DISCLOSURES: 3rd Feb 2011
SUBJECT: CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER ON AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN 9th April 2009
SUBJECT: REPORTS THAT BRITAIN IS IMPORTING PAKISTANI IMAMS
ARE EXAGGERATED, 24th April 2008
SUBJECT: PROPOSALS FOR AMBASSADOR’S CT FUND 18th April 2008
SUBJECT: ANTI-EXTREMIST CAMPAIGN TO REVERSE UK RADICALISATION, 5th Jan 2008
SUBJECT: EUR SENIOR ADVISOR PANDITH AND S/P ADVISOR COHEN’S
VISIT TO THE UK, OCTOBER 9-14, 2007
SUBJECT: (U) TENSIONS RISE BETWEEN BRITISH MUSLIMS AND HMG
IN THE WAKE OF THWARTED TERRORIST ATTACK 14th August 2006
US Diplomats quote neocon thinktank
DISCLOSURES 3rd Feb 2011
“The US proposed flying a moderate Muslim comedy troupe from America to perform in London, using reformed British extremists to engage with young radicals, and hiring Bollywood actors to make anti-jihad films. American officials also toured the country ñ making visits in England, Scotland and Wales to meet British muslims and assess the scale of the extremist problem.
Dell Dailey, the US ‘ambassador at large’, specialising in counter-terrorism, offered the London Embassy $50,000 to spend on anti-extremism schemes in Britain.
In April 2008, the deputy chief of the US Embassy in London, Richard LeBaron, wrote back, enthusiastically welcoming the funds and suggesting two fresh proposals for how to prevent British youths from becoming Jihadists.
The first would involve hiring an American academic at a cost of $43,000 to study reformed British extremists who have ‘stepped back’ from radical Islam, with advice from the UK government.
The aim would be ‘to create a pool of individuals that could serve as a source of information on radicalization in the UK – its causes and what they believe will work to deflate it’, Mr LeBaron wrote. The project would ‘determine which of these individuals we might use to support counterterrorism efforts and how best to use them’.
Mr LeBaronís second suggestion was to spend $39,000 flying in the ‘Allah Made Me Funny’ comedy troupe to the UK to participate in the Ramadan Festival UK.
….The Embassy cables revealed that Britainís anti-extremism efforts included sponsoring Arabic language childrenís television in Jordan ‘to promote peace and tolerance’; encouraging meetings between the Archbishop of Canterbury and religious leaders and journalists from British Muslim communities; and providing English language training to tutors at Al-Azhar University in Cairo through the British Council.”
“Other documents disclose that Washington became so worried that the State Department authorised funding to pay for a range of ìreverse radicalismî schemes intended to tackle the jihadist threat emanating from Britain…..Writing before last yearís general election, the Americans also observed that Foreign Office staff would need to convince potentially naÔve ministers in a new government, who may have ‘simplistic’ views, to back their counter-terrorism work.”
Thursday, 09 April 2009, 15:51
C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 000860
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/WE AND SCA
EO 12958 DECL: 04/06/2019
TAGS MARR, PREL, PTER, PGOV, PK, AF, IN, UK
SUBJECT: CONSERVATIVE PARTY LEADER ON AFGHANISTAN/PAKISTAN
REF: LONDON 720
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires, a.i. Richard LeBaron, reasons 1.4 (b, d).
….5. (C/NF) On the radicalization of British Pakistanis, Cameron said the UK had “gotten it wrong domestically,” and was critical of the UK government’s “Prevent” counter-radicalization pillar (part of HMG’s broader CONTEST counterterrorism strategy). He argued that PM Brown’s policy had been too willing to engage with radicalized but non-violent Muslim groups. Cameron argued that there should be no difference and that both groups should be treated the same and sanctioned if they advocated violence. “We let in some crazies,” Cameron said, “and didn’t wake up soon enough.” Cameron singled out XXXXXXXXXXXX as groups that the government should not be dealing with as conduits to the Muslim communities.
[see this link
Thursday, 24 April 2008, 13:58
C O N F I D E N T I A L LONDON 001160
EO 12958 DECL: 04/24/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, KISL, PK, UK
SUBJECT: REPORTS THAT BRITAIN IS IMPORTING PAKISTANI IMAMS
REF: 07 LONDON 4471
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Maura Connelly for reasons 1.4 (b,d)
1. (C) Summary. The British press has reported that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that Britain would launch a
SIPDIS new initiative to bring “moderate Pakistani Imams” to preach in Britain. Poloff spoke April 24 with the Head of the Home Office’s Prevent Unit Paul Morrison who said the initiative had been miscast and exaggerated in the press. End Summary.
2. (C) Morrison said the Home Secretary had been in discussions with Pakistani officials during her April 13-14 visit to Pakistan about what could be done to diminish the terror threat in the UK. One idea which had been floated was for Pakistani religious authorities to visit the UK as part of HMG’s ongoing program to bring visiting religious scholars to the UK to promote moderate interpretations of Islam (in the Foreign Office-led speaking tour program known as “the Radical Middle Way.”) Morrison said the concept had been discussed in principle but that no firm commitments had been made and no individuals had been identified. In any case, if Pakistani Imams were to come to the UK, “it would only be to visit,” said Morrison.
3. (C) Morrison further clarified that it was not HMG’s policy to import foreign Imams. “To the contrary,” said Morrison, HMG hopes to foster local Imams “rooted in the community.” To this end, HMG has supported Muslim communities’ own efforts to form an association (the Mosques and Imams Advisory Body aka MINAB — see reftel) which would lead in the development and self-regulation of Mosques in the United Kingdom. Morrison added that the Home Office looks to the Muslim communities to lead on that effort as “it is not the government’s role to dictate to people how to practice their faith.”
Friday, 18 April 2008, 14:03
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 LONDON 001113
DEPT. FOR S/CT – AMB.DAILEY AND EUR
EO 12958 DECL: 04/14/2018
TAGS PREL, PGOV, PTER, UK
SUBJECT: PROPOSALS FOR AMBASSADOR’S CT FUND
REF: STATE 20081
Classified By: Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle for reasons 1. 4 (b,d)
1. (U) Embassy London welcomes the offer made by S/CT Ambassador Dailey for S/CT to consider granting funds of up to 50,000 USD to support projects to counter violent extremist ideology. Embassy London submits the following two proposals:
2. (C) REVERSE RADICALISM: Working with Her Majesty’s Government, the Embassy would contract an American academic to carry out a study of those individuals currently residing in the United Kingdom who allege they were once on the path to radicalization and terrorism but stepped back from it. These include the noteworthy number of individuals who have come forward to work on counter radicalization in the wake of the publication of “the Islamist” by Ed Hussein. Many of these individuals say they were radicalized on the streets and in the mosques of London in the 1990s and now wish to work to use that experience to encourage British youth not to become radicalized. Post believes the UK is unique in the number of its former radical Islamists and their increasingly public profile. The Embassy and HMG are aware of other, similar individuals who have begun to speak of their experience but are not yet known to the general public and may, or may not, be dedicated to using their knowledge to dissuade British youth from supporting terrorism or extremist ideology. Embassy would coordinate with appropriate HMG officials on gaining access to individuals known to HMG who would be useful participants.
The purpose of the survey would be to:
1) attempt to quantify how many of these individuals are known by the Embassy, HMG and British NGOs and think tanks now engaged in the study of radicalization;
2) create a pool of individuals that could serve as a source of information on radicalization in the UK — its causes and what they believe will work to deflate it;
3) evaluate whether there is a common history which explains why these individuals stepped back from terrorism which is potentially applicable outside the UK context in the U.S. and elsewhere in Europe.
4) determine which of these individuals we might use to support counterterrorism efforts and how best to use them.
3. (C) The Embassy estimates costs for the Reverse Radicalism project to be 43,000 USD to cover travel costs (including airfare, lodging, M&IE, honorarium, and local transportation) and research expenses including phone calls. Funds not spent on the Reverse Radicalism project (should the Embassy and HMG not find a qualified individual to carry out the study, should the sample size prove smaller than anticipated, or should S/CT prefer not to allocate funds to the Reverse Radicalism project) would be dedicated to Embassy participation in the Ramadan Festival UK.
4. (U) RAMADAN FESTIVAL UK: Based on the highly successful Dutch model, Embassy London’s contacts in the British Muslim community plan on holding a “Ramadan Festival” this year aimed at highlighting the diversity of the British mainstream. The event will help raise the standard of dialogue on extremism and promote understanding between Britain’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Part of the festival is a series of “Ramadan Nights,” focused on bringing together the British Muslim community in a positive atmosphere of learning and a global sense of community. The Festival has asked the Embassy to provide an American Muslim performance group which could appeal to both older and younger audiences.
5. The Embassy proposes to bring the “Allah Made Me Funny” comedy troupe to the UK to participate in the Festival, building on the unparalleled success we achieved with their UK program last fall. Their appeal in not restricted on an particular age group of background, and the message their performance would send, of American Muslims, proud to be both “American” and “Muslim” is a powerful message that would open British Muslim eyes to American cultural and religious diversity as well as encourage reflection on the part of British Muslim community in a positive, self-defining direction. Our expected outcome would be to reach thousand of British Muslims, including the disproportionately high youth population, with these positive messages.
LONDON 00001113 002 OF 002
6. S/CT funds, should they be dedicated to the RAMADAN FESTIVAL UK would be allocated to cover travel costs (including airfare, lodging, M&IE, honorarium, and local transportation) for the Allah Made Me Funny group. The Embassy estimates cost for bringing the “Allah Made Me Funny” troupe to the UK to be 39,000 USD.
Ref ID: 08LONDON1224
Date: 5/1/2008 11:56
Origin: Embassy London
MI-6 Meeting ————
5.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX, MI-6 Special Intelligence Service (SIS) XXXXXXXXXXXX, expressed to the Codel HMG’s gratitude for the USG’s collective counterterrorism efforts with the UK, and underscored to the Codel how closely the SIS follows U.S. legislative debates over issues such as FISA because of the direct impact they have on U.S. intelligence sharing and the UK’s own approach to the domestic CT threat. XXXXXXXXXXXX highlighted five areas that HMG uses to monitor and “explain its CT threat,” and three of these five are wholly or largely dependent on the USG for assistance (from intelligence sharing via CIA liaison, detention and interviews, and Signals Intelligence sharing through the National Security Agency).
6. (S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Codel the UK faces “external” threats like many other European countries and, simultaneously, an “internal home-grown” threat from British nationals such as those involved in the July, 2005 London bombings. The fact that HMG faces both threats at the same time makes the UK’s situation “uniquely challenging.” Moreover, the internal threat is growing more dangerous because some extremists are conducting non-lethal training without ever leaving the country. Should these extremists then decide to become suicide operatives, HMG intelligence resources, eavesdropping and surveillance would be hard pressed to find them on any “radar screen.” XXXXXXXXXXXX described this as a “generational” problem that will not go away anytime soon.
Thursday, 25 October 2007, 16:38
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 LONDON 004045
EO 12958 DECL: 10/17/2017
TAGS PGOV, PREL, KISL, PTER, SCUL, UK
SUBJECT: EUR SENIOR ADVISOR PANDITH AND S/P ADVISOR COHEN’S
VISIT TO THE UK, OCTOBER 9-14, 2007
REF: LONDON 4030
Classified By: DCM Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 b, d
1. (C) Summary. EUR Senior Advisor for Muslim Engagement Farah Pandith and S/P Member Jared Cohen met with a wide range of UK government leaders, community activists, think tanks, artists, and Muslim youth during their October 9-14 visit to the UK. Government officials stressed that the UK’s problem with extremists is a domestic as well as a foreign policy issue, since all recent successful and thwarted terrorist attacks were perpetrated by individuals from Muslim communities in the UK. Muslim youth from deprived areas expressed less concern with UK and U.S. foreign policy than with the chance to have their voices heard in British society, while those with more education focused on disagreements with UK foreign policy and the need to use the arts to address cultural tensions and reconciliation. Bollywood actors and executives agreed to work with the USG to promote anti-extremist messages through third party actors and were excited about the idea of possibly partnering with Hollywood as well. Community activists discussed how they are working to empower their communities and help shape the debate against extremism in UK Muslim communities. One highlight of the visit was a day trip to Leicester, which Pandith said was arguably home to the most conservative Islamic population she had seen anywhere in Europe. End summary.
2. (C) HMG is currently working on an updated strategy, yet to be blessed by ministers, to update and improve its approach to stopping terrorists and extremists, FCO Engaging the Islamic World Group Head Barry Lowen and Arab Reform Team Leader Alex Cole told Pandith and Cohen October 12. The new strategy includes the creation of the Research and Intelligence Communications Unit (RICU), which falls under the joint auspices of the FCO, the Home Office, and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Although still in the “embryonic stage,” Lowen said, the RICU would have three primary functions: 1) tracking and coordinating research and information on extremism in the UK Muslim Community; 2) alerting HMG to important events, such as an impending Osama Bin Laden speech, and preparing a unified government response; and 3) supporting non-government tools in battling extremists (For more on the RICU and HMG’s counter-radicalization structure, see ref). One project currently underway is preparation of a paper on what language works best in public outreach, Lowen said; for example, the advantage of using the word “mainstream” to define common values, as opposed to “the West,” which can have negative connotations.
3. (C) Work on empowering moderate Muslim voices in the UK and overseas is divided into aid directly from HMG and facilitation of contacts between non-governmental actors, Cole said. Programs which HMG sponsors directly include: sponsoring Arabic language children’s television programming in Jordan to promote peace and tolerance; assisting visiting religious leaders and journalists from UK-based Muslim communities to meet the Archbishop of Canterbury and other church leaders; and providing English language training to tutors at Al-Azhar University in Cairo through the British Council. On the non-governmental side, HMG is also currently working to facilitate linkages between third party actors, Cole said. Pandith noted these efforts mirror current USG initiatives. She and Cohen described USG efforts at “seeding” small initiatives overseas to see what works and what doesn’t. Both sides agreed they would exchange ideas for promoting counter-radicalization efforts, both those directly and indirectly sponsored by governments.
4. (C) With the FCO’s Policy Planning Middle East analyst Richard Shaw, Cohen described current USG thinking on the linkage between public diplomacy, counter terrorism, and counter radicalization. Shaw said the UK’s overall approach is focused on how likely Muslims are to turn to violence. Unlike the U.S. September 11 attack, Shaw noted, all of the UK terrorist attacks and would-be attacks have been perpetrated by “home grown” terrorists. What is considered foreign policy for the USG is both domestic and foreign for the UK, he pointed out. Pandith, Cohen and Shaw discussed the importance of trying to work with youth through web-based technology and communications, since these are some of Al Qaida’s primary tools. They also discussed the limitations of traditional outreach methods, including government-supported exchange programs, which pay off handsomely for those who participate but reach a mere handful of people, many of whom are already inclined to anti-extremist sentiment. Foreign Secretary David Miliband is focused on exactly these types of questions, Shaw said.
The Personal Journey of the UK’s, First Muslim MP
5. (C) On October 12, Pandith and Cohen met with newly-appointed Department for International Development (DFID) Minister Shahid Malik. A Labour MP since 2005, when he and fellow Labourite Saddiq Khan were the first Muslim MPs ever elected to the British Parliament, Malik is an active participant in the British Muslim dialogue. He told Pandith and Cohen his own personal story of alienation, saying that even though he grew up in the UK he was so anti-British as a young man that he rooted for the other side in any sporting match in which an England team played. At the age of 27, however, he was appointed to the Commission for Race and Equality, and began to travel around the UK and listen to the stories of other Muslims. This was a turning point in his life, he said, because he realized that many Muslims were finding ways to celebrate both their Muslim and their British heritages simultaneously. In his public appearances, Malik said, he emphasizes that anger over UK or U.S. foreign policy is not a valid reason for extremism. By the same token, he said, it is important to separate out extremists from the vast majority of law-abiding Muslims. He praised Gordon Brown’s handling of the thwarted July car bombings in London, noting the Brown had referred to the perpetrators as “criminals,” without mentioning their religion.
6. (C) HMG needs to organize itself better on Muslim engagement, Malik admitted, and work to empower young people and make sure their voices are heard. A lot of important work is being done on education, where the Mosques and Imams Board (MINAB) has been set up to evaluate the credentials of imams to ensure that Muslim youth are being taught by qualified teachers. Pandith suggested that the two governments work more closely together, wondering if Malik would be interested in working with other elected Muslim officials around Europe who were keen to engage youth, act as role models, and learn from each other. Malik was very keen to help make this happen; Pandith will follow up with him.
7. (C) Pandith also raised the critical need for a place in Europe where religiously curious youth could go to learn more about Islam and specificially learn about it as a Muslim in Europe. Finding a “campus” where students could go to learn about theology as well as religion, history, culture, and science was a necessary missing piece in Europe. Malik agreed and said he would follow up with further thinking about this issue.
Female Muslim Role Models
8. (SBU) Pandith met Lady Sheikh, wife of Conservative Peer Lord Sheikh and herself a party activist, at her offices adjacent to Westminster Abbey on October 11. Sheikh said Muslim communities are economically the most deprived in Britain, and stressed the importance of educating and encouraging British Muslims to participate in democracy. She expressed an interest in receiving American female Muslim visitors whom she could introduce to young Muslim women to serve as role models. Pandith said the USG engages in outreach of this kind and told Sheikh the Embassy would keep her request in mind when programming such exchanges.
Visit to Leicester
9. (SBU) On October 11, Pandith and Cohen traveled to Leicester, a large urban center about 70 minutes north of London with a substantial ethic minority population. Leicester’s Muslim population is 11 percent, well above the overall UK percentage of three percent. The visit was organized by Parvin Ali, founder and Chief of Executive of FATIMA Women’s Network, which aims to address Muslim women’s issues both locally and nationally. Pandith and Cohen toured a number of Leicester’s commingled but distinct ethnic neighborhoods, including Highfields (lower income, predominantly ethnic Indian Gujarati, influenced religiously by the Wahhabi sect), Medway (Bangladeshi), Evington (mainly Muslim, middle class), Stonygate (progressive Jewish neighborhood with recent influx of more affluent Muslims), and Oadby (more prosperous and outside the city center). With over 200 mosques and madrasses in Leicester, Ali noted, the city has for the first time put up Eid decorations on the streets in Muslim neighborhoods. Diwali decorations have been a tradition for some time, Ali said, and the Diwali celebrations in Leicester are said to be the largest in Europe, and possibly the largest outside of India.
10. (SBU) Leicester’s progressive Muslims may be politically “quieter” because of the comparatively huge orthodox presence, Ali said. The large numbers of Gujarati immigrants who came to the UK had originally settled in East Africa, and so brought with them a unique cultural memory of immigration strategies that had worked there. These immigrants knew and recognized the importance of immediately building up community institutions, leading to the proliferation of mosques and other community institutions. In addition, Leicester’s ethnic climate is unique academically – the University of Leicester attracts numerous students from outside the area, even internationally, due to its academic prestige. DeMontFord University, by contrast, can then absorb more local populations, leading to a high level of ethnic diversity there.
11. (SBU) Members of the Leicestershire Constabulary’s Community Safety Bureau described to Pandith and Cohen how their main focus is neighborhood policing and anti-terrorism, including racially and religiously-related crime. These programs rely on non-police community actors, who advise, inform, and assist with police operations. The police force will inform key community members prior to a raid, so that once police action is taken, comprehensive information on the situation is made available immediately to the community, thus preventing rumors and a possible escalation of conflict. As a result, there has been a significant level of community engagement with law enforcement. Constabulary officials acknowledged that their success might be a useful information tool for others in the United States or UK. Pandith expressed interest in passing information on their work to the Department of Homeland Security.
12. (SBU) Despite the many positive programs in Leicester, the isolation of some parts of the Muslim community was striking. During a discussion with religious and community leaders at an Ahmadiyya mosque, Yaqub Khan, General Secretary of a local organization called the Pakistan Association, insisted that he had to teach young people in Urdu. When Pandith challenged him as to why he would use Urdu with children who were growing up with English as their first language, Khan insisted that there were no good books on the Koran in English. At a local book store, texts in English seemed designed to segregate Muslims from their wider community, urging women to cover themselves and remain in their homes, playing up the differences between Islam and other religions, seeking to isolate Muslims from community, and feeding hate of Jews to the young. Some Leicester Muslims seemed to have haphazardly thrown together different elements of Islam, pairing an Arabian Gulf-style hijab with a Pakistani shalwar kameez, for example. Girls as young as four years old were completely covered. Pandith commented afterward that this was the most conservative Islamic community she had seen anywhere in Europe.
13. (SBU) Pandith and Cohen attended three events specifically aimed at hearing the concerns of Muslim youth in London. On October 9 they traveled to the East London neighborhood of Waltham Forest, a largely Muslim area that is plagued by urban problems including drugs, youth gangs, violence (three young people were shot close to the meeting site that same evening), and a significant radical Muslim presence. There they met with young Muslims, journalists, and community leaders, including the Mayor of Waltham Forest and two Borough Councillors, under the auspices of the Active Change Foundation (ACF), a recently-launched leadership training program targeted at Muslim youth in deprived areas of East London. The ACF had just finished recruiting its first class of young men and women to participate in the ACF’s inaugural leadership training course. During the meeting, the young people present repeated several times to Pandith and Cohen that they want the skills and the opportunities to be able to represent their views to the media and to decision makers. Although the journalists kept interjecting foreign policy issues such as Iraq and Israel/Palestine, the young people stressed that while those issues might be of some concern, the real issues in their lives are jobs, education, and empowerment. After a lively exchange, the ACF students presented a grant application for Embassy consideration, and both sides pledged that the link forged that evening would be maintained.
14. (SBU) In contrast, Cohen met October 9 with a small group of more privileged Muslim youth in Kensington, a wealthy London district. This meeting was held under the auspices of Kensington Borough Councillor Mushtaq Lasharie, himself a British Muslim of Pakistani origin who is the first Muslim councillor for this predominantly non-Muslim area. The young people at this meeting, all with higher education, said they wanted to see reconciliation themes conveyed through the arts, especially music. Cohen urged them to turn their ideas into action.
15. (U) An Iftar sponsored by the Next Century Foundation and held in Pandith and Cohen’s honor October 10 drew such a large number of participants that the group was split in two. Participants included representatives of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPAC), and the Leeds and Bradford Diasporas, the UK Turkish community, and Muslim community leaders. Discussion centered on foreign policy issues including Kashmir, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, Armenia/Turkey, and the spread of fundamentalist Islam. The wide variety of opinions expressed provided U.S. participants with a broad cross-section of the positions of the different Muslim communities in Britain. Cohen noted a distinct difference between the focus of these young people — all in their mid-20s with graduate degrees — as opposed to the group of more impoverished youth in East London, where discussions focused on integration and opportunity issues inside of Britain. This group focused entirely on foreign policy, and more specifically on U.S. foreign policy. Many of them had radical views, including that “America had 9/11 coming to it.”
16. (SBU) On October 10, Pandith and Cohen met with a cross section of the South Asian community working in film to discuss the potential of working with the Indian film industry – “Bollywood” – on delivering an anti-terrorism message. Participants included Director of Arts Versa Mohsin Abbas, Channel 4 TV Head of Multicultural Programming Farouk Dhondi, Producer Director Mahmood Jamal, Locations Manager Amjad Khan, and singer/actress Humeira Akhter, who has strong links with top Bollywood actors/actresses. A lively discussion produced a number of possible ideas, including developing ways to promote existing anti-terrorist films, and to develop funds for similar productions. Once such an anti-extremist genre is established, participants believed that major Bollywood figures would be willing to speak out on the issue. Humaira Akhtar has already gotten back to Pandith on possible stars in Bollywood interested in such a project.
17. (U) The National Muslim Communities Development Network (MCDM) arose from a series of meetings held by various UK Muslim communities, following the July 5, 2007 bombings in London. MCDM is now an independent structure intended to bring attention to the continuing work of existing organizations focused on countering extremism. It works to help develop and broaden emerging leadership within Muslim communities, bringing communities together through positive action and raising the standard of debate on Islam in Britain today. In a meeting October 10, MCDM members including Director Nadeem Kazmi, Muslim Media Network’s Munir Zamir, Waltham Forest Community Cohesion Office Munir Zamir, Citibank’s Nazish Zaid, Khayall Theater’s Luqman Ali, Jang’s Ali Murtaza Shah, and Art Versa Mohsin Abbas, exchanged views with Pandith and Cohen about the challenge of promoting a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to the debate on Islam in British society. All parties committed to continue to explore ways to support MCDM programs, while the MCDM leaders agreed to facilitate U.S. mission efforts to reach out to the British Muslim community. These leaders agreed to stay in touch with Cohen and Pandith about their progress in creating a network of activists.
18. (SBU) Taking advantage of the wide range of Diaspora media available in London, Pandith spoke to a cross section of the UK-based Muslim media during her visit, including Jang Daily News, the oldest Pakistani-community newspaper in the UK with a European circulation of about 23,000 readers; Emel Magazine, a high-end weekly glossy with a print run of 20,000: the Muslim Weekly, whose website receives 34,000 hits a day; and Al Hayat, an influential Pan Arab daily with a world-wide circulation of 160,000. Pandith stressed that the USG is interested in building a dialogue with European Muslims from which both sides benefit: this gives the United States a chance to dispel myths that its policies are anti-Islam, and Muslims gain a better understanding of how U.S. foreign policy is shaped. It also empowers Muslims to discuss their own religion directly, rather than allowing the media to interpret for them through soundbites and other filters. As this dialogue has improved, so has understanding, leading to cooperative efforts to develop and support grass roots movements that combat the destructive impulses of extremists. Drawing on her own experience as a Muslim American, Pandith sought to dispel some myths about Muslims in America, noting that they are free to honor their religion as well as their ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The tension between allegiance to one’s country and to one’s faith is mostly absent for American Muslims, she said, because America is a country of immigrants, many of whom emigrated seeking religious freedom. She was careful to point out that the history of immigration and integration in the United States has at times been painful, but stressed that as a country the United States has benefited greatly from the experiences of the Civil Rights Movement.
19. (U) EUR Senior Advisor Pandith and S/P Member Cohen have cleared this message.
Monday, 14 August 2006, 17:17
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LONDON 005958
EO 12958 DECL: 08/14/2011
TAGS PGOV, PTER, KISL, UK
SUBJECT: (U) TENSIONS RISE BETWEEN BRITISH MUSLIMS AND HMG
IN THE WAKE OF THWARTED TERRORIST ATTACK
REF: A) LONDON 5921 B) LONDON 5884
Classified By: PolMinCouns Maura Connelly, Reasons 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) SUMMARY: Frustrated by the bruising that their community has taken after 24 UK-born Muslims were arrested in connection with the recently-thwarted air terrorist plot (reftels), prominent British Muslims sent an open letter to PM Tony Blair August 12 blaming his policy on Iraq and the Middle East for fueling extremism and putting British citizens at risk. HMG reacted angrily to the letter; in a series of meetings with Muslim community leaders August 14, government ministers planned to demand that the Muslim community itself do more to root out terrorists in its midst. At the same time, officials were scheduled to hold talks with leaders of seven UK localities where they judge unrest among Muslims may turn into street violence. Two British mosques have been set on fire since the story of the thwarted attacks broke, and UK police suspect revenge arson. Meanwhile, media sources are reporting that Blair has made contingency plans to return to the UK from holiday in Barbados if events warrant. END SUMMARY.
(U) BRITISH MUSLIMS ANGRY
2. (U) The arrest of 24 UK-born Muslims (one has since been released) in connection with the recently-thwarted air terrorist plot angered and frustrated Britain’s Muslim community. Most feel they are being unjustly blamed and stereotyped. “You cannot assume that Muslims are collectively responsible for the actions of a few,” Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) media spokesman Inayat Bunglawa said August 14. Many Muslims feel HMG is employing a double standard in dealing with Muslim suspects, pointing to the Bank of England’s decision to release the names of 19 of the suspects when their assets were frozen at the time of their arrest. (UK officials defend this unusual practice as necessary to ensure that all assets were properly frozen.) “It is important to wait until a thorough investigation has taken place before pointing fingers and drawing conclusions. It is important to maintain the legal principles we hold dear, namely the concept of innocent until proven guilty,” Federation of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS) spokesman Wakkas Khan said August 11.
3. (U) The Muslim community’s anger is also fueled by continued resentment of HMG’s handling of the June raid on a home in Forest Gate in East London, when 250 officers arrested two Muslim brothers, shooting one of them in the process, only to release them without charge a few days later. Chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque Mohammed Nassem said August 12: “With the track record of the police, one doesn’t have much faith in the basis on which people are detained. And it poses the question of whether the arrests are part of a political objective, by using Muslims as a target, using the perception of terrorism to usurp all our civil liberties and get more and more control while moving towards a totalitarian state.” (Note: The follow-up to the botched raid has irked some other Britons after the media reported that, since their release, the brothers and their families have been housed at a central London hotel at taxpayer expense while raid-related damage to the house is repaired, also at government expense. End Note)
4. (U) Prominent British Muslim leaders sent an open letter to PM Tony Blair August 12 stating that his policy on Iraq and the Middle East offers “ammunition to extremists” and puts British lives “at increased risk.” Appearing as a full page advertisement in newspapers August 13, the letter was signed by three of the four Muslim MPs, three of the five Muslim members of the House of Lords, and 38 Muslim organizations (for full text and list of signatories see para 10). Although the letter states specifically that “attacking civilians is never justified,” its signatories have used this sentence as a double-edged sword in defending the letter publicly, in effect equating civilian deaths in Lebanon with potential civilian deaths from terrorism. As MCB Secretary General Dr. Mohammed Abdul Bari told the press, “As Muslims, we condemn attacks on civilians wherever they happen. Civilians in the UK, the Middle East, and the rest of the world should all enjoy protection.”
(U) HMG ANGRY
5. (U) HMG reacted sharply to the letter. A spokesman for PM Blair (currently on holiday in Barbados), noting that al-Qaida terrorist attacks began well before Iraq, said, “To imply al-Qaida is driven by an honest disagreement over foreign policy is a mistake.” Home Secretary John Reid told the BBC, “I’m not going to question the motives of anyone who has signed this letter, but I think it is a dreadful
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misjudgment if we believe the foreign policy of this country should be shaped in part, or in whole, under the threat of terrorist activity if we do not have a foreign policy with which the terrorists happen to agree.” Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander echoed these sentiments, saying “No government worth its salt should allow its foreign policy to be dictated to under the threat of terrorism.” Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said it would be “the gravest
SIPDIS possible error” to blame foreign policy for the threat of terrorism. “This is part of a distorted view of the world, a distorted view of life,” she said. “Let’s put the blame where it belongs: with people who wantonly want to take innocent lives.” Other ministers called the letter “facile,” “dangerous,” and “foolish.”
6. (U) Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, along with ministers from her department and the Home Office, was scheduled to meet with representatives of various Muslim groups August 14. HMG has made clear that one message officials will deliver in these meetings is that Muslim leaders must do more to tackle extremism inside their community. Although the meetings also represent HMG’s stepped up efforts to engage with Muslims, Labour MP Sadiq Khan said the community feels “let down” by HMG efforts to date, particularly the “Preventing Extremism Together” task forces, which the Home Office created after the 7/7 attacks. Very few of the 64 measures recommended by Muslim leaders on the task force have been implemented, Khan said, creating an “air of despondency” and leading the community to believe that the entire exercise was just a publicity stunt. For its part, HMG is keen to show that a substantial action plan is already in place. Secretary Kelly has pointed to a new Commission on Integration and Cohesion to be launched later this month.
7. (U) Meanwhile, the media has quoted aides to PM Blair as saying that No. 10 Downing Street has made contingency plans for him to return to the UK from his vacation in Barbados if events warrant it. These aides have reportedly admitted that the PM would not have left for holiday if he had known that the police were about to arrest the alleged terrorist plotters.
(U) ELEMENTS OF UNREST
8. (C) Also on August 14, law enforcement officials were scheduled to meet leaders from seven communities – Newham, Hackney, Barking, Dagenham, and Waltham Forest in London, plus Birmingham and High Wycombe – where they judged the possibility for unrest might lead to street violence. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham warned, “The police on the whole have acted professionally and satisfactorily, but they must produce some evidence soon.” Meanwhile, fire fighters took almost two hours to put out a fire at the Al-Birr mosque in the town of Basingstoke in southeast England on August 13, and UK officials tell Embassy London they are seriously considering that the blaze was a revenge arson attack against Muslims. Another mosque in Blacon in northwest England was attacked August 10. Leader of white supremacist British National Party Nick Griffin, at a rally August 12, called for all Muslims between 15 and 50 to be banned from flying, and said there was “no such thing as a moderate Muslim.”
9. (C) COMMENT: Since 7/7, HMG has invested considerable time and resources in engaging the British Muslim community. The current tensions demonstrate just how little progress has been made. At the same time, the Muslim community’s reaction to the arrests of 24 of its own sons – a knee-jerk reaction blaming HMG – shows that its leaders too have far to go. That said, the Muslim community is not the only element in Britain blaming HMG’s foreign policy for inciting radical elements; the left in particular but even the mainstream press has expressed the belief, reportedly wide-spread, that homegrown terrorism is an “inevitable” response to the UK’s involvement in Iraq and reluctance to call for an “immediate ceasefire” in the Middle East. HMG’s rather heated response to the letter is undoubtedly aimed at swaying broader opinion.
(U) FULL TEXT OF LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER BLAIR
10. (U) Begin text of letter:
Prime Minister, As British Muslims we urge you to do more to fight against all those who target civilians with violence, whenever and wherever that happens.
It is our view that current British government policy risks putting civilians at increased risk both in the UK and abroad.
To combat terror the government has focused extensively on
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domestic legislation. While some of this will have an impact, the government must not ignore the role of its foreign policy.
The debacle of Iraq and now the failure to do more to secure an immediate end to the attacks on civilians in the Middle East not only increases the risk to ordinary people in that region, it is also ammunition to extremists who threaten us all.
Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one. We urge the Prime Minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism and change our foreign policy to show the world that we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion.
Such a move would make us all safer.
(Signed) Sadiq Khan MP, Shahid Malik MP, Mohammed Sarwar MP, Lord Patel of Blackburn, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, Baronness Uddin, Association of Muslim Schools, British Muslim Forum, Bolton Mosques Council for Community Care, Confederation of Sunni Mosques, Midlands Council of Nigerian Muslim Organizations, Council of Mosques – London and Southern Counties, Council of Mosques Tower Hamlets, Da’awtul Islam UK and Eire, Federation of Muslim Organizations (Leicestershire), Federation of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS), Indian Muslim Federation, Islamic Forum Europe, Islam Society of Britain, Jama’at Ahle Sunnat UK, Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith UK, Jamiat-e-Ulema Britain, Lancashire Council of Mosques, Muslim Association of Britain, Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Council of Wales, Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association, Muslim Parliament, Muslim Solidarity Committee, Muslim Students Society UK and Eire, Muslim Welfare House (London), Muslim Women Society (MWS), Muslim Women’s Association, Northern Ireland Muslim Family Association (NIMFA), Sussex Muslim Society, The Council of European Jamaats, UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, UK Islamic Mission, UK Turkish Islamic Association, World Federation of KSIMC, World Islamic Mission, Young Muslim Organization UK, Young Muslim Sisters UK, Young Muslims UK.
End text of letter.
US Diplomats quote neocon thinktank