Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths
Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths

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9.4.2 How do British Muslims become radicalised? (ii)

Further insight into the background to the London bombing is provided by Shiv Malik’s account ‘My brother the bomber’. Malik worked for the BBC and researched a programme (never actually made) on the 2005 bombers, three of whom came from the Beeston area of Leeds. He was able to get in touch with Gultasab Khan, brother of the leader of the conspiracy, Mohammad Sidique Khan, as well as other members of the local community. His account of Khan’s personal circumstances and involvement in terrorist activities provides a useful individual account that supplements Burke’s more general analysis in a number of interesting ways. He directs attention to Khan’s activities as a leading member of a group reclaiming young Pakistani drug addicts that, after 9/11, became increasingly religious. As Khan and others began marrying outside the family circle (which generally favoured marriage between first cousins) they grew apart from the local community and increasingly identified with the jihadi network. For a number of reasons, then, British Muslim youths who had drifted towards fundamentalist or Islamist organisations were susceptible to the violent global jihadism that emerged in the mid-1990s.

This is plain from the anti-traditionalist rhetoric of Sidique Khan’s al-Qaeda-produced video suicide note. The video is 27 minutes and 29 seconds long. Most of it is filled up by a speech from senior al-Qaeda member Ayman al-Zawahiri, but the central feature is Khan’s address, which runs to six minutes and 11 seconds. It has two parts, but it is only the first – about British foreign policy that ever gets played in the mainstream media. Part two, which makes up three quarters of Khan’s speech, is addressed to Muslims in Britain, Here is an excerpt: ‘Our so-called scholars today are content with their Toyotas and semi-detached houses. They seem to think that their responsibilities lie in pleasing the kufr instead of Allah. So they tell us ludicrous things, like you must obey the law of the land. Praise be God! How did we ever conquer lands in the past if we were to obey this law?…By Allah these scholars will be brought to account, and if they fear the British government more than they fear Allah then they must desist in giving talks, lectures and passing fatwas, and they need to sit at home and leave the job to the real men, the true inheritors of the prophets’.

... the other big factor that has helped Islamist recruiters is the fact that in many communities Islamists are winning what some have termed a “civil war” within Islam. For simplicity’s sake, contemporary Islam can be divided into four schools: traditionalists, fundamentalists, modernists and Islamists … Islamism is a relatively recent offshoot of fundamentalism. It emerged in response to the final demise of Islamic authority with the fall of the Ottoman empire after the first world war, but harks back to the early days of the caliphate, when the Koran was the basis for law-making. It sees Islam not just as a religion, but as a socioeconomic system. The Koran is God’s version of Das Kapital. Islamists pick and choose teaching from across the ages, and while they read script literally and share a religious zeal with the fundamentalists, they are more akin to an ideological movement than a religious one. Their style of work is often compared with student far left of the 1960s and 1970s.

(Malik, 2007)

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