British-born Khalid Masood, 52, on Wednesday [22 March] drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and then fatally stabbed a policeman. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Elisabeth Kendall, a researcher who specializes in Arab and Islamic studies at Oxford University, spoke to “La Croix”.
Why is Islamic radicalism increasingly gaining ground in the United Kingdom?
Elisabeth Kendall: Islamic radicalism in the United Kingdom has been on the increase particularly since 2014. These radical acts are motivated by anger linked to the United Kingdom’s intervention in the Middle East.
More and more young Britons have asserted that they want to defend the “Muslim cause” by resorting to radicalism. In my opinion, the purely sociological argument that these radicalized youths are victims of a feeling of political and social alienation is wrong.
On the contrary, the United Kingdom has integrated its Muslim communities rather well.
What are the main ways in which radicalism manifests itself?
EK: The biggest problem is the presence of online chat forums and the content available on social networks, which project an ultra-negative view of the role of the United Kingdom, and, more generally, the West, in the Middle East.
These videos have much more impact that simple verses of the Qu’ran. The whole visual aspect of babies and entire families affected by the violence of war arouses feelings of anger and passions of an extreme nature.
The United Kingdom has always thought it could eliminate the problem of radicalism, through military intervention. However, this has failed.
For example, when the United States killed Anwar Al Awlaki, a radical cleric and an American citizen of Yemeni origin, they thought they had solved the problem.
However, the majority of the cases of radicalization observed after his death were still inspired by his writings, as in the case of the assailant who killed British soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.
Islamic State is not the sole producer of this type of content. The literature produced by Al Qaïda still has a strong hold on youths.
This is especially so because these violent texts are translated into English and become easily accessible to young people who do not necessarily understand Arabic. They have no way of verifying the religious or factual authenticity [of the content].
There are many reports showing the presence of radical clerics from the United Kingdom. Is there a purely British radicalism, which does not necessarily draw its inspiration from international terrorism?
EK: When you analyze precisely the content of the sermons of these imams, you realize the same problem. These preachers refer to foreign policy cases.
The role played by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the Iraq war, for example, is an argument that has been exploited constantly by these radical imams. This type of discourse is used in fact to activate the most vulnerable people.
Source: La Croix
By: Mahrukh Arif
24 March 2017