Leading article: The 'war' must be fought on British soil

Related Topics

It would have been more courageous of Tony Blair to have said he accepted that his Iraq policy had prompted passionate opposition among reasonable people and that it had also helped further to enrage people who were unreasonable. Some of these people may have already subscribed to the evil al-Qa'ida ideology, but others may have come to subscribe to it partly because of the war. And Britain's part in the war probably made London more of a target than it would otherwise have been.

Had Mr Blair conceded that much, he could then have enjoyed our full support to go on to say that it is simplistic and dangerous to ascribe the London bombings solely to his Iraq policy. This newspaper warned him publicly, as did the Joint Intelligence Committee in secret, that invading Iraq was likely to heighten the threat from international terrorism. But that is no longer the issue. Mr Blair is right that the ideology of al-Qa'ida is deep-rooted and would have had to be confronted whether or not we and the Americans invaded Iraq. In any case, British forces cannot now withdraw from Iraq. Having made our mistake, we have a solemn obligation to stand by the people of Iraq and to try to make the best of it.

The challenge that confronts us now is closer to home. What has changed over the past week is that we now know that the London bombers did not come from the Great Out There. If there are any consolations from the horror of 7 July, one of them might be that responsibility for our security lies mostly with us. Counter-terrorism is not primarily a matter of border controls, of asylum and immigration policy. The bombers were British. Their ideology has to be fought here, as well as abroad. On this, Mr Blair is on stronger ground. As a politician who has long had a better understanding of Islam than the average non-Muslim, he is well placed to lead that effort.

Needless to say there is no easy answer - no magic legislative bullet as the Home Secretary rightly said - to the question of how to pull up al-Qa'ida ideology by its roots. But it is already clear that there are some things that this struggle is not about. It is not about racism, isolation and poverty. The bombers do not seem to have suffered notably from discrimination, cultural exclusion or poor education. On the contrary, those brought up as Muslims seem to have turned to the ideology of violence partly as a reaction against the assimilation of Muslims into British culture.

It is also clear that choking off home-grown terrorism requires some changes that may be painful for some. Many Muslims are getting tired of "demands" that they repudiate the terrorists. Too bad. Roman Catholic leaders were rightly asked to disown IRA terrorism, even though the IRA was motivated by a secular ideology of national liberation. Muslims do have to confront the fact that their religion and their holy book are used by extremists to justify murder. They also have to face up to the reality of anti-Semitism among their number, and to double standards. Too many British Muslims are prepared to make excuses for the killing of Israeli civilians, even while they condemn the suicide bombers here. That is a failing, too, of some British liberals, and there are undoubtedly some awkward issues for non-Muslims to face as well. Non-Muslim liberals should not allow, for example, lazy notions of respecting cultural difference to slide into the toleration of intolerance.

The real war on terror needs to be fought, as we have always said, by means of police work and intelligence. That is not all. US and British foreign policy has been too often counter-productive, but it is not the main issue. Mr Blair is right at least in this: "In the end, it is by the power of argument, debate, true religious faith and true legitimate politics that we will defeat this threat."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Norovirus the food poisoning bug that causes violent stomach flu  

A flu pandemic could decide next year’s election

Matthew Norman
J. Jayalalithaa gestures to her party supporters while standing on the balcony of her residence in Chennai. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians  

The jailing of former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram is a drama even Bollywood couldn’t produce

Andrew Buncombe
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style