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Dealing with terrorism effectively

Somewhat inconclusive thoughts based on recent press arguments.

Stephen Morris on recognising the problem. ‘…we in the West are at war with a hydra-headed and barbaric enemy that has not a shred of humanity and relishes the bloodletting on tens of thousands of innocents, including other Muslims…Should any of its constituent elements – the Iranian Government or al-Qa’ida – acquire nuclear weapons it will likely create genocide against Israel and create devastation in the West of an unprecedented kind’. This is the easy bit and I agree with this characterisation.

Lord Stevens suggests that it is the British Islamic Community that is responsible for Islamic terrorism in the UK not UK foreign policy. British Muslims he claims are not the ‘victims’ of terrorism but its basis of creation in the UK. I am unsure. Most terrorists are Muslims but how can Muslims (which are a much larger group) can be held ‘responsible’ in any meaningful sense? Can you blame Australians for crime committed by Australians? How, anyway, does attributing blame in this sense help? Furthermore, attributing blame may alienate Muslim community support for counteracting terrorism.

Muslims must aid the anti-terror fight. I agree – it sounds more positive than holding Muslims to account although it is close to the ‘responsibility’ argument. A starting point is to encourage Muslims to look at their own religious education practices and some of the fanatics who seem to get involved in such teaching rather than blaming the foreign policy of their host country. They also need to seek ways for disaffected youth to express their views without trying to kill people.

Profiling passengers at airports. Lord Stevens points out that most plausible candidates to be terrorists have particular backgrounds and ethnicity. So they should be screened most intensively as potential terrorists. Again I am unsure. As a practical matter it sounds sensible and avoids inconvenience to thousands of low-risk travellers but if terrorists discover the profiling might not they take steps to ensure that terrorists planted on planes escape the profile. Two of the recent British suspects were Europeans who at first sight would not look like plausible terrorist suspects. Moreover racial profiling may alienate Muslim community support needed to deal effectively with terrorism.

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