Monday, 20 March 2017

If Birmingham's a 'jihadi breeding ground' it's not a very good one

Islamist terrorism is undoubtedly a problem. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the UK's home grown Islamist terrorists nearly all come from with the Muslim community. This means that the largest such communities - Birmingham, Bradford, Luton and so forth - are more likely to produce terrorists.

Here's the Daily Mail:
Sparkbrook has become synonymous with Islamic extremism; one in ten of all Britain’s convicted Islamic terrorists, we now know, have come from Sparkbrook (population 30,000) and four adjoining council wards.

In total, these highly concentrated Muslim enclaves, occupying a few square miles of the city, have produced 26 of the country’s 269 known jihadis convicted in Britain of terror offences.
Over a fifth of Birmingham's population identified as Muslim in the 2011 census - that's about 250,000 people. And they are, as with most immigrant populations, concentrated:

That population - one of England's largest concentrations of Muslims - has produced just 10% of terrorists and the number (26) of those terrorists represents just 0.01% of the population. We should be vigilant, carry on working to prevent and protect, but this really doesn't tell us that Muslim communities are rife with budding terrorists and more than Jo Cox's murderer living on a council estate makes such places riddled with Nazi-sympathising nutters.

Confusing the dominant Deobandi version of Islam in Britian's Kashmiri population with ISIS is wrong, if at times understandable. Deobandi beliefs are very traditional and include very definite views about the role of women (and how they should dress), a reverence for the physical Qu'ran rather than its contents and an increasingly assertive approach to other Muslims who don't adhere to these positions. So when the Daily Mail describes Sparkbrook, it shows a scene that is familiar to anyone from my city of Bradford:
Visit the area and you’ll inevitably pass along Ladypool Road, the neighbourhood’s bustling main artery, at the centre of the Balti Triangle, so named because of the number of curry houses that line the pavement.

The shops are largely Islamic, too. There’s Only Hijab, the Islam Superstore and Kafe Karachi, to name a few. Dotted around Ladypool Road are 22 mosques, dominated by the twin minarets of Birmingham Central Mosque.
None of this suggests that somehow terrorists are being created by the presence of curry houses, hijab shops and an Asian cafe. Yet that is somehow the impression that is given - tens of thousands of perfectly ordinary Birmingham residents being categorised as some sort of problem because a tiny handful of men from that place committed terrorist offences.

The Mail is right to point at the manner in which Labour politicians pander to pressure from Deobandi organisations - Cllr Wazeem Jaffar and the four-year-old in the headscarf is a shocking example of indulging religious fundamentalism. But then the same politicians play a game of community politics unrecognisable to those of us campaigning in the rest of the country. And, yes, this is a problem - from electoral fraud through to grant-farming and favour-mongering - but it is not creating the basis for young men becoming Islamist terrorists.

In discussing the threat of Islamist terror - and there is a threat - we need to get away from the from the idea that mainstream Islam in the UK is promoting that terrorism. We should remember, and perhaps Birmingham is a good place to do this, that throughout its existence the IRA exploited sectarian sympathies and enjoyed the support of some Catholic priests. But this didn't make the rest of the Catholic population of England and Ireland complicit in the IRA's murder and terror. Islamist terror groups are no different, they exploit Muslim grievance (just as those Birmingham Labour councillors exploit the same grievances) and find some sympathetic voices. But what comes across most strongly is that so few - a tiny group - Muslims from Birmingham get involved in the world of Islamist terrorism.


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