Dispatches - Britain under attack part 1-2

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Part 2

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With Britain facing a 'severe' level of terror threat, Dispatches investigates the roots of Islamic extremism in the UK and examines the government's attempts to win the battle for British Muslims' hearts and minds

Reporter Phil Rees, an expert on Islamist violence, explores the Koranic teachings that lie behind the concept of jihad and examines Muslim fury over Western foreign policy. He meets the clerics who justify and encourage attacks on British soil and analyses the government's response - to de-politicise Islam and to silence radical views.

Haras Rafiq, a government advisor on preventing extremism, tells Rees that between 15 and 20 per cent of British Muslims sympathise with Islamic militancy. To understand why there appears to be so much support for taking up arms, Rees examines the fundamental tenets of Islam that lie behind global jihad - such as 'Ummah' - a notion of Islamic brotherhood which encourages Muslims to act on behalf of one another - which can cause conflict with notions of patriotism. Former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg who travelled to Bosnia and Afghanistan to help fellow Muslims and took up arms, tells Rees that Ummah is more powerful than the bond of nationhood. "Faith identity is much stronger because it's based on a belief whereas the national identity is one that's based on geography and where you happen to be born."

Shahid Butt, who fought as a jihadist fighter in Bosnia describes the Ummah as an integral part of Islam, he says: "Telling Muslims to take the Ummah out is like asking me to cut my heart out of my body...Defending another Muslim is a compulsory act in Islam. You have to do it...if somebody came to my house and kicked the door down and tried to attack my family I'm gonna go in the kitchen and get the knife and I'm gonna defend them."

Another belief which is central to many Muslims living in the West is the 'Covenant of Security' which prevents Muslims from attacking their home nation if they are offered safety and freedom to pray. Rees visits an Islamic Centre in Luton where young men are taught to accept and honour the covenant. The teacher, Abdul Qadeer admits that persuading his congregation to reject more extremist interpretations is, "a fight for the minds."

In stark contrast, Rees meets an Islamic scholar who believes the British government has broken this covenant through its foreign policy in the Middle East so attacks can be theologically justified. His extreme views have seen him barred from Britain but he still communicates to his followers in Britain via the internet. Rees examines how the government is responding to these debates within British Islam. He discovers that the widely accepted cause of militancy is radical preaching - ignoring the grounds for violence cited by the London bombers - the West's foreign policy. The government's plans to combat extremism involve allocating millions of pounds to projects that nurture a non-violent, non-political Islam. But Rees discovers these projects have been met with suspicion by the Muslim community. Mufti Mohammed Zubair-Butt from the Institute of Islamic Jurisprudence in Bradford is critical of the new anti-extremist curriculum drawn up for schools in the city: "Is this a government initiative to make the Muslims pliant and just follow the government agenda and not question whatever they have to say?"

Rees concludes that government plans to tackle extremism which do not take into account the radicalising affect of its foreign policy and refuse to engage with its critics are unlikely to succeed - as long as aspects of Islam can be seen to justify violence when Muslims are under attack.
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Frank Kitman