Are Western foreign policies responsible for global terrorism?

Dr Howells

Earlier this month, British police and security services uncovered an alleged plot to blow up a number of aeroplanes over the Atlantic. Had the horrific plan succeeded, thousands of innocent men, women and children, of a number of nationalities and faiths, would have died.

We have to ask ourselves what motivates someone to perpetrate such an act. It is entirely right to ask that question. But it is vital that we do not jump to facile conclusions and clutch at "easy" answers. Time and again in recent days, and far too many times in the past, I've heard the claim that it is British foreign policy that is to blame. It was opposition to our foreign policy, it is said - including by ordinary British Muslims, community leaders and Muslim Members of Parliament - that led these alleged plotters to perpetrate these hideous attacks. This is a very serious claim and one that I, as a Government Minister, a democrat and a citizen of this country, cannot let go unchallenged.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I accept fully that there are aspects of British foreign policy which are hugely controversial. I receive hundreds of letters each year from people who believe our policy on the Middle East peace process favours one side over the other. Hundreds of thousands of people marched on the streets of Britain to protests against the war in Iraq. More recently, a great many people have protested against what they believe to have been British procrastination in calling for a cease-fire in Lebanon.

Terrorists everywhere exploit the legitimate concerns and fears of ordinary people, and pervert them to their own ends. Theirs is a self fulfilling prophecy, portraying the world through the prism of a fundamental clash between incompatible cultures. Ultimately, it can only feed a cycle of violence in which the whole region, and the wider world, becomes entangled.

I know that Islam is a peaceful religion with a profound sense of morality and that the overwhelming majority of Muslims feel disgust that such horrific things are done in the name of the faith that they hold dear.

Similarly, I agree with the assertion of the recent letter from key Muslim figures to the Prime Minister that we must do more to stop "all those who target civilians". However, it is fundamentally wrong to say that to prevent terrorist attacks in this country we must change our foreign policy. Our foreign policy is formed and implemented by a democratically elected government; it cannot be changed by a minority unable to argue in more sophisticated terms than by bombing and murdering. If we give in to the terrorists, if we do what they want, they will not go away. They will come back stronger. And every man, woman and child in this country, of whatever faith, will face a very bleak future.

Many of the 2 million Muslims in Britain are actively engaged in our strong civil society. We have more Muslim MPs and members of the House of Lords than ever before. We recognise that Muslim communities are an integral and vibrant part of our society, whose voices need to be heard.

Those of us who believe in democracy must be resolute in our rejection of the terrorists' method, and of their message. The vast majority of people everywhere consider it to be utterly indefensible, wrong and immoral. They know the terrorists are not seeking - nor do they want - solutions to the legitimate concerns that many ordinary people have. Because ultimately, for the terrorists, a peaceful vision of the future is one in which they do not have a stake.



Copyright 1997-2004 www.lankaweb.Com Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Reproduction In Whole Or In Part Without Express Permission is Prohibited.