London — Earlier this week, a British jury convicted three British Islamists of conspiracy to murder, acquitted one, and failed to convict four more. This resulted from the investigation of the 2006 summer plot to blow up seven transatlantic airliners between Britain and the U.S. by detonating explosives packed in soft-drink bottles.
The discovery of this plot changed the way we all fly, with restrictions imposed on what we can take on board a plane. It was the biggest counter-terrorism case in British history. Yet it ended in a near-debacle. The essence of the case remains unproven, because the jury failed to agree that the aim of the conspiracy was to blow up transatlantic planes.
Prosecutors cannot understand how a jury could have failed to grasp this, given the overwhelming evidence presented to the court. At the time of this writing, it is not clear what caused this mess. Was it the fact that American nervousness at the discovery of the plot forced the Pakistani police to arrest a key conspirator, thus bringing the British investigation to an abrupt halt before all necessary evidence could be collected? Was it incompetence in the way the trial was conducted? Or was it a rogue jury?
While the first two factors may well have played a role, the last is most disturbing. For it is certainly possible that this jury contained some individuals who don't take the terrorism threat seriously. Indeed, the verdict encapsulates Britain's mood on this seventh anniversary of 9/11, three years after terrorists attacked London's own transport system.
A significant constituency still believes that "Blair/Bush lied, people died" by using false and politicised intelligence. They believe, therefore, that the terror threat has been exaggerated to justify the Iraq War — and so they refuse to believe anything the intelligence world tells them, unless it is that America's War on Terror has made the world a more dangerous place.
So when MI5 say there are at least 2,000 known Islamic terrorism supporters in Britain — and maybe double that number — and that a dirty bomb in Britain is not a matter of "if" but "when," a lot of people just suck their teeth.
Now prosecutors are talking of a retrial in the airline case — precisely because the security establishment has to rely on guilty verdicts in terrorist trials to prove to the disbelieving British the true seriousness of the terror threat facing their country.
More than 20 Islamist terror plots in Britain have now been thwarted; more than 1,000 people have been arrested under terrorism laws, and more than 200 of them convicted. These figures certainly suggest that the British security world has raised its game. But they also demonstrate the enormous scale of Britain's home-grown problem with Islamic radicalism — a problem that the security and political establishment is actually deepening through its refusal to correctly identify the threat it is fighting.
It refuses to acknowledge that a war of Islamic conquest is being waged against the West and all "infidels" (including "backsliding" Muslims). Instead, it defines the issue as a severe terrorist threat posed by individuals who are promoting a "false" version of Islam. Indeed, British intelligence circles say that the terrorists are motivated by an "ideology" in which religion plays no part.
It is surely quite terrifying that, at this most dangerous juncture for our society, British intelligence can be, well, so lacking in intelligence. The undeniable fact is that Islamic jihadism is solidly rooted in Muslim theology and history. For sure, many Muslims reject this interpretation of their religion and live by different spiritual and peaceful lights. But it is as fatuous to say that jihadi terror is based on a false interpretation of Islam as it would have been to say that the Inquisition was based on a false interpretation of Christianity.
It is also extraordinary that such officials ignore how these admittedly confused and inconsistent terrorist youths actually define themselves as holy warriors. The "martyrdom" videos recorded by those involved in the airline plot spoke of causing violence and death in the same breath as having been chosen by Allah, of scattering the body parts of non-believers, and of their disgust at the decadence of British society. To ignore the fact that such utterances are straight out of the lexicon of imams and sheikhs throughout the Muslim world who have declared holy war against unbelievers everywhere is beyond perverse.
This is hardly surprising, given that the security world courts a steady procession of slippery Islamists and their apologists, who serve up a carefully sanitized version of Islam. It fails to realise that the jihad consists not only of terrorism but the "soft jihad" of cultural infiltration, intimidation, and takeover. It is simply blind to the ruthless way in which the Islamists are exploiting Britain's chronic muddle of well-meaning tolerance and political correctness (backed up by the threat of more violence) to put Islam on a special — indeed, unique — footing within Britain.
As a result, the steady Islamization of British public space is either ignored or tacitly encouraged by a political, security, and judicial establishment that is failing to identify the stealthy and mind-bending game being played. It will not acknowledge the extremism within mainstream Islam. Defining "extremism" narrowly as supporting violence against Britain, it makes the catastrophic mistake of treating the aim of Islamizing Britain as an eccentric but unthreatening position, and not one to be taken seriously.
Thinking that the problem is terrorism rather than the religious fanaticism that fuels it, the government actually employs such fanatics as counterterrorism agents. So it treats the Muslim Brotherhood — despite its commitment to Islamize the Western world through "soft" jihad as well as terror — as a useful ally against al-Qaeda.
Worse still, Britain has caved in to the key Islamist demand that no one should suggest that Islamic terrorism has anything to do with Islam. In a speech on counter-terrorism last month, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, even declared violent extremism to be "anti-Islamic."
The Research, Information and Communication Unit, a "hearts and minds" outfit based in the Home Office set up to counter al-Qaeda's efforts to manipulate individuals and groups, has told civil servants not to use terms such as "Islamist extremism" or "jihadi-fundamentalist." Instead, they should refer to "violent extremism" or "criminal murderers" or "thugs" to avoid any implication that there is an explicit link between Islam and terrorism. It warns those engaged in counterterrorist work that any talk of a struggle for values or a battle of ideas is often heard as a "confrontation/clash between civilizations/cultures." Perish the thought.
The government does nothing to stop the steadily rising number of Muslims coming to settle in Britain who, refusing to assimilate, are steadily changing its demographic, cultural, and political identities. It turns a blind eye to the development of parallel Sharia enclaves practicing polygamy and forced marriage. Indeed, the British state has effectively condoned polygamy by providing welfare benefits for the multiple wives of British Muslim men. But we don't have to worry, apparently, for no lesser luminaries than the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and Lord Phillips, the senior Law Lord, have said the application of Sharia family law poses no problems for Britain. Thus British Muslim women are being institutionalised as second-class citizens — with official approval.
Banks and other financial institutions are falling over themselves to develop Sharia finance, despite the fact that this provides a cover for terrorist financing and is a prime instrument for forcing the ever-wider spread of Islamic practices among Muslims.
There are signs that Islamist thinking is infiltrating the police. Up to eight police officers and civilian staff working in the Metropolitan Police and other forces have been reported as having links to extremist groups, including al-Qaeda. Within the Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism department, its Muslim Contact Unit employs two Salafist officers in the belief that they can help counter Islamist radicalism. Given that Salafists are committed to the overthrow of the West and its replacement by an Islamic society, this beggars belief.
Even thought itself is being Islamized, with academic objectivity in the teaching of Islam and Middle East studies set aside in favour of indoctrination and propaganda. An as-yet-unpublished report by Prof. Anthony Glees says that extremist ideas are being spread by Islamic study centers linked to British universities and backed by multi-million-pound donations from Saudi Arabia and Muslim organizations. Professor Glees says, "Britain's universities will have to generate two national cultures: one non-Muslim and largely secular, the other Muslim. We will have two identities, two sets of allegiance and two legal and political systems. This must, by the Government's own logic, hugely increase the risk of terrorism."
Yet Britain's government appears paralyzed as it allows this second culture to develop apace — and with it attitudes that threaten the integrity of British society. A recent report by the Centre for Social Cohesion revealed that, among young Muslims, almost one in three says that killing in the name of religion is justified; four out of ten say they support the introduction of sharia into U.K. law; nearly a quarter do not think that men and women are equal in the eyes of Allah; one in three doesn't think or doesn't know whether Islam is compatible with the Western notion of democracy; one third say they are in favor of a worldwide Islamic caliphate based on Sharia.
A recent Dispatches TV program sent a female reporter undercover into Britain's flagship and supposedly ultra-moderate Regent's Park mosque, and revealed that in its back rooms hatred and separation were preached against non-Muslims, homosexuals, and adulterers. When a previous Dispatches revealed similarly vile preaching in many other supposedly moderate mosques, the result had been an outrageous police attempt to get the program disciplined for distorted reporting — a false claim that ended in a libel action against the police, who were forced to apologize.
When the bishop of Rochester, Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali, warned that Britain was developing Muslim no-go areas, he was denounced as Islamophobic. The establishment queued up to say they didn't recognise the Britain he was describing. The British political and security class is doing everything it can to deny such truths — and its deadly culture of groveling appeasement and ignorance is now spreading among American security circles, too. This is simply cultural suicide.
What's happening in Britain is a tragedy — but it's one that the rest of the free world, fighting to defend itself against the global jihad, can ill afford to ignore.
— Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist and author of Londonistan.