London attack raises issue of radicalisation in UK
London - Following the March 22nd attack in London, questions are being asked about how the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe are working to combat radical extremism at a time when lone-wolf attacks directed and inspired by the Islamic State (ISIS) are on the rise.
More than 300 people have been killed and 1,200 injured in more than 20 terror attacks in Europe since the start of 2015. While ISIS has claimed responsibility for the vast majority of these attacks, including the one this week near parliament, analysts say that the priority must be to combat the dangerous Islamist ideology that underpins the group.
ISIS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda, is heavily influenced by ideology promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has been designated a terrorist organisation in a number of Arab countries but remains active in Europe and the United States. All three groups have said that their objective was to establish an Islamic caliphate and implement sharia law. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and founder Osama bin Laden have a history with the Brotherhood.
There has always been a lot of overlap between Islamist groups, but while ISIS and al-Qaeda are being directly confronted, the Muslim Brotherhood is able to continue to peddle its ideology in the West and particularly London, which until recently was the headquarters of its international organisation.
In a 2014 interview, Qatari-based Muslim Brotherhood preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi confirmed that Baghdadi had been a member of the Brotherhood. Qaradawi was banned from entering Britain in 2008, with former prime minister David Cameron describing him as a “dangerous and divisive” preacher of hate. “The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence,” the UK Home Office said.
Although the UK government released a long-awaited review into the Muslim Brotherhood in late 2015, it stopped short of an outright ban on the group. “Parts of the Muslim Brotherhood have a highly ambiguous relationship with violent extremism. Both as an ideology and as a network it has been a rite of passage for some individuals and groups who have gone on to engage in violence and terrorism,” said then prime minister David Cameron following the release of the report.
Many are now calling for the British government to take a tougher line on Islamist groups at a time when the UK terror threat level remains at “severe”, meaning an attack is highly likely. There has also been talk of banning the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States following the election of Donald Trump as president.
“Aspects of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and activities… run counter to British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, equality and the mutual respect and tolerance of difference faiths and beliefs,” said the UK Muslim Brotherhood review.
“The main findings of the review support the conclusion that membership of, association with, or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism,” the report said.