Anti terrorism and civil security

Dr John Reid MP, Home Secretary, talks about dealing with the threat of terrorism

My message to you is quite simple, and that is that when we talk about the threat of terrorism, we are actually talking about a threat to a set of values, and those values are common values.

They are values which are enshrined in the British way of life, but many of them are also in the Qur'an, and therefore since the threat is to all of our community and all of our values, it will only be defeated by all of us, together, facing those, because all of us have a role and a responsibility. I therefore give you the words which the Imam gave to me from the Prophet which is "Every man is the herdsman of his family. Every employer is the herdsman having a responsibility to his employees, and every leader, all of us, in the community and nationally have a responsibility to our community to guide and to lead." And if we do not have the character and the courage to do that at every level, then our enemies will win. I want to set this in the context of the changes that are taking place in the world and to talk about those shared values and the fight against terrorism. That is an uneasy subject; it is one that makes people a little uneasy when we are discussing it among ourselves from different backgrounds and different religions. We should not be frightened to discuss it, we should have the courage to address this problem with each other and together, for we are on the same side, and the vast majority of Muslims who are trying to create a better world for themselves and their children are on the same side as the rest of the British people as well.

So I want to ask for your help as a community in fighting terrorism and extremism. Let me start with the great changes in the world; the end of the Cold War was a great victory for freedom and democracy but as we knock down the barriers that separated us, we eased up a frozen world, then it created a huge new wave of challenges. Among them was massive migration and movement of peoples, now 200 million international migrants and also the dramatic development of global terrorism and global organised crime. Those of us who live here in Europe felt that Europe was no longer safe within its own borders. It must sometimes seem as we turn on our televisions that we have a planet at war with itself, war over oil, war over climate, war over trade or politics and now religion. And in some of these areas, namely the intermixing of religion and politics, we face the most difficult problems of all. There has been so much conflict that I think sometimes we all get confused because people have lost sight, it appears, of what they are fighting for, what it is they are setting out to defend and I want to try and clarify that.

In our history, we have seen some of that. Nor, and this is essential, am I under the assumption that the only religion or creed that has ever been used as a banner for terrorism is Islam. In my time I have seen people use Socialism as an excuse for terrorism on the back streets of Italy, or the Red Brigades in Germany, Nationalism on the hills of Spain, sometimes Christianity not so far from here where people justified some of the things they did by their variant of Christianity. So no creed or religion has a monopoly on terrorism and that is important that we say that as well, but I think we need to remind ourselves why we are involved in this fight against terrorism; it is not and never has been a war on Islam. It is a struggle against extremism, against terror and against intolerism, intolerance. And therefore our fight is not with Muslims generally, any more than it was a fight against Catholics in Northern Ireland. Our battle is with those terrorists who have no respect or regard for human life, or equality, democracy or the democratic process.

Our fight is with those who do not share our values and who use terror to try and force us to accept theirs. When I say values, I mean those values based on our shared humanity on our shared understanding of the rights to life, equality, justice and opportunity, the principles of devotion to family and to society, and to faith, to good works, to good deeds, to charity. They are not the ones that are restricted to Islam alone, they are central to Islam but they are also the values of the British people, and the ones shared by my fellow countrymen and the ones we uphold strongly today, every one of us upholding values that are both British and you know that emanate from Islam itself.

So what are these values we are fighting for? Well, my Muslim friends, better scholars than I am, tell me that the Qur'an itself sets out a series of rights that we can draw on. You will be much more familiar, most of you, with the verses that advocate these rights, but having spent a little time looking at that, my understanding now is that the Qur'an guarantees us among other things the right to life, the right to respect and to equity, the right to justice, the right to liberty, the right to acquire knowledge, the right to work, the right to basic necessities and the right to privacy. There are of course many other rights that the Qur'an advocates and that we cherish together but I have selected these rights because I believe that they sufficiently demonstrate our common values and our common purpose. Of course I don't pretend that everyone has identical values, some of us will have different view on different aspects. There is no room in Britain where I could stand where everyone had exactly identical values and it doesn't mean either that it is easy to discuss the differences when we have them. But I do believe that we have to find a way of balancing the caution and sensitivity to each others' beliefs and respects with the courage to discuss these things fraternally and frankly with each other in any tolerant culture, it is as bad to offend someone's sensitivities as it is to shy away from a discussion because you fear that someone will use violence against us. Neither that caution nor that courage can be abandoned because they are part of our way of life. But the problem is and I know that you are painfully aware of this, that the public perception of the Islamic faith has too often been hijacked by those who do not share those common values. It has too often been monopolised by those who take a peaceful, merciful and great religion and twist and distort it, pervert it, to support their values, not ours, their jihad. And let us be clear about one thing, there is no democracy of fairness in the terrorist values, there are no principles of equality, justice or opportunity for all and there is no vision of a peaceful society with non-Muslims. Osama bin Laden and his followers stand for the opposite of what we have strived for together to protect, the rights of the poor, the rights of women, the rights of justice, democratic rights, the right to decide our own future through rational democratic discussion.

My view, I may not have the authority that scholars of Islam have, but my view is that these terrorists are not Muslims in the true sense of the word any more than those who attempted to use Socialism or Christianity or Nationalism for their terrorist activities held to those creeds. These terrorists are militants. They are militants who seek to achieve their aims through the forces of terror and violence and who cloak their language in the rhetoric of Islamic teachings or behave in ways which contradict the very principles of Islamic faith and all civilised precepts. They believe, and they would have you believe that the West is evil, in all its works and that all modern values are corrupting to Muslims and to Islam, when in fact it is they who are wicked and ruthless, and they who are attempting to corrupt young minds, mainly young Muslim minds. They would have you believe that we are the enemy, me, this Government, when it is they who seek to destroy the peace and understanding that we have sought hard to achieve between different faiths in this country and different ethnic groups in this world. And that is what the fight against terrorism is actually about, it is a conflict of values, not a conflict of religions, not a clash of civilisation, it is not Islam versus the rest or the rest versus Islam. It is a conflict of values with the terrorists on one side and most modern civilisation is on the other side. It is a conflict between modern Islamic and values archaic and intolerant values. It is a conflict within Islam, as well as a conflict outside it. It is a fight against extremism, intolerance and terror, and not one against Islamic values and teaching. So in 9/11 in the US, 7/7 in the United Kingdom, 11th March in Madrid, they can be put on one side and claimed to be anti-Western, but there have also been attacks in Indonesia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Egypt, etc.

Many Muslims had been murdered in many countries by the same terrorists and the terrorist message is that Islam is under attack. Well I think that you should be able to go to any part of Britain, any area, any community and discuss with any religion the issues that are important to it and what I think would be more critical would be if leaders stayed in central Westminster and never came out to confront some of these issues in your own communities. But as I say, we risk our British lives and many Muslim lives in our forces to protect Muslim lives, the most important one of course was in Kosovo where tens of thousands of Muslims were protected from the potential attack from the Serbs and of course in terms of humanitarian relief as well.

But I put a simple point to you, the truth is that despite the claims that their war is a jihad against the infidels, most of Al-Qaeda's victims have in fact been Muslims and many of them have been young, innocent women and children, and their attacks have massacred Muslims in Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Algeria, not forgetting of course, Muslims that were killed here on 7 July. I believe the message that there's a struggle against terrorism and intolerance and not against Islam has been drowned out by the volume of acrimonious and sometimes intimidating accusations that fly from both sides. And I have come today quite frankly because I need your help, because I cannot defeat terrorism, the Government cannot defeat terrorism, unless we work with the vast majority of this community, including that vast majority of Muslims who are working day-in, day-out to try and build that relationship and to build families that have respect for all of those rights that I mentioned earlier out of the Qur'an.

So, none of us can afford to be passive in this fight, and none of us should be frightened to go anywhere in the United Kingdom and to take part in this discussion. None of us should be intimidated by those who would break up
our meetings, those who would try and force you out. And let me tell you my own experience; and that is of a political party where people did come in and shout people down, they weren't terrorists but they tried to intimidate those in our party, they tried to take it over, they tried to impose extremist values on it, they tried to infiltrate us from the inside. These aren't new phenomena, and I know also, how much courage and character it took for people to stand up to that so I understand how difficult that is in your community and we weren't even dealing with terrorists, so I know it's not easy. I don't pretend it's easy, but I also know that that character and that courage is necessary if we are going to defeat this.

So I need your help, but I also need to help you, but by helping the community you are helping yourself as well. And I am acutely aware that you may think that neither I nor the government is in a strong position to ask your help. Not because as some would have us believe that we are fighting an unjust war against the terrorists but because many members of the Islamic faith and community, your faith and community, are in the front line in the Western response to Muslim terrorism. The terrorists' misuse of the perverted version of Islam makes victims of all of us, and I am acutely aware that many of you feel yourselves to be facing intelligence targeting, or to be the target of searches. I am aware that you feel that when it comes to questioning at airports or on airplanes, that you experience the blunt end of society's fears. I know that and I know you may feel therefore that we're not in a great strong position, but I assure you I understand the frustrations when so many Muslims share the very values of which I spoke earlier and are working to bring about community coherence. I understand the frustrations that because of all this, that you have become more of a focus in that struggle against terrorism. All I can say to you is that the terrorists are waging a violent and indiscriminate war. Their aims are clearly focused, which is to terrorise us into accepting their ways and their values, but the means are absolutely indiscriminate. And when I come to this community and ask you to be vocal, to have the character and the courage to stand up to those who would shout and intimidate you, I know it isn't easy. And I know it isn't easy when I say that that includes the communities and the families in which we are engaged, it's not easy.

I am a parent and I know how hard it is to raise children and to know everything about them, especially during that age which is precious, where people grow from youth into adolescence. I know how hard it is also to see what is in front of our own eyes sometimes, particularly when it's something we don't agree with. And children grow into young men and women, who are by nature rebellious, this is nothing new. They hold firm views, sometimes extreme views. Hundreds of years ago Shakespeare wrote "Youth to itself rebels though none else near". I understand that, but there are some circumstances where we need to intervene, where we need to challenge or confront their behaviour in order to protect them from others and protect them from harm. Some of these are well known to us; drink or drugs or street crime, but there are others as well, and there is no nice way of saying this, but there are fanatics who are looking to groom and brainwash children in these communities, including your children, and they are grooming them for one thing; to kill themselves in order to murder many others as they do. So all I say is look for those telltale signs now, be herdsmen to your family, engage with them because if you do not, you risk losing them forever and in some ways, physically losing them forever. And in protecting our families, we are protecting our whole community, and in protecting our whole community, we are protecting our families.

I will end by saying this; the terrorists are intent on destroying our solidarity, and creating divisions where none should exist. So we have
 to be equally determined and equally savvy. We have to show them that we are integrated and cohesive, that we do not need to make stark choices between the West and Islam, that we need not fear each other and we will not allow them to divide us and to create that mutual fear, that we share many of the same values together, that we are prepared to stand up and to fight for those values. We will not let them divide us; these terrorists are willing to take away our young, to take away our rights, and to restrict our freedoms.

There is no middle ground in this battle; there is no placating fanatic terrorists. And make no mistake, they would have no mercy; they would replace the right to life, with the right to life only for their kind of Muslim. Not for Muslims generally, only for their kind of Muslim. They would replace the right to equity, with rights only for men. They would replace the right to justice with extreme interpretations, the extreme interpretations of Hudud law. They would turn the clocks back in history and remove legitimate democratic Government. And they would not stop with their killings at the infidel; they would murder those Muslims who do not share their own views. There is no compromise in their vision; there is no vision of peace between Muslims and non Muslims in their mind.
So we have a lot do to fight the threat of terrorism and I tell you that I can do what I can and so can the Home Office, so can the
Government, to try and protect the country from bombs. But I do say to you that the Government cannot guarantee absolute safety and I cannot guarantee even that we would have the most effective barrier against it unless all sections of the community are involved against the terrorist threat. It is a common threat, and the bombs, when they come and if they come, God forbid, will not discriminate between young and old, men and women, Muslim, Jew, Christian, or those of no faith, It will massacre everyone, because as I said, though their purpose is clear, and is clearly focused, which is to terrorise us, the means which they use will be indiscriminate, so the common enemy threatening all of us.

In Afghanistan, the young Muslims who have been murdered are being murdered by people who claim it is in the name of Islam and similarly for the terrible massacres we are seeing on the streets of Baghdad. I am prepared to engage in the whole question of Iraq if people want to, but one thing is certain, the vast majority of Muslims who have been murdered there are being murdered by people, most of whom come from outside Iraq and who are claiming they are doing it in the name of Islam, despite the fact that Maliki and his Government, Shi'a, Sunni, Kurd are all united to defend their own control of their own country. So I make the point that the common enemy threatening us all will only be countered and ultimately defeated by the common effort of all of us in pursuing that common purpose. I say to you one thing, if we allow the terrorists to divide us into believing that this is a struggle between Islam and the rest, or to create the circumstances where the people of Britain ever come to the terrible conclusion, wrong conclusion, that it's the struggle of the rest against Islam, then the terrorists will have won. It is not. It is a struggle to protect a set of values which are not only British but intrinsic to Islam itself, they are values that are common to all British people, and values, when they are under attack, have to be defended, because many, many people have fought over many, many years in order to create those values in practice.

Taken from speech by John Reid, Home Secretary, September 2006, on Muslim groups in East London