“What more can a law abiding Muslim do?” asked an exasperated radio host yesterday morning, after it emerged that the Manchester bomber’s family and friends tipped off MI5, who then missed five opportunities to stop him.
I wasn’t surprised that he’d been reported – Muslims are as scared of getting blown up as everyone else.
Many Muslim nations have been ruined by these people. Our communities have been torn apart. We worry about our children’s minds being attacked. You check your kids’ web histories for porn – we do that too, but some of us also check for jihadi twitter accounts.
So it is completely natural for us to be the first to make the phone call when we see someone being a threat to our country and communities – even if we have sometimes felt excluded from the government’s top-down approach to the Prevent strategy.
But why are the pundits so quiet today? Shouldn’t they be as elated about Muslims reporting the terrorist, as they were outraged yesterday about “Muslims having to do more?”
Why is a bad Muslim Brit more newsworthy than a good Muslim Brit? Why hasn’t Trevor Philips been hastily commissioned to host an edgy documentary exposing how British Muslims act as unpaid informants for an under-resourced security service?
And under-resourced they are – that is certain. There are 3,000 people on the UK terror watch list. MI5 has 4,000 staff. It takes 30 people to keep a terror suspect under surveillance – do the maths.
The Americans spend five times as much as us (per capita) on intelligence. So why do we think we can do it on the cheap? Why do some of our politicians think our streets will stay safe, even though Greater Manchester police have had to let go nearly a third of their officers since 2010?
At a time when our nation is crying out for leadership, it has fallen to the opposition to demand more resources for first responders and crucially, for our security services. The opposition have also started to unpick the messy relationship between our foreign policy decisions abroad and terror at home.
I’m not just talking about the Iraq War.
I’m also talking about our foreign policy elite spending millions to inadvertently create British Jihadis in proxy wars in Libya, instead of letting our security services do their job properly.
Our Prime Minister was Home Secretary and in charge of MI5 when they were tipped off about Abedi – do the victims’ families have a right to an explanation of why the warnings were not heard?
Let it not be said that Muslims didn’t cooperate with the authorities to report Abedi. Abedi flew a black Jihadi flag out of his window in Manchester. He was banned from his mosque. His Imam reported him. His family reported him. His friends reported him. He wasn’t a lone wolf – he was a known wolf.
But MI5 didn’t stop him. Not because they didn’t want to: because they are being run on a shoestring, while Whitehall spends taxpayers’ money on propping up friends in Libya.
I am willing to pay more taxes if it means 8-year-old girls come home alive from pop concerts. I’m sure you are too. But even if you’re not, that might not be necessary: we spend twice as much on Trident as we do on security and intelligence.
Last week, my niece asked me for Ariana Grande tickets. I’ve promised to take her, as soon as the tour restarts. I will do anything I can to help our security services keep her safe. What more can a law abiding Muslim do?
Muddassar Ahmed is chair of Forum for Change, a British think tank working on issues of inclusion and diversity
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