Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

From London to Glasgow | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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If the vehicle loaded with fuel, gas cylinders and nails had exploded in one of the densely populated areas of London, the disaster would have been tragic and on the same par as the 9/11 terrorist attacks as according to the British police, 1,700 people could have died. Certainly, those who plotted sought to inflict damage on the largest possible number of people. The same holds true of the other car bombs, such as the failed attempt in Glasgow Airport. We do not know whether there are other hidden explosives. What is certain, however, is that there are terrorists and potential terrorists in Britain. Most dangerous of all are the terrorist symbols that have fled their Muslim countries and are still living in Britain, enjoying the kindness and protection of its government. For as long as these extremist groups remain in the United Kingdom, terrorism will proliferate in a fiercer manner.

Unfortunately, although the former Prime Minister Tony Blair talked much about confronting extremism and terrorism internally, he never extradited any terrorists and arrested only a few people among hundreds of suspects and managed to frighten away one who fled the country. Apart from these limited measures, we have not heard or seen anything for us to say that the British authorities are tackling the problem, radically or superficially, as extremists, terrorist leaders and ideologues still live comfortably in London and the rest of the United Kingdom.

As the British media frequently accuses Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world of being a source of terrorism that has opened fire on Britain, I asked a senior Saudi official about the nature of the problem. “We have expressly and directly warned them against the consequences of hosting extremists, however they were indifferent,” he said. “I met with ministers, ambassadors and delegates. Every time we dealt with the problem, I made it clear that harboring extremists will harm you and the Muslim community in Britain and tomorrow you will brand extremism and terrorism as Islamic,” the official added. Furthermore, he stated, “Look at numerous extremists who fled Muslim countries; they explicitly promote terrorism even though they are living in Britain, while we are fighting it relentlessly.”

Perhaps the disclosure of the identities of those detained from the Maghreb region or from the Pakistani community explains the nature of the problem. Britain is overflowing with extremists from Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere, whom the British authorities provide with financial assistance, protection and residence. As Britain calls on Muslim states to pursue extremists and the organizations that fund some of them, it leaves them alone to the extent that some of them have acquired properties that enable them to launch radio and television stations and issue publications, set up websites, etc. However, the British media, and sometimes British officials continue to argue about the source of terrorism and call for pursuing it. The new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has inherited the same crisis and Britain is on the verge of a political, social and security disaster. He must demonstrate strong will in combating local terrorism and first send a message that the government is serious in pursuing and extraditing wanted terrorists from the Middle East or expelling them to any country willing to harbor them so that everybody knows that terrorism comes with a heavy price. This message will instantly reach extremist mentors, financers, leaders and governments that may be behind them. This message is sought by the Muslim community before others, because they are the first to pay the price on behalf of both sides: terrorists who are causing harm to these communities and the government that is leaving foreign extremists to wreak havoc in British society.