Syria-related terrorism arrests in Dover

On Friday morning (3 April 2015) West Midlands Police reported some breaking news as follows:

Good, I suppose is the thing to say – police following up tip offs, chasing down the bad guys and generally protecting society. Doubly good because this is Syria-related and we’ve heard on the news about the sort of things going on over there and we definitely don’t want it over here.

But it’s important to remember they have only been arrested – not charged; and only on ‘suspicion’ – they have not been convicted of anything yet. So for all we know they could be normal folks like you and me. There but for the grace of God go I, etc.

This isn’t much to be going on with. Really, it could mean almost anything: from the rightful arrest of six terrorists primed with suicide vests on their way to Canterbury for Easter day; to the mistaken arrest of six archaeologists on their way home from an international conference on saving Syria’s heritage from the lunatics presently smashing it up.

So West Midlands Police helpfully tell us more:

‘Departure zone’ should tell us something. They were not on their way into the country; they were on their way out. So we can perhaps exclude the possibility they were about to do harm in Britain, unless they had designs on the ferry, which might in a way be termed British territory, unless the ferry companies are all French these days.

‘Departure’ and ‘Syria’ recalls the recent departures of schoolgirls to Syria to assume the romantic role of ‘Jihadi Bride.’ Except it’s not that romantic, when you think about it. They go there to marry Islamic State fighters and have children who will one day take the place of their fathers in the great fight for progressive Islamism in the Middle East – and perhaps North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, and anywhere else they want to extend the benevolent rule of their kind of Islam.

There’s another issue burning away with these schoolgirls. Their teddy-bear-clutching families are ever ready to tell the willing news outlets that they are distraught and have not the slightest clue how the idea got into the heads of their ‘straight A-grade’ daughters and it was almost certainly the fault of the police, MI5, British Foreign Policy, America, Israel, the usual culprits. But whatever the cause, it had absolutely nothing to do with them or Islam.

Except it did, kind of. When your dad’s caught on camera rocking it alongside noted moderate Adebolajo and plenty of other equally moderate brothers who just happened to have an accident with the matches at the same time as carrying US and Israeli flags and who burst into renditions of that well-known Eurovision hit “Allahu Akbar” for only the best of reasons, it is perhaps not all that surprising that, growing up in his household, you feel the pull of Jihadism a little more strongly than little Daisy Becket down the road.

But these were men and women. So a little different to schoolgirls heading East for a bit of baby-making time with the brothers.

There’s more from West Midlands Police:

The mention of Birmingham is not a surprise. Although you have to be careful how you phrase things because if you get the substance right but the detail wrong (admittedly in the most cack-handed way imaginable), and you are American, and you are an American who appears to be on the right of the political spectrum, the willing news outlets and other well-meaning folk will go into a frenzy of ‘You’re so ignorant,’ and ‘It’s nothing like that,’ and ‘Let me just take this opportunity to deflect from the matter at hand – namely the Charlie Hebdo murders.’

There probably won’t be much more reported on this case. Matters under investigation, for obvious reasons, are not usually splurged over the papers until the potential court case us underway and preferably post-verdict.

So what do we have?

At about 8am on Friday 3 April, five men and one woman were arrested in the departure zone of the port of Dover on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offences. They are now being held in the West Midlands area and searches are taking place at various addresses in Birmingham. Four of the men, in their twenties, are actually from Birmingham; the other man and woman, also in their twenties, have no fixed abode. These arrests were part of an ongoing investigation.

That’s about it. Except that this incident, whether it leads to a court case or not, is part of a growing pattern. As the spaceman said to Houston: ‘We have a problem.’

If only we could use the quote in its original form: ‘Houston, we’ve had a problem.’

But this would be inaccurate, wouldn’t it? It is not a past tense matter. This sort of Islamist, Jihadist, Syrian kickback terrorism, whatever we want to call it, is not something we can claim lies behind us. Is it?


Jihadi John is named

It seems that the crassly dubbed Jihadi John – supposedly named after John Lennon on account of his British accent, which if I were one of John Lennon’s relatives would annoy me somewhat – has been outed as Mohammed Emwazi by The Washington Post. That’s what various sources think, anyway – though they could be wrong.

But if they are right, who is he? Apart from the mental deficient in those vile murder videos of Islamic State, that is?

We are told that he is a ‘Briton from a well-to-do family who grew up in West London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming.’ That college being The University of Westminster. Perhaps not a complete mental deficient then, though I don’t know how exacting Westminster is on its application forms.

We can debate the ‘Briton’ part – I, for one, do not hold British nationality so cheaply; but the suggestion that he is ‘well-to-do’ and ‘a graduate with a degree’ puts paid to the dubious claim that it is poverty and discrimination that makes these people do such things, doesn’t it?

If only we could rid Western culture of Islamophobia, racism and discrimination, so the argument goes, decent people like Mohammed would not be forced – Forced! I tell you! – to go about beheading people.

But it’s all nonsense. These people are not driven to Jihadism by poverty. They are called to it by their understanding of Islam and their belief that Islam and the state ought to be one and the same; and anyone getting in the way of that is fair game for abduction, rape, enslavement and murder.

Oh, I see: we are then told he is ‘Kuwaiti-born’. So not British, then. Except in the deranged minds of those who think nationality is like a t-shirt one picks up in a flea market: get bored if it, then exchange it for something else.

It is odd, though, that the report goes on to say that counterterrorism officials prevented him in 2010 from returning to Kuwait, the country of his birth in which he had the offer of a job and plans to settle. He was already on their radar; he was not picked up on a whim; so why not let him go home, and then pass on their evidence to the Kuwaiti embassy for appropriate action?

Yeah, OK, don’t bother to answer that – I know why.

It is intellectually dishonest to say Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with Islam

I’ve nearly got to the stage where I don’t want to watch or read anything to do with current affairs ever again. I’m tempted to send televisions, radios, newspapers, magazines, even the whole internet, google and all, the way of Jeremiah’s scroll. Burn the lot of them, for all I care.

Sunday Morning Live, the BBC current affairs programme, is the source of my present discontent. This isn’t a blind prejudice. I don’t have a problem with news and current affairs as a concept. These sorts of programmes can be interesting, educational and sometimes entertaining.

I don’t even support the idea of book burning normally; it’s the response of idiots and barbarians. That was something the Nazis did, if you remember. I’m close, that’s all I’m saying. Not to joining the Nazis. I’m not close to that at all. I mean I’m close to giving up newsy programmes.

When it comes to current affairs, as dished up by the media, the problem is less conceptual and more practical. For some reason I turned the TV on this morning, at a time that might have been better spent in church, and there I found Sunday Morning Live; they were discussing the issue of the day (it’s the issue of our lifetime, actually, but this thought might seem too sensational for some). The issue is, of course, Cliff. No, not really. It’s Islamism – that’s the issue.

No doubt we need to discuss the matter. British citizens are, after all, displaying an unhealthy appetite for beheading infidels (that’s the average Brit, if you were wondering). Some of them also seem oddly keen to travel to crazy parts of the world, such as the thrilling new caliphate presently establishing itself in the countries formerly known as Syria and Iraq. And other British citizens, those who might lack the adventurous spirit of their more ‘militant’ friends but who nevertheless travel in the same direction, are becoming increasingly content to display their contempt for the British way of life. This last point is less news-worthy than the others, for sure, but it is perhaps more important for the survival of British liberal democracy.

I’m obviously not insisting that these people should go to our more seedy resorts to get drunk, fall over their cheep stilettos in the street, spraining their ankles something rotten in the process, and expose their thongs in a manner undignified enough to attract a certain type of photojournalist. I’m not suggesting they develop a gambling habit, either, or that they take illegal drugs just to show how assimilated they are.

But I am suggesting that they make up their minds if they want to live in liberal democratic Britain. If they do, then that’s fine. It would be nice if they just showed a little respect for the country in which they choose to live, which is, incidentally, a country infinitely better than the ones they seem to laud so much. If they do not, then that’s fine too. But go away!

And you don’t, by the way, demonstrate love for country, or even a person, by spending a lifetime trying to change everything about them. That’s not how it works, yet that is what Islamists want to do, even the ones mislabelled as moderates.

The frustration with Sunday Morning Live, however, was a bit more specific. It was the programme’s choice of guest. Free speech is obviously important, and it is not always easy for the BBC to demonstrate a level of ‘balance’ and ‘inclusivity’ in their choice of guests that will satisfy everyone. But the guy they had on the video link was unbelievable.

This guy, Abu Rumaysah, who was referred to as an Islamic activist, sat there justifying the murders going on in the Middle East (opaquely, of course, so as to fool people who want to be fooled). He called for Muslims to travel to the ‘caliphate’ and by implication (opaquely, again) partake in the fighting, the kidnapping and the murder.

This is not an issue of free speech. It is an issue of criminality. Any guilt is, of course, subject to proper criminal proceedings, and he, like anyone else, is innocent until proven guilty. But he is surely worth investigating, isn’t he? Or is he just an idiot we should ignore? But if that’s the case, then why is the BBC giving him airtime?

Part of the problem is British decency. We do not want to make ‘martyrs’ of these people; we do not want to curtail our freedoms to deal with these people; and we do not want to denigrate everything about Islam by clumsily criticising this particular strand of Islam.

It is therefore understandable that Lord Winston, one of the sofa-guests, should wish to say that this is not an Islamic problem. He argued, very thoughtfully, that this is a problem of terrorism and the recruitment of disaffected youth, drawing on examples from Cambodia, China, Kashmir and more. While the second part of this argument is true, the first part is not, and anyone who has not been captured by our fake-liberal zeitgeist knows this. What Lord Winston seems reluctant to admit is that these youths have been captured by a very specific ideology, for very specific purposes – and that is the nature of almost all terrorism: purpose.

Youth will always be with us. Poisonous ideologies will not. Ideologies can be understood, reasoned with and defeated by argument and cultural change. Youth will forever be an enduring part of humanity, unless Lord Winston is aware of some scientific discovery not yet in the public domain. To ignore the relevance of the ideology behind the action, whether it is anarchism, communism or now Islamism, is to doom us to failure in tackling them.

This is intellectual dishonesty. It is understandable why we should wish to avoid unpalatable truths, but it is ultimately self-defeating. It is also, sadly, a malady of modern liberalism, which seems to have disappeared into a deep, dark cave and lost its orientation.

At one time during the programme a little strap line appeared on the screen. It asked ‘What should be done about British Islamic extremists?’ Here’s an idea: arrest them and prosecute them when they break the law; don’t invite them on the BBC. A simple idea, but one most reasonable people in Britain would think appropriate.

Apart from this there were some interesting points of discussion, it’s just that the programme might have benefited from someone who knew the law. We talk about British values quite a lot, but there is only one that is of relevance and that we can all probably agree with – that is to obey the law. We are a law-based society. Let’s recognise that, understand the relevant law and use it.

And it does’t help when the Prime Minister tells the House of Commons, as he did on Monday 1 September 2014, that the goings on in Syria and Iraq, the putative caliphate, the jihad, the attempt to create a state called the Islamic State and the desire to live under the laws of Islam have nothing to do with Islam.

Specifically he said: ‘And we should be clear that this has nothing to do with Islam.’

It’s clear what he is trying to say, or at least I hope it is: that Islam is not all about the extremism. Well, of course it isn’t. That much is obvious and I’m sure we do not need telling, at least not in this strange arrangement of words.

‘Nothing to do with Islam.’

Only it has. That’s the problem. Refusing to admit this obvious point is making it impossible for non-Muslims and Muslims alike, especially the vast majority of Muslims who want nothing to do with the barbarism of the Islamic State, to deal with the problem.

To solve a problem, first you need to understand the problem. And as far as the little problem of Islamism goes, I’m not sure we get it yet.

Islamist encroachment on the English language

Is anyone else becoming annoyed at the use of the word Isis in relation to terror and violence? I know Isis is one of the official terms for the Islamists operating out of the region: Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Islamic State (IS) and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But its use in this way – and, indeed, our connivance in its use – is corrupting a perfectly good word.

Isis, as well as being an Egyptian goddess, is the beautiful and tranquil stretch of river in and around the City of Oxford. Saunter down the banks of the Isis in summer and you will see painted boats drifting with the stream, and you will see spires and blue skies reflected in the water; at other times you will see students pondering their thesis and tourists staring in happy wonder that such a place can exist and that their image of a certain type of civilised Englishness also really does exist.

Terror and violence are almost entirely absent from this Oxonian Isis. Except, perhaps, during Eights Week, or on those rare but darkly amusing occasions drunk youths in punts think it wise to negotiate river etiquette with a swan. But apart from that, it’s all peace and harmony down our way.

We are used to words of the English language being corrupted; it would be a tragedy for Isis to go the same way because of an unfortunate coincidence. Let these people have their barbaric, murderous inhumanity; let us have our Isis. The French wouldn’t stand for it so why should the British?

Has there ever been a more preposterous appeal against conviction than by the murderer of Lee Rigby?

It seems that Michael Adebolajo, one of the two men found guilty of the murder of Lee Rigby, is appealing against his conviction. The average person, with an average comprehension of the concept of guilt, might think this a little odd, but we have come to expect such appeals as a standard part of our criminal justice system.

It’s hard not to remember Lee Rigby. He is the soldier of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers who was murdered on the streets of Woolwich in May 2013. The case was horrific, as the images and news reports of the murder testified at the time. One might say it was barbaric, but we tend to resist such words for their other connotations – though it was barbaric; there is no disputing the truth of that statement.

We know that Adebolajo is guilty for two reasons. Firstly, there was the evidence we all got to see thanks to witnesses capturing the incident on their smartphones and then passing them on to various media outlets for transmission. Citizen journalism, I think it’s called. The images were enough to show pretty conclusive guilt, but when added to the admission and preposterous rhetoric of these Islamists – ‘soldier of Allah’ and the like – the evidence is damning.

Secondly, and most importantly, the jury sitting in the Old Bailey found him guilty. That is how we measure criminal guilt – innocent until proven guilty and all that. Magna Carta is our primary reference for jury trials, and Adebolajo was found guilty ‘by lawful judgement of his peers’ and by ‘the law of the land.’ Thus he is guilty. Any other system is arbitrary in nature, so we should be thankful that we have this tradition and that the jury was allowed to make its free decision on the guilt of these men.

But there is a problem. In fact, there are several problems. Although the guilty verdict was made in December 2013, neither of the killers has yet been sentenced. This is, as the presiding High Court judge, Sir Nigel Sweeney, tells us, because he is waiting for another Appeal Court ruling. There it is: a criminal, who has not received sentence because of an appeal, is lodging his own appeal against his conviction. As Shakespeare might have said: ‘The course of true justice never did run smooth.’ On this occasion, we await the result of the EU’s challenge to the British approach to whole-life sentences. Another knotty little issue!

A second problem is that Adebolajo is appealing at all. We have a system of appeal to protect the innocent from injustice. We like our jury system, but occasionally juries get it wrong, or new evidence comes forward after the original trial, or lawyers abuse accepted legal procedure. And yet it is hard to see on what grounds either of these two murderers might appeal against their convictions. It seems that appealing is simply the thing that happens after a conviction, even in the most clear-cut of cases.

Considering the evidence, the most likely outcome is for the appeal to be rejected at the first hearing. But it will be interesting to see what the lawyers come up with. If it’s good, then the public might just wear it, but if it’s just another spurious and legalistic game, then anger and cynicism might just be the outcome.