate from ‘political Islamists’, the placards branding the soldiers war criminals, the vile accusations that they are murderers and baby killers.

As the meticulously printed slogans show, this was no spontaneous eruption of anger.

It was carefully planned to have the maximum impact.

And let nobody take comfort from the fact that this was a tiny demonstration, involving just 15 young men. These were British Muslims, born and brought up in a country that prides itself on its tolerance.

Yet their contempt for British values is terrifying in its implications. It doesn’t take many people to cause mayhem. Haven’t we learned anything from the London bombings?

They despise democracy and free speech, yet exploit both to promote their pernicious agenda. These same people claim to be oppressed by the British state, yet they relied on the police to protect them from the    understandably    outraged public.

Hypocrisy, indeed. Yet just examine the way such perverse attitudes are actively encouraged by the wayWhitehall tries to deal with political Islamism.

There is an obsessive belief among some Ministers and police chiefs that the way forward is to concentrate on a ‘dialogue’ with extremists (who hate Jews, despise women and think homosexuals should be killed).

Unable to assess the groups they are funding properly and believing only radicals possess the necessary ‘street-cred’ to control angry young Muslims, local authorities and the police actively back extremists at the expense of moderate leaders.

So it was that a council such as Tower Hamlets, for example, could award a grant to the Cordoba Foundation, an Islamist pressure group that offered a platform to Hizb ut-Tahrir, who also promote the false view that Islam forbids democracy. Such grants are almost routine.

No doubt the officials who support such folly believe their approach will give them an insight into the fanatical mindset and help prevent the next act of terrorism    and in the short term, they may have a point.

But what do they think it does to moderate Muslim opinion? If people such as Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and Community Secretary Hazel Blears seem to favour ranting troublemakers such as Abu Hamza at the expense of the quiet, moderate majority, doesn’t it send a signal that such fanatics have a message worth hearing?

But Whitehall seems blind to the dangers. How many more millions will be spent before it dawns on us that we are contributing to our own ruin?

For years, governments have tolerated preachers of hate. We are still paying the price for that, as phoney ‘sheikhs’ in beards and flowing robes peddle their poisonous message.

So, we throw money at the wrong people. We dismay moderate Muslims by puffing up the extremists who hate us. And we welcome troublemakers who have been forced to flee their own countries and ignore their activities-once they are here. Is it surprising that some young Muslims are tempted by the spurious glamour of extremism?

But there is one other factor that contributes to our unhappy plight: we don’t seem to have the confidence to promote Britishness and the values that underpin our democratic way of life.

One of the things that struck me most forcefully is the pitiful reluctance of officialdom to promote a sense of British identity. Looking through key Government documents, I could hardly find the word.

Yes, there were plenty of jargon phrases such as ‘ performance indicators’. But Britishness, and the tolerance, decency, fairness and democracy that underpins our way of life? Forget it. It is almost as though our leaders are ashamed of our own country and culture.

Yet it doesn’t have to be like this. After all, Muslims in their hundreds of thousands were proud to fight forBritain in two World Wars. My grandfather volunteered to fight against Hitler because he believed there were core moral values    and core British values, too    that had to be defended against Nazism.

My own journey away from extremism took place when I began to understand that Islam is far more plural and humane than anything dreamed of by the Luton demonstrators. So instead of indulging the noisy, self-styled ‘leaders’ of the Muslim community, shouldn’t official policy concentrate on genuinely encouraging moderation?

A Parliamentary inquiry into how much of the Government’s £90million has already been squandered would be a start. How much of it has been handed to people who hate us? And how much has gone on projects that make our situation worse?

We might follow that up by giving more say to those MPs who have large numbers of Muslim constituents.

Above all, we might stop sucking up to extremists and start standing up for British values, British traditions and the British way of life. We have so many things to be proud of in this country. Why don’t we celebrate them?

It may be too late to convert the sorry, deluded protesters of Luton. But could there be any better way of discouraging others from embracing their pitiful ideology than by having the courage and confidence to be true to ourselves?

● Shiraz Maher is a former Islamic extremist

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