Jacqui Smith believes jihadists are vulnerable sensitive individuals. Smith believes they need counselling, and that it should be provided by the state. That means you, the taxpayer, will pay for it. This is a continuation of the ‘Islamist as victim’ theme that the Government is prone to indulging. However we need not worry because the Government has proposed tough qualifying conditions that any recipient must meet before receiving this aid. The wannabe jihadist must prove that they fit the profile of someone who has been through hard times.
According to the government, any Muslim frustrated due to employment issues who simultaneously joins an extremist group can fit the profile. But what does employment issues mean? Not having a job or merely having a demeaning low paying job? This seems a little wide to me. My job is very enjoyable. However, given my inflated sense of my own abilities I feel I should be governing the known world by now. I am 26 and people are starting to ask questions. Somehow I don’t think it is right for the government to give me a get out of jail free card. Also the kind of counselling I would need would likely to be very expensive and there are probably more deserving cases. British soldiers returning home injured or psychologically scarred defending their country in Iraq and Afghanistan would seem an obvious example. Then again maybe instead of fighting jihadists in Afghanistan these vulnerable individuals also need counselling – Osama on the couch.
But hang on, the Government don’t mean to give everyone freedom to disobey the law. Apparently this licence only applies to Islamists. Islamists alone are to be given special dispensation to commit crimes without being charged. It appears vulnerability has its advantages. Islamists are to be given a licence to disobey British laws. A licence not extended to all citizens. This is being granted on religious/political grounds to a specific minority group. The Government is targeting those who have joined radical terrorist groups but who have not yet enacted the major offences they are planning. Presumably the Government is signalling its intention to not prosecute Islamist offenders for possessing extremist literature and materials. This u-turn comes after 8 years of Government laws to make possession and viewing of such items a crime.
The Government promises that if they have second thoughts they will not be prosecuted. Not prosecuting these offenders is not, in itself, a bad idea. It could have merit. We sometimes give ordinary criminals reduced sentences if they save the taxpayer the costs of proving them guilty by pleading guilty. In exceptional circumstances informants are given pardons for previous misdemeanours in exchange for information that leads to major arrests. However, each of these cases represents a government bribe designed to elicit tangible benefits from the bribed i.e. less costly court proceedings or help in achieving more and bigger arrests. If we are to pardon Islamists for current or past crimes what do we get in exchange? It appears that we get their attendance at expensive counselling session we pay for and their promise not to do it again. This is not enough.
The Government deems the crimes the Islamists have committed as still worthy of being prohibited. They are not proposing legalising such acts for all citizens. Thereby, if anyone is to be given a pardon for the commission of offences they should provide something tangible in return. This could be real actionable intelligence that leads to the conviction of other Islamists. Alternatively these ex Islamists could take a lead role in their communities combating Islamic extremism. An Islamic extremism they have spent years trying to nurture and are responsible for. Hassan Butt appears to be adopting this route at the moment, although the police - in a rare display of crime fighting initiative - have now decided to charge him for the crimes he committed while he was an Islamist. Presumably he refused to attend these counselling sessions.
What form will these counselling sessions take? One hopes they are not group sessions (“jihadist anonymous”). If they are, presumably everyone will get together and discuss the reasons why they were attracted to radical Islamism. Gathering together a series of possible jihadists in a room and getting them to discuss their grievances may not be the best route to convert them to moderation. It could actually reinforce their grievances as they realise how many others share such opinions. They might then meet up with their new associates independently – not for drinks obviously. So previously we had one guy who had read Milestones and felt a bit annoyed about the Iraq war, now there could be ten guys coordinating an attack. The Government will be bringing people together in a spirit of community, but not for the kind of aims we want to promote.
The report states that Islamism feeds off domestic inequalities and racism and that by reducing these inequalities we can undermine the Al-Qaida narrative. The report notes that the promotion of violent extremism “relies on encouraging a sense of victimhood” (p.6). However, it does not realise the government’s acceptance that these communities face racism and economic disadvantage unjustifiably adds credence to the narrative of extremist’s. Britain’s Muslim community enjoys more freedoms of association, speech and worship than their co-religionists enjoy in the regions in which they predominate. The economic situation of poor Muslim citizens is not dissimilar to poor white working class Britons and thereby they do not suffer a profound or distinct disadvantage. Indeed such communities are advantaged because the Government would not ever describe BNP activists as vulnerable and disadvantaged and in need of government grants. With far right extremism the government rightly recognises the views as abhorrent and the movement as something to be taken on and beaten not sponsored.
Jihadists are not victims. Islamists are not vulnerable. They are sane, logical individuals who happen to believe in an ideology which is profoundly evil. They are not subject to a condition from which they need to be cured. They are not planning suicide attacks or helping those who do because they need a hug and a chat. This announcement by the Government completely misreads the motivations and mentality of those we seek to target. It is borne of a Muslim as victim thesis the government’s politically correct mindset cannot admit is false. As my colleague Nicholas Connor has said, the £12.5 million should be spent on re-education classes for Jacqui Smith. Until she abandons her politically correct views on Islamism we, and not the Islamists, are vulnerable.