Charlie Hebdo: While the West fought foreign wars, we ignored the threat from within our own societies

We must support those leading the charge against radical Islam

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The Independent Online

This week’s awful events in Paris have brought to the fore the debate about freedom of speech, religion, and censorship. It has also, or should, remind us of the fact that “jihadists” who are being radicalised abroad are too easily finding their way back into European countries, ready to act as terrorists themselves, or indeed to radicalise others.

In the middle of last year, I expressed great concern that while our security services are doing great work in attempting to stamp out this problem, we, and indeed France, are inhibited by a number of factors. The first is a preference to challenge these ideologies abroad, rather than protect ourselves at home.

It struck me as incredibly stupid that we would once again commit to a foreign war to weed out Islamist extremists when the very same ideas lurked within our own towns and cities. The resources expended, and the political will and capital used in amassing support for a foreign intervention against Isis, would, to me, have been better placed rooting out the troublemakers in our own ranks.

And remember, there was scarcely 12 months’ between the Commons votes on the very groups William Hague wanted to support in Syria, and our current enemies in Iraq. In short, our approach to confronting radical Islam has been nothing short of senseless and rudderless.

This brings me on to a second point — one which I mentioned in television interviews directly after the attacks. The fear with which Western civilisation has been gripped is never more apparent than when our own citizens are massacred at the hands of a hateful few. While our political leaders are often quick to “condemn” attacks, and immediately champion the freedoms we all hold dear, I would argue that actually, in terms of policy, very little is ever done to back these words up.

Multiculturalism, as a political perspective, has obviously contributed to this weakness. But I would probably go so far as to say that the instigators behind multiculturalism, which is now a political philosophy in and of itself, would not have believed that the word necessarily meant abdicating security. Either way, this is a reality we must now face.

And that is in no way politicising the event. In reality, the event was political in itself. Playing electoral games with the matter, and making it a partisan issue, is obviously wrong. That’s why I intend to do nothing of the sort. But to ignore this as a political issue, when every news media organisation in the world is treating it as such, sounds to me to be grossly negligent and dangerous.

Time and again we’re told that radical Islam is a perverse, minority ideology that is to be defeated. But to me and millions others across the country, simply not enough is being done. Our schools, our prisons, and indeed many mosques in this country have been infiltrated by those pushing a fundamentalist, hate-ridden interpretation of the Koran.

That’s not to say that what we need is yob-like marches down our high streets, but what it does mean is that we actively support and rally behind the people who are leading the charge against radical Islam, especially those in Britain’s Muslim communities.

These voices, who are often sidelined, marginalised, and threatened into silence — are to be elevated and projected as pioneers of Islam’s reformation, and inclusion into Western civil society. There are groups and individuals trying to drag the religion and its adherents into a barbaric era. We must not let them. Integration, I have always explained, is paramount, and we should be grateful to those who have given their careers to this noble cause.

As for France, Germany, and the rise of Islamist radicalism there — let’s be clear about the facts and how we got to this point. The Jewish community in France has been under increasingly merciless attack for the past few years. I’m told from first-hand sources that never have so many Jews since the Second World War felt at such great unease. It’s a shocking thing to hear in 2015. The Jewish Agency in France last year estimated that 6,000 Jewish people were leaving the country.

Why is this important? Because more or less, these heinous attacks by Islamist extremists have been paid no heed by the international community. It brings the poem on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial to mind: “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out…”. The last line reading, “Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me”.

The proponents of attacks like the one on Charlie Hebdo and its staff have given prior warnings in the shape of other attacks on communities in France. In Britain, anti-Semitism is also on the rise, and threats against modern, liberal Muslims come in thick and fast. What the self-styled jihadists want, is for there to be no one left to speak.

Are we just going to ignore these problems, and commit our resources to a battlefield some 3,000 miles away? Or are we going to demand of our political leaders a more robust approach into securing Western nations and their lawful citizens? I very much hope, that peacefully, and constructively, we can do the latter.