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Chasing an illusion

Jihadists who want to ‘start a war in Britain’ are perhaps stupid enough to believe their actions will gain them followers and lead to some sort of ‘British spring’. Farrukh Dhondy writes.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2013 23:12 IST
Farrukh Dhondy
Farrukh Dhondy
Hindustan Times

Six young men were jailed on June 6 by a British court and awarded up to 19-and-a-half year jail terms. Their names tell an incomplete and unfortunate story: Mohammed Hasseen, Anzal Hussain, Mohammed Saud, Omar Khan, Jewel Uddin and Zohaib Ahmed.

Their photographs, all of them bearded in the mullah fashion, tell a further tragi-comic one: In June last year the English Defence League, an organisation dedicated to opposing what they call the creeping influence of Islam in Britain, held its ‘Armed Forces Day Rally’ in Dewsbury in Yorkshire, a town with a large Mirpuri Muslim population. The EDL’s tactic was intentionally provocative.

Both the jihadis and the EDL are tiny organisations and can muster fewer numbers behind their banners than can the Hare Krishna dance group in Oxford Street. They regularly oppose each other at functions such as the funeral of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan, shouting slogans and swearing at each other from behind the police lines deployed to separate them. Such is the drama of free-speaking Britain.

Our convicted jihadi gang decided on this occasion last June to go a few steps further. They plotted to assault the English Defence League’s rally in Dewsbury with shotguns, swords, knives and home-made nail and pipe bombs.

Though these six men from Birmingham assembled their weapons and set out for Dewsbury on the correct date, they arrived two hours too late — after the march was over and the crowds had dispersed. They turned back and were, the police insist by pure chance, stopped on the highway and asked for the insurance documents for the Renault Laguna they were driving.

They couldn’t produce them. They had neglected to insure the car and this prompted the police to search it and discover the amateur arsenal. This led to the search of their houses and computers which yielded terrorist ideological material including al-Qaeda publications, instructions on how to construct bombs and a video on ‘Tactics to kill the kaffir’. Mohammed Hasseen, the mastermind behind the plot, pleaded guilty to the offences of terrorism. He hadn’t travelled to Dewsbury. He’d courageously sent the others on, saying he would stay at home to facilitate the escape of any of them who survived the bombings.

The highway police haven’t disclosed why they stopped the Renault and demanded to see its insurance papers. Was it because they, with racist selectivity pick on and victimise drivers whose appearance declares them to be Muslims? Or do the police have instant access to the insurance status of every vehicle on the road through computer surveillance? I ask this because I have been stopped on the road by a patrol car and, on winding down my window to speak to the officers who approached me, was surprised to be greeted by name.

The six had no feasible defence and admitted their murderous intentions. The court was shown documents they carried, which contained lectures from Islamist preachers that addressed Queen Elizabeth II as the “kafir female devil”.

Leaders of the EDL were in the public gallery of the court and shouted ‘God Save the Queen’ when the sentences were handed out. These same EDL leaders now insist that their organisation has no involvement in the recent attacks on mosques and on an Islamic boarding school that followed the murder of Drummer Rigby on the streets of Woolwich this May. They profess to publicly condemn such actions even though the mosque was daubed with EDL graffiti at the time of the arson attack.

Since the hacking to death of soldier Rigby by two Islamist fanatics, attacks on Muslims and Muslim institutions have, the police say, increased eight-fold. Some of the increase is simply reported verbal abuse, graffiti on Muslims shops and then the two serious acts of arson. Police forces all over the country have consequently put protective cordons around Islamic centres and mosques.

The failed action of the six jihadists a year ago and the murder of Lee Rigby last month were both avowedly acts of terror aimed at, in the words of one of Rigby’s killers, “starting a war in Britain”. These jihadis are perhaps stupid enough to believe that their actions will lead to some ‘British spring’ and a mass conversion of Muslims to their ill-defined jihadist ideology.

So far there is no sign of it. Global cooling seems more of a threat. If our six jihadists had indeed succeeded last year in shooting, knifing and bombing EDL members and, inevitably killing members of the public in the process, there may have been a series of rejoinders and attacks.

After the Pakistani terror attacks in Mumbai I witnessed a large and dedicated demonstration of Muslims who paraded in condemnation of terror to mass applause from the Mumbai public. The Muslims of Britain haven’t responded in like manner to the murderous actions of men who claim to represent them. Their official spokespersons have feebly shuffled from one TV studio to another to insist that these jihadis don’t represent Muslims, but somehow, with the evidence of growing radicalisation of misguided youth in the name of Islam, it doesn’t seem enough.

Farrukh Dhondy is an author,
screenplay writer and columnist based in London
The views expressed by the author are personal

First Published: Jun 18, 2013 17:01 IST