Extremists point to Western foreign policy to explain their acts. Why do we ignore them?

Mehdi Hasan writes: Did you know that the alleged ringleader in the 11 September 2001 attacks had originally planned to land one of the hijacked US airliners and give a speech to the assembled press corps? Can you guess what he wanted to rant about, live on Fox News? Seventy-two virgins in heaven? Nope. The need for sharia law? Guess again. According to the report of the official 9/11 commission, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had intended to “deliver a speech excoriating US support for Israel… and repressive governments in the Arab world”.

In the vexed discussion about extremism and radicalisation, foreign policy is the issue that dare not speak its name. Our leaders zealously police the parameters of the debate, pre-emptively warning off those who might dare connect the dots between wars abroad and terror at home. It would be “wrong”, said the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, on the morning after the attack in Woolwich, “to try to draw any link between this murder and British foreign policy”.

Really? The problem for Johnson is that the “link” was made by none other than one of the suspects in the barbaric killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, Michael Adebolajo. Straight after the murder. On camera. “The only reason we killed this man… is because Muslims are dying daily,” he said. “This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Are we expected to ignore such statements? Or notice only the references to “Muslims”?

To highlight this is to invite inevitable and hysterical criticism; I will be accused of apologising for acts of terror, or condoning them. So permit me to issue a pre-buttal: there is no moral justification for the deliberate killing of non-combatants. Nothing – no cause, no war, no grievance – justifies the murder of innocents. Yet establishment figures continue to denounce those of us who cite the radicalising role of foreign policy as (to quote the former US state department spokesman James Rubin) “excuse-makers” for al-Qaeda. To explain is not to excuse. The inconvenient truth for Rubin, Johnson et al is that Muslim extremists usually cite political, not theological, justifications for their horrendous crimes. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email