|Five key leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami are war crimes suspects|
ON MONDAY (October 3, 2011), British Islamists and their supporters under the banner of the Bangladesh Crisis Group gathered at the London Muslim Centre to preach to their flock that Bangladesh was committing serious human rights abuses in their desire to finally try the perpetrators of the genocide of 1971.
This group of supporters of radical Islamism have finally crossed the Rubicon and they have potentially shot themselves in the foot by amassing Jamaat and Muslim Brotherhood leaders together. Strategically, for them, it is bad to inject them into the highly contentious issue of their fellow Islamists committing genocide in Bangladesh. The genocide happened. It’s been well documented. Arguing against it is like trying to push the tide back. It’s irrational. It obviously has Islamist leaders worried. They are claiming there are mass human rights abuses by the Bangladesh government and that there is massive US counter-terrorism involvement in the tribunals as a way of gathering support from useful idiots in Britain’s academia.
Bangladesh does lag behind in human rights, it is undeniable, but it’s usually down to corruption, lack of education on procedure and ethics which is mainly through a lack of finances. They haven’t got the money. It shouldn’t be an excuse, but it’s reality. To think that Bangladesh, which is still one of the poorest nations in the world, can have a model police force beyond reproach is wishful thinking. The scandals around Rupert Murdoch and News International has show that even the highly developed and politically corrected, brow beat Metropolitan Police Force at Scotland Yard aren’t beyond temptation.
Bob Lambert, an ex-Special Branch Officer and ex head of the Muslim Contact Unit (MCU) at the Met gave a speech at the event. He has been one of the leading lights, or probably more accurate the last beacon of hope, for Islamists in the remnants of Londonistan. He wants to retain the policy of allowing radical Islamists to have London as their centre of operations away from the Middle East and South Asia. He seems to think there is a wide gulf between Islamists and Salafists, but in reality this isn’t the case. It’s a false debate.
Osama Bin Laden the worlds most celebrated Salafist leader has pumped money into Pakistani political parties in the past. Salafists don’t believe in democracy. They aren’t allowed to have any part in elections. It’s Haraam (forbidden) in Islamic law. Lamberts narrative has major holes in it. This means Bin Laden was a hypocrite or the religious side of Islamist terrorism has been overplayed. Lambert reckons that “moderate” Islamists are an effective counter-balance to Salafists. Has Lambert and other Western academics been suck into a false and misleading debate and been played for fools? Yes, I would argue they have. Lambert is still trying to cling onto his woeful theory. Islamists and the ignorant are still his major audience. Judging by the content of the speeches at the event on Monday the lack of knowledge on Bangladesh is clearly apparent from the non-Islamist speakers. So, why did they wade into it?
The covenant of security which was believed to have existed between the British Government and Islamists before 9/11 was half torpedoed when Tony Blair joined the US led war on terror. Blair’s bi-polar policy against radical Islamism was half-cocked he believed he could launch dodgy invasions of Muslim countries, yet leave British Islamist figures and institutes that were suspected of supporting terrorism untouched. The British government should have upped its efforts to do its own spring cleaning while the Arab Spring was at its height. They hinted at it with a review of Project Contest, the government’s counter-terrorism strategy. This would have helped to level the playing field for all political parties in the Middle East and South Asia. Londonistan will be important in the future of the Muslim world and will undoubtedly have an impact on which way the wind eventually blows.
Lambert thinks he’s a realist and a good attentive listener: a new breed of copper for a new way of policing. When he worked for the Metropolitan Police he was not the, “lock-them-up-throw-away-the-key” type of law enforcement official. He likes to think he’s a thinker. He rightly believes that crimes, mainly terrorism, often have more complex psychosocial factors. Irish Republicans had legitimate grievances and violence came from it. Talking to Sinn Fein and addressing the issues of Northern Irish Republican was a noble way to end a protracted conflict driven by sectarian hatred and distrust. Conflict resolution and dialogue was a good thing. It wasn’t appeasement. It wasn’t as simple as allowing terrorists to get away with murder. But, there aren’t many parallels between Irish Republicans and Islamists. Hugging an Islamist won’t work. The Pentagon even tried it with the late terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki in the early years. It failed.
Islamists like to latch onto divisive causes and make them worse. Hijacking others causes. Islamists certainly haven’t enjoyed great public support in the Muslim world, even though they have been exceptions such as in Algeria, Gaza and Sudan. It is a bit unfair and premature to say that because democracy hasn’t been allowed to flourish there. There is one thing that Islamists thrive on and that is violence. They, like other extremists, need conflict. Hamas showed that they are perfectly willing to bring pain on their populations if they can get some kind of political reward for it. Get a suicide bomber to attack Israelis, let the Israeli’s respond (mostly, I concede disproportionately) and let your charity fronts help the victims. It proved to be a winning political formula for Hamas. They cynically keep the cycle of the violence going. They use jingoism and violent racist rhetoric to increase hate and ignorance. Then claim they are defending their populations from aggression. Pakistan’s military, religious parties and dreaded ISI have the same strategy.
A major worry for outsiders looking at the event is that speakers and organisers at the event gave thinly veiled threats of pushing Bangladesh into a revolution or their “own Arab Spring” or “Asian Spring” which is highly misguided and dangerous. It’s also a highly undemocratic charge and smacks of irrational arrogance. I wonder what the late Edward Said would have made of it. I bet he would have asked Lambert for a quiet word.
Bob Lambert, Toby Cadman and others should have stayed away from the event as a result of this key demand. The promotional literature clearly pointed this was the conference’s main objective. If I was advising the Government of Bangladesh, I certainly wouldn’t give Toby Cadman a visa to enter the country now he’s spoken on this platform. Islamists and their apologists aren’t democrats. They don’t care about people’s needs or their franchise. They ignore it. The apologists have narrow minded short-term goals which would lock countries like Bangladesh into uneasy alliances and irrational compromises with Islamists. The people of Bangladesh have spoken, they don’t want radicalism in Bangladesh, but do people like Bob Lambert and Oliver McTernan ever care to listen to the people?
Bangladesh had elections and the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis want the end to the “Culture of Impunity” and believe the war crimes tribunals are the start of this process. But, what do you expect from Islamists and their supporters? If the ballot box fails and justice starts to creep up on them, they believe it’s time to pull down civil and political society and rebuild it in their own warped image.
If Lambert and Co want to build lasting bridges they should get their Islamist friends to renounce the worst of their ideology and apologise. They need to take responsibilities for their crimes. It will give them much need credibility and their detractors confidence in the future. Sometimes, only justice can steer you through the complexities of conflict resolution. If you try to subvert that and the truth you will always fail to create a lasting solution. Papering over cracks is often needed in conflict resolution, but in Bangladesh, Jamaat-i-Islami broke the foundations. They are going to have to face reality.
Chris Blackburn, based in London, specialises in Jihad, Islamic militancy and Jamaat-e-Islami global network