Abstract: The Pakistan-Britain terror connection poses a serious threat to Great Britain and its allies, including the United States. Breaking the personnel, financial, and ideological links will require fighting terrorism on three fronts: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Britain. In Afghanistan, the U.S., the U.K., and their allies need to continue to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They should also hold Pakistan accountable for its failure to act decisively against terrorism. In Britain, the government needs to enforce the tightened immigration and asylum practices, refuse to cooperate with radical Islamism, and promote citizenship and economic opportunity to help immigrants assimilate into British society.
There is a terror connection between Pakistan and Great Britain. Many of the planned or successful Islamist attacks in Britain have been linked directly or indirectly to Pakistan. British authorities have acknowledged that the al-Qaeda network based in Pakistan poses the greatest terrorist threat to Britain. This threat includes both terrorist attacks and the financial and ideological networks that support and inspire attacks.
For many years, the Pakistani state has minimized the danger that this threat posed to its neighbors, Western democracies, and its own existence. However, Pakistani resolve in fighting terrorism is beginning to strengthen, especially after several failed peace deals with militant groups and a fresh wave of attacks on military officials and installations. One sign of Islamabad's deepening commitment to fight terrorism is the new military offensive in South Waziristan in the tribal areas, which could be a turning point in the battle against terrorists hiding along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Breaking this terror connection between Pakistan and Britain is central to winning the war on terrorism. It would improve the security of Britain and its allies, including the United States. It would also enhance Pakistan's stability and the security of important American partners, including India. However, breaking the terror connection will require U.S.-British cooperation in Afghanistan, a coordinated U.S.-British policy toward Pakistan, and a wide-ranging set of reforms in Britain.
Defeating the Islamist ideological challenge is central to breaking the connection. Unless Islamist ideologies are discredited, no victory in battle or policy will be permanent. The Western response, particularly the British response, to this challenge needs to include bold and repeated restatements by elected leaders of the political and civic principles of liberal government, the importance of equal rights under law, and the value of national citizenship.
Thus, the state has an indispensable role to play in confronting Islamism. However, because assimilating immigrants into the existing society is the basic problem in Britain and in the West as a whole, the state cannot do it all. The state's role in promoting the principles of citizenship must be balanced by its adoption of economic policies that emphasize private-sector job creation as the most effective way to integrate citizens of all national origins into the life of the nation.
Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Islamist Terrorism in Great Britain
In January 2009, MI-5 Director General Jonathan Evans stated that, although the number of plots the domestic security agency was tracking had declined since 2007, at least 2,000 individuals in Britain were directly connected to Islamist terrorist plots, and many more individuals supported terrorism through fundraising and propaganda. Britain's first al-Qaeda-related terrorist plot was uncovered in November 2000, but since 9/11, the number and scale of the plots have increased dramatically. From September 11, 2001, through March 31, 2008, there were 1,471 terrorism arrests in England and Wales, which resulted in 340 terrorism-related charges. As of March 31, 2008, 125 terrorist prisoners were being held in England and Wales, of which 91 percent classified themselves as Muslim.
Recent terrorism in Britain is thus tied closely to radical Islamist ideologies. It is specifically tied to al-Qaeda and therefore to Pakistan, al-Qaeda's most important base of operations. After the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that "three quarters of the most serious terrorism cases investigated by British police have links to al-Qaeda in Pakistan."
A study by The Heritage Foundation bears out Prime Minister Brown's assertion. Of the 87 individuals convicted or punished in Britain for involvement in major Islamist terrorist plots between September 10, 2001, and August 14, 2009, at least 61 were affiliated with al-Qaeda, and 27 were trained in Pakistan or Afghanistan -- more than in any other country in the world. While other regions of the world, especially North Africa, contributed substantially to Islamist terrorism in Britain, al-Qaeda in Pakistan posed by far the greatest danger.
Closing the terror connection between Pakistan and Britain is therefore central to protecting Britain from Islamist terrorism. Because al-Qaeda also seeks to use European nationals to gain entry into the U.S. and carry out attacks against it, the Pakistan-Britain connection also poses a serious threat to U.S. homeland security. This danger is illustrated by the large proportion of the individuals recruited by Islamist terrorist groups in Britain who are British citizens. Of the 125 terrorist prisoners held in England and Wales, 62 percent were British nationals.
The Heritage Foundation study confirms that British nationals have played a significant role in Islamist terrorism in Britain. At least 48 of 87 individuals punished for involvement in major Islamist terrorist plots were British citizens. At least 18 individuals were born in Britain, and at least 18 individuals received terrorist training in Britain -- more than in any other country except Pakistan. Islamist terrorism directed or inspired by al-Qaeda in Pakistan thus poses a threat not only to Britain, but also to the rest of the world because of the ease with which British citizens can travel from Britain to Europe, the U.S., or other nations.
U.S. Citizens Also Susceptible to al-Qaeda Ideology
Recent arrests in the U.S. of suspected terrorists with links to al-Qaeda demonstrate that U.S. citizens can also become radicalized and motivated to conduct terrorist acts. The most recent and serious case involves Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old resident of Colorado and permanent legal U.S. resident from Afghanistan. He had allegedly plotted to detonate explosives on New York's mass transit system. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the arrest of Zazi and two others disrupted "one of the most serious terrorist threats to our country since Sept. 11, 2001." Investigators allege that, in 2008, Zazi and his associates traveled to Pakistan, where they were trained in making explosives at an al-Qaeda camp.
Another recent case involves a ring of terrorist suspects in North Carolina. Six U.S. citizens and one legal U.S. resident living in North Carolina have been charged with providing material support to terrorism and for "conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim, and injure persons abroad." An eighth suspect traveled to Pakistan in October 2008 and is believed to still be there. In a third case, Bryant Neal Vinas, a 24-year-old American was arrested in Pakistan in late 2008 after allegedly training with al-Qaeda in the Pakistan-Afghan border areas. This shows that al-Qaeda is capable of linking up with and training U.S. citizens. Vinas apparently passed his knowledge of the New York mass transit system on to al-Qaeda's high command, prompting New York authorities to put most of the city's transit facilities on high alert following his arrest in November.
These events demonstrate that al-Qaeda will not necessarily need to rely on British citizens to carry out attacks in the U.S. and the importance of confronting the broader ideological challenge posed by the political vision of radical Islamism and of breaking both the physical and the ideological links between al-Qaeda and the West. Because the links between Britain and al-Qaeda's stronghold in Pakistan are particularly close, disrupting them is of special importance in the war against terrorism.
Pakistan's Ambivalence Toward Extremists
While Islamist extremism has a domestic hold in Britain and in many other countries, the battle against it must be fought first in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Britain, the U.S., and their allies have forces on the ground. The problem is closely related to the continued existence of terrorist training camps in Pakistan, Pakistan's failure to break up terrorist networks on its own soil, and its ambivalence toward cracking down on Islamist extremists, who have served as assets to Pakistan in pursuing its regional security goals.
Because Kashmir-focused terrorist groups, which intermingle and cooperate with al-Qaeda, have ties to Pakistan's security establishment, Pakistan has often acted half-heartedly against terrorist threats against Western targets. This ambivalence has damaged international efforts to combat terrorism. Pakistani security officials have been particularly reluctant to crack down on terrorist groups located on its territory that fight India, such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), because they believe these groups help to destabilize India and thus strengthen Pakistan's hand in bilateral discussions with India, especially in the dispute over Kashmir.
A recent alleged terrorist plot shows that the LeT is closely connected to al-Qaeda and is part of a global terrorist syndicate that threatens not only India, but also Western democracies in general. In October, U.S. authorities in Chicago arrested David Coleman Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman, for conspiring with LeT in Pakistan to conduct further attacks in India and for plotting an attack on Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published cartoons of the prophet Muhammed. Headley had apparently traveled frequently to Pakistan, where he received terrorist training from the LeT.
In light of the bloody terror attack in Mumbai and the recently exposed Headley terrorist plots, the Pakistani authorities' reluctance to prosecute LeT leader Hafez Mohammed Sayeed should be a major concern for Washington and London. Indian authorities say that the lone surviving gunman involved in the Mumbai attacks has revealed that Sayeed gave his blessing to the terrorists shortly before they left Pakistan. In June, Sayeed was released from a Pakistani jail by the Lahore High Court on grounds of insufficient evidence. Although Pakistani authorities have recently placed him under house arrest, his ability to escape prosecution signals other terrorists inside Pakistan that they will remain above the law, especially if their activities include targeting archrival India.
Pakistan has also withheld full cooperation from Western authorities when the suspected terrorists appear to have links to Kashmir-focused groups. For example, Rashid Rauf, a British national of Pakistani origin, was arrested in Pakistan for his role in the 2006 plot to bomb airliners flying from London to Washington. While cooperation from Pakistani authorities was crucial in breaking up the airliner plot, it appears that the Pakistani government rebuffed British requests to extradite Rauf to the U.K. In December 2007, shortly before his expected extradition, Rauf mysteriously escaped from Pakistani custody.
Rauf, who was also allegedly involved in the 2005 London bus and subway attacks, was reportedly connected to Masood Azhar, leader of Jaish-E-Mohammed, a terrorist organization with a pan-Islamic ideology that focuses its attacks on Indian interests. Rashid Rauf was targeted by a U.S. Predator drone strike in November 2008 in Pakistan's tribal areas, but recent media reports indicate he may have survived unharmed.An expert testifying before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee noted that the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan's intelligence service, was unhelpful in investigations into the London transport attacks on July 7, 2005, and had "misdirected U.S. and U.K. intelligence services on a number of recent occasions."
Rauf's role in the 2006 plot highlights thepractice of using Pakistanis with British citizenship to carry out terrorist acts. This practice began in the early 1990s with operations related to the Kashmir dispute. In 1994, Omar Syed Sheikh, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, lured Westerners in India into situations in which they could be kidnapped to win the release of Pakistani militant leader Masood Azhar from an Indian jail. At that time, Azhar was the leader of Harakat ul-Ansar, a terrorist organization. He had been arrested by the Indian authorities shortly after he arrived in Indian Kashmir in 1993. Omar Sheikh's kidnapping ruse failed, and he was arrested by the Indian authorities. Azhar's terrorist organization subsequently kidnapped a U.S. tourist and four Europeans who were hiking in Indian Kashmir in 1995. Again, Azhar remained behind bars, and the five hostages are believed to have been murdered by their captors.
The Indian government was finally forced to release both Azhar and Omar Syed Sheikh in December 1999 when terrorists hijacked Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 and demanded the release of Azhar, Sheikh, and Ahmed Zargar in exchange for the safety of the 150 passengers aboard the flight. All three individuals returned to Pakistan, where they operated openly. In 2002, Sheikh was charged and jailed in Pakistan for his role in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Azhar remains at large and is most likely in Pakistan's tribal border areas.
The Pakistani state has thus far refused to act decisively against terrorist groups and insurgents acting against both India and Afghanistan. It has also failed to control all of its nominal territory. These failures permit al-Qaeda and the Taliban a secure base of operations inside Pakistan. Pakistan's ambivalence toward Islamist terrorism poses a serious threat to India and to the West, and these countries have a right to defend themselves against the results of this failure of Pakistani governance. However, the foremost Islamist threat is to Pakistan itself and to democratic and tolerant Pakistanis because al-Qaeda uses its secure base to plot against and subvert the recognized governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As one expert recently testified before the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee:
[B]y encouraging and supporting extremists, like the Taliban, as a tool to retain and hold influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has inadvertently introduced changes that have undermined its ability to maintain its own writ within its borders and which have resulted in wider domestic instability.
A string of militant attacks by the Pakistani Taliban and Punjabi militant groups in early October on Pakistani security installations, including the military's headquarters in Rawalpindi, may help to unify and strengthen resolve within Pakistan's senior military command to take on the militants, including those that have focused their attacks on India. In responding to this threat and seeking to break the Pakistan-Britain terror connection, the U.S. and Britain will be protecting not only themselves and their allies, but also the cause of a modern and stable Pakistan and a peaceful South Asia.
Assessing the Connections and Britain's Response
The Pakistan-Britain terror connection is both physical and ideological. Breaking the physical links and limiting the appeal of the Islamist ideological links would be important contributions to British, U.S., and Western security.
Travel and Financial Connections. The physical links between Pakistan and Britain fall into four categories: visits to Pakistan by British citizens, especially those of Pakistani descent; immigration and/or asylum seekers from Pakistan to Britain; Pakistani and other foreign Islamist radicals who reside in Britain; and the flows of funding from Britain to Pakistan.
Approximately 400,000 individuals fly round trip from Britain to Pakistan every year. The vast majority of these visits are innocent; a few are not. Individuals with something to hide can travel from Britain to the continent and then to Pakistan and return by the same route. This conceals the visit to Pakistan from British authorities. Many of the travelers are British citizens, which makes it impossible to prevent them from traveling. The result is that, while British authorities can and do surveil travel to and from Pakistan and the Middle East, controls on travel between Britain and Pakistan are not fully effective. Therefore, focusing solely on more careful screening of travel between Britain and Pakistan cannot break the terror connection.
The announcement in late October that Britain would assist Pakistan in establishing a domestic security service similar to MI-5 offers the prospect of more effective Pakistani assistance in screening travel and in the broader struggle against terrorism, but it will be some time before the effectiveness of the new institution can be assessed.
Immigration Enforcement. In late 2008, Britain adopted a points-based immigration system that is explicitly designed to restrict immigration to immigrants with appropriate professional qualifications. After a series of scandals in the early 2000s, it has also reworked its processing of asylum seekers and has embarked on an ambitious reform of its border controls. However, since Enoch Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech in 1968, most British governments have worried more that the British public will react with hostility to immigrants and asylum seekers than about the issues, such as Islamic radicalism, that can be associated with immigration and asylum seeking.
The points-based immigration system and the new controls are sound in theory. Yet the June 2009 conviction of three Indian individuals for forging credentials used to secure at least 1,000 British visas demonstrates that the system still has significant weaknesses. The prosecutor in the case described Britain's border controls as "shambolic." Many visitor categories, especially student visas, are ripe for abuse, as evidenced by Home Office Minister Phil Woolas's admission in March 2009 that fake colleges and language schools are the "biggest loophole" in the system. A Home Office investigation found that 25 percent of British colleges were established to evade immigration controls. The asylum system still allows approximately 60 percent of asylum seekers to remain in Britain, even though only about 25 percent of applicants successfully claim asylum.
In 2005, the Home Office estimated that 430,000 illegal immigrants live in Britain. The number has certainly risen since then given the documented problem with visa overstaying. The recent announcement that Pakistan has agreed to facilitate the return of thousands of Pakistanis living illegally in the U.K. is welcome, but it also points out the scale of the challenge in Britain. It is therefore too soon to claim that the recent reforms are an effective response to the problems that they claim to address. The points-based immigration system, the new border controls, and the revised asylum procedures should not be considered effective simply because they promise to end previous abuses.
Britain's tendency to announce so-called tough new policies to calm public anxieties, instead of to implement serious responses to difficult issues, prevailed for too long on the question of tolerating foreign radicals. By the late 1990s, Britain had acquired the dangerous reputation of being soft on Islamist radicalism, and London had become, in the words of one critic, "the hub of the European terrorist networks." In August 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to the London bombings of the previous month by announcing a 12-point program to prevent terrorist attacks. The program included barring foreign radicals from entering Britain and deporting those residing in it. This sounded firm, but as of late 2008, only one person had been deported, two dual citizens were stripped of their British citizenship, and 79 individuals have been denied entry on grounds of extremism. More recently, entry bans have accelerated, with another 22 individuals barred in the first four months of 2009 alone.
While the British government has been reluctant to act, the British judiciary has also obstructed government action by interpreting the European Convention on Human Rights -- incorporated into British law in 1997 -- to make it difficult to deport or detain foreign terrorist suspects. Too often, British judges appear more afraid of the supposed intolerance and illiberality of Britain than of Islamic radicalism. One judge stated that to detain foreign suspects pending deportation was associated "with Soviet Russia in the Stalinist era."
Neither the government nor the judges have been consistently willing to acknowledge that careful national control of borders is an essential feature of an open and liberal society. If borders are not controlled, the alternative is more intensive domestic surveillance. The House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs accepted this point in 2006: "The focus can no longer remain so heavily weighted toward initial entry and border control.... [F]ar greater effort will in future have to go into the enforcement of the Immigration Rules within the UK." The committee thus concluded that the problem of illegal immigration and overstaying of visas was insuperable without tighter domestic controls.
Enforcement against those who violate immigration laws should raise no objections. However, before Britain further tightens domestic enforcement in any way that would broadly restrain domestic liberties, it should ensure that the new immigration and asylum systems and the associated controls, such as those on schools that were established to facilitate the granting of phony student visas, are being fully and vigorously enforced. Only after showing that these systems and the necessary associated controls have been tried and failed should Britain proceed with any new domestic enforcement measures. The rise of domestic surveillance has been a distinct and unwholesome feature of the Labour government. British liberties need to be defended against all threats, and the most appropriate place for that defense is on the borders of the nation.
Terrorist Funding. The funding connection runs from Britain to Pakistan and other nations. British-based Islamic charities have been repeatedly accused of funding Islamist terrorism. In 2004, before the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, one witness correctly stated that "the most important measure that Western governments and regulators can yet take is to further tighten controls on such charities by adding them to official lists of terrorist organisations and, correspondingly, freezing their assets." Britain maintains an extensive list of such charities and asserts that it has taken a leading role in international efforts to restrict terrorist finance.
Yet reports continue to circulate that Islamic charities in Britain are funding terrorism. In 2006, Jamat-ud-Dawa, a charity now banned by Britain and the U.S. that acts as a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, was accused with the British-based Crescent Relief of providing financial support for the thwarted "liquid bomb" plot against transatlantic airliners. In late 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Union of Good, a coalition of Islamic charities, as a Hamas supporter. The coalition's members also have connections in Afghanistan and Pakistan, yet it continues to operate in Britain.
The British government has sought to walk the tightrope of restricting terrorist financing, while not appearing to discriminate against British Muslims, but recognizing the traditional importance of the British charitable sector and sustaining the City of London's role as a center of international finance. In 2006, Gordon Brown, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, demonstrated the government's determination to support the City when he called for Britain to become the global center of "Shariah-compliant" finance. This was an undesirable step.
The state has no legitimate role to play in promoting Shariah finance. In so doing, it overrides the market mechanism and takes sides in a theological debate, giving state sanction to a particular interpretation of adherents' religious obligations. At worst, government promotion of Shariah-compliant finance in Britain is dangerous because "it reinforces the perception of mutual incompatibility between the West and Islam" and thereby encourages Muslims in Britain to regard themselves as unable to participate fully in and as inherently separate from Western institutions. It thus discourages assimilation and promotes the Islamist vision. The financial gains of promoting Shariah-compliant finance in Britain are not worth its ideological costs.
Shariah financing aside, the number of contributors to charities, the frequency with which the concerned charities change their names, and the complexity of the international financial system make controlling terrorist finance exceptionally difficult. As with many British policies announced as contributions to breaking the terror connection between Britain and Pakistan, the problem lies not in the policies, but in the ways that they are understood and implemented.
Ideological Connections and the British Response. With the Internet and the open nature of British society, it is impossible to quantify the volume or the importance of the ideological connections between radical Islamists in Britain and those in Pakistan and elsewhere. Yet the evidence strongly suggests that these connections are substantial, easily accessible, and important. In the U.S., the men convicted of plotting to attack Fort Dix, a U.S. Army base in New Jersey, were partially inspired by the writings of American Islamist Anwar al Awlaki, which they downloaded from the Internet. A study by the British-based Centre for Social Cohesion concluded that "the failure of the government's present strategy is [evidenced by the fact] that radical sermons by many individuals jailed for incitement to violence remain freely available online on websites run by their British followers."
Ideological connections can also come through direct contact. In a February 2009 study, the Quilliam Foundation concluded that "out of 152 mosques, 92 percent [of imams] trained abroad." Resorting to British-trained imams would not necessarily improve the situation because the "current annual output of graduates from highly conservative, literalist Deobandi seminaries in northern England will meet the Government's emphasis on 'English-speaking imams', but will fail to support British values of equality, tolerance, liberty and religious pluralism." It found that Britain's mosques were "far from resilient" in their ability to resist extremism. In an earlier report, Quilliam concluded that there was an "abject lack of awareness among the vast majority of Britain's Muslims about extremism." It concluded that too many British Muslim political leaders, such as Sir Iqbal Sacranie, who was knighted in 2005 and who has repeatedly refused to retract his statement that "death was too easy for Salman Rushdie," were "men who believe in foreign political ideologies."
In the long run, these ideological connections between Britain and Islamist radicalism abroad may be more important than any physical links to Pakistan, because it is belief that makes bombers. It is reasonable to expect Western states to limit, if not to eliminate fully, the negative elements of the direct connections, but controlling the ideological ones, even if technologically feasible, would require unacceptable restrictions on freedom of speech. The only possible approach is to focus on the demand side: If residents of Britain and the U.S. treat Islamism with contempt, its availability will pose only a limited and controllable threat.
The reasons why Islamism has made inroads in Britain and elsewhere in the West have been intensely debated. Maajid Nawaz's testimony before the U.S. Senate in July 2008 is compelling. Nawaz is a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent who became acommitted activist with the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. He has since renounced this affiliation and become an opponent of Islamism:
Not feeling fully accepted in the country of my birth left me wondering whether I was British, English, Pakistani, Muslim or even something else entirely. What I did know was that I could not relate in any way to the Pakistani heritage of my grandfather.... Through this rude awakening, and for the first time in my life, I became critically aware of a Muslim identity...
...I came to believe that we] were not Pakistani or British, rather we hailed from the pre-colonial Caliphate, an exclusively Muslim political entity for an exclusively Muslim political identity.
Like all citizens, British Muslims need a political identity. If that need is not filled by a British identity, it will be filled by something else. In Nawaz's case, as in others, that something else was Islamism. In short, it is a problem of assimilation. What is lacking is not necessarily assimilation into particular British cultural practices. As Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the former Director General of MI-5, noted in 2006, the "path from adolescent dreamer interested in cricket to radicalised jihadi ready to blow up himself and others can be frighteningly short."
The fundamental need is to assimilate immigrants into British political culture. Some commentators argue that this cannot be done. Others argue that the liberties of Europe and the rights of the illiberal minority will permanently conflict. Both arguments are rooted in despair. Assimilation certainly will not happen if it is not tried, and if it is not tried successfully, the result will be the enduring creation of a politically separate and politically illiberal community within Britain. This will be bad for the minority community and bad for Britain.
Americans are well acquainted with the concept of political assimilation and recognize that, while it does imply a slow process of cultural adaptation and participation in the social mainstream, it does not imply religious conversion. It is also entirely compatible with the continued practice of many everyday customs, as long as these practices are not legally offensive to the society that the immigrants have voluntarily entered. Britain, like continental Europe, has less than 60 years of experience with large-scale immigration. It thus has less familiarity and less comfort with assimilation than the U.S., where immigration accompanied by assimilation has been a source of great national strength and considerable pride. The challenge is particularly acute because British national identity itself is eroding both from below (in the form of devolution to Scotland and Wales) and from above (in the form of both the European Union's efforts to build a "European" citizenry and of the even vaguer concept of the "global citizen.")
As a result, British responses to radical Islamist ideology have been confused. On one hand, the March 2008 National Security Strategy explicitly states that "prevention," defined as "challeng[ing] the ideology behind violent extremism," is an explicit part of CONTEST, its counterterrorism strategy. CONTEST II, the revised strategy published in March 2009, reiterates this claim. The implication is that Islamism has a political vision that must be defeated if the violent extremism it promotes is to be ended. This is correct.
On the other hand, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband claimed in a January 2009 speech in India that "the motivations and identities of terrorist groups...are disparate not singular." His argument that part of the Western response must be to disaggregate -- that is, to break into separate groups -- the Islamist threat was sound, but his claim that Islamist extremism poses no unified ideological challenge and is solely about particular grievances is incorrect and directly contradicts the government's own counterterrorism strategy. It is particularly disturbing that the government has since stated that its prevention policy will focus on "deprived white areas," which are not central to the problem of radical Islamism. The government's refusal to clearly state in this context that radical Islamism poses a major political challenge illustrates its discomfort with the entire subject.
In the absence of a coherent vision on the political challenge of Islamism, British policy toward assimilation has been characterized by two strands, both problematic. First, it has been government-driven. It is characteristic of British commentary to assume that the U.S. has a successful record of assimilation because somewhere there exists a U.S. government committee that is responsible for it. The result has been that when the British government has addressed the problem of Britishness, it has usually sought to do so through official mechanisms, such as citizenship tests. In early 2007, for example, Gordon Brown suggested that immigrants should be compelled by the government to carry out community service before they were deemed acceptable as citizens.
While government action does matter, the reality is that the state can more easily ruin political assimilation than promote it. Britain needs to accept that Islamism poses a real ideological challenge, which requires an ideological response. However, the most fruitful responses will not center around creating new committees or promoting new official initiatives. To the extent that the government can play a constructive role in this realm, it must largely consist of elected leaders of all parties repeatedly stating and endorsing the principles of liberal government, the importance of equal rights under law, and the value of national citizenship in a country with a democratic government.
Second, because of its optimistic and misguided beliefs about the disunified nature of Islamism and its reliance on state action, British policy has emphasized working with self-nominated "community leaders." All three major parties have been strongly criticized for collaborating with British Muslims who have publicly supported extremism and, in some cases, even appointing them to party offices.
This collaboration, in turn, is part of a broader state-led multiculturalism. For example, the riots in Bradford in 2001 were led by youths of Pakistani origin and followed a decade of increasing Islamist influence in the area. The official British response centered on the need to promote "community cohesion," which the Home Office in 2005 understood as implying the need to promote the view that "no one set of cultural values should be privileged more than another."
This is an untrue and dangerous claim, precisely because one of Britain's cultural values is support for the principles of liberal government -- principles that are of universal relevance. Immigrants to Britain need to adapt to this value, which must be privileged over other values. That is the essence of political assimilation. "Community cohesion," as advanced by the Home Office, implies that it is wrong to privilege this cultural aspect of political assimilation. The result of its multiculturalism will be further growth of a British Muslim community that is politically separated and alienated from the broader society in which it lives.
Laudably and in defiance of its own claims about the merits of community cohesion, the government embarked in 2007 on a Britishness initiative for immigrants and in schools. However, the president of the National Union of Teachers dismissed this initiative: "To demand that people conform to an imposed view of Britishness only fuels...racism.... [I am] a global citizen." By early 2009, The Guardian was reporting that the initiative had been abandoned. This liberal cringe, which represents an unwillingness to uphold the value of a shared political and civic identity, is central to Britain's failure to develop an effective response to the ideological challenge of the Pakistan-Britain terror connection.
What Britain Should Do on Its Own
To break the terror connection between Pakistan and Britain and to defeat Islamism at home, Britain should:
- Enforce its tightened immigration and asylum practices.
A significant portion of the radical Islamist challenge in Britain is homegrown, but that is no excuse for refusing to prevent the problem from getting worse. Immigration is not inherently negative. Indeed, the many people who wish to leave their countries and live instead in Britain are an important testimony to the attractiveness of Britain's free society. It is for the people of Britain to decide the appropriate level of immigration. Yet whatever their decision, immigration should occur through legal and well-controlled channels. This is the only approach that can prevent Islamist radicals, human traffickers, and other criminals from exploiting the system. Britain should therefore firmly enforce its new immigration and asylum procedures and ensure they are not defeated or circumvented by fraud or administrative laxity.
- Not engage radicalism, but deport radicals when possible.
Over the past decade, all of the major parties and the government have sought to display their multicultural credentials by engaging "community leaders" who advocate the overthrow of the British state, the incorporation of Shariah into British law, the murder of apostates, or the Islamicization of Britain. Any sort of cooperation with Islamist radicals should be as unacceptable as cooperation with Holocaust deniers. Furthermore, British citizens who violate the law while advocating radicalism should be prosecuted. British citizens have the right to believe what they want to believe, but Britain's democratic parties should not debase themselves by consorting with democracy's enemies.
The European Convention on Human Rights is a serious barrier to any action against foreign radicals residing in Britain. The British government has suffered a string of defeats in various legal fora in its efforts to use control orders to hold foreign terrorist suspects in Britain. European courts have thwarted efforts by other European states to deport radicals by finding that the radicals would face the threat of torture abroad, which renders deportation extremely difficult. If Britain cannot find a legally acceptable way to hold or to deport foreigners within the current system, it should declare by an act of Parliament that, while British law applies to all in Britain, the convention's protections apply only to citizens of EU member states.
If the EU were to gain increased competence over issues related to legal and illegal migration, and asylum -- as proposed by the Lisbon Treaty -- and if Britain accedes to the treaty and abandons its national opt-out on these issues, Britain would lose the power to control its own borders. Even if Britain retains its opt-out, its control of its borders would be threatened by the treaty's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which the European Court of Justice could interpret in ways that would reduce the practical importance of the opt-out.
The EU is already mulling "immigration burden-sharing," under which all EU members would pledge to "take in a certain number of refugees each year, alleviating the burden placed on Malta, Italy and Spain." Losing control of migration and asylum would directly assault British sovereignty and security, especially given the lax attitude toward illegal immigration in much of southern Europe. It is therefore not in the British interest to support this expansion of EU authority. Nor is it in the interests of the United States to back any measure, such as the Lisbon Treaty, that would reduce the ability of Britain and other EU member states to enforce higher and more secure standards than the rest of the EU.
- Emphasize the deep deradicalization of economic opportunity.
Regrettably, radical Islamism is an attractive ideology for some. This ideology must be confronted and defeated. However, suppressing radical Islamist Web sites and literature would require measures that violate fundamental freedoms. Nor is there much evidence that talking to the most radical Islamists can turn them away from violence or that engaging community leaders is a central part of the solution.
British politicians do not engage in this self-conscious way with Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist community leaders. Adherents of these faiths are treated as normal, individual citizens, which is how British Muslims should be treated. Doing anything else promotes the belief that British Muslims are a separate community governed by a set of political values that can only be "engaged" through self-appointed leaders. This is a dangerous concession to an Islamist worldview.Anyengagement should rest on the universal values of liberal government. The British government also needs the discernment to identify the moderates and the willpower to stop engaging the radicals, and it has demonstrated neither to date.
The central need is to discourage the formation of politically self-defined Muslim communities, which appear to be gaining ground in the United Kingdom, based on the preferences of young British Muslims. Like all immigrants, British Muslims need to adapt and move into the prevailing society far more than that society needs to adapt to them. If British Muslims are well integrated into everyday society and if they share its political values, the process of integration will be complete. In those circumstances, the occasional Islamist radical will be more easily detected. The crucial question is how to achieve assimilation without government coercion, which would be ineffective and counterproductive.
This question has no easy and certain answers, but one important approach can be found in the U.S.: economic opportunity. The radical Islamism on the rise in Britain today is a toxic mix of violent political theology and the almost equally disturbing violence that has come to characterize portions of British society, especially among the young. Job creation is of central importance in combating both problems because having a steady job is the most effective way to involve anyone in the regular life of respectable, everyday society. Regrettably, the government's record on job creation is poor: The Financial Times has found that two out of three jobs created in Britain since 1996 have been in the public sector.
The U.S. has pursued the policy of economic opportunity for many reasons. One reason is that America, as a society of immigrants, has long recognized that having a job -- initially, even a low-paying job -- is essential to integrating into American society. Furthermore, pursuit of better jobs encourages individuals to move outside the ethnic communities that immigrants in all societies commonly form. In this way, the pursuit of self-interest advances social integration and discourages political communalism without heavy-handed government intervention. This is particularly important for the more highly educated members of society, who are the most likely to be disappointed with their status in society and to become politically disillusioned if they cannot find a job appropriate to their level of education.
By contrast, the provision of welfare and government jobs encourages social and political communalism because it discourages job seekers from moving to better their condition. It also creates an unhealthy clientism that discourages recipients from conceiving of themselves as citizens with both rights and responsibilities. As Britain has become an immigrant society, it needs to move toward the American model. Of course, the British and American situations are dissimilar in many respects, not least because their immigrants have different mixes of national backgrounds. However, arguments that the American model is fundamentally unsuited for British conditions or values ignore the reality that Britain already has immigration on an American scale. Refusing to recognize this reality will only make it more difficult for Britain to assimilate its immigrants.
Pakistanis and Bangladeshis stand to benefit the most from increased economic opportunity, precisely because they are the least economically advantaged of all the ethnic groups in Britain. In 2001 and 2002, these groups had the highest rates of unemployment and economic inactivity not caused by participation in education in Britain. The argument that this reflects racial prejudice in British society is refuted by the rates of unemployment and economic inactivity in the Indian population, which are only slightly higher than those of white Britons. Instead, it reflects the reality that the percentage of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis with no educational qualifications (over 30 percent of the working-age population) is the highest of all ethnic groups and more than twice the national average. Over the long run, these populations obviously need to improve their qualifications, and participation in a more active labor market will encourage them to do this. Yet right now, they need jobs at wages that businesses can afford to pay given these workers' lower productivity.
The British government should therefore promote job creation in the only effective way that it can: by reducing the burdens that it places on private enterprise, the only sustainable source of job creation. Britain should begin by ending its national minimum wage, which prices less-qualified workers out of the job market. It should also roll back taxation and the growth of the welfare state, reduce the state's role as an employer, and reduce business-strangling regulations. These measures are not, as the left claims, an essential safety net. They are perpetuating the reality that there are too few jobs in Britain, thus condemning a substantial portion of Britain's ethnic population to exclusion from the job market and shielding it from the assimilative effects of employment.
- Promote Britishness.
The elite classes and the media are largely opposed to any efforts to speak positively of any aspect of British history or achievements. Yet this liberal cringe is the most important obstacle to breaking the terror connection between Pakistan and Britain, because it lies behind the government's unwillingness and inability to take action in all policy areas.
Nonetheless, an effort needs to be made. It will not be possible develop a concept of Pakistani-Britons, paralleling that of Pakistani-Americans, because no other ethnic group in Britain thinks of itself in this way. The concept to promote is not a hyphenated identity, but a single one: Britons. This is a concept historically associated with the union of nationalities (English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish) and a national identity. Like American national identity, it is political and civic, and closed to no one because of ethnicity. It emphasizes the importance of equal rights under law and the rise of the security of property, religious freedom, and political rights within the framework of the supremacy and sovereignty of Parliament.
While the Britishness initiative in the schools has disappeared without a trace, it was a move in the right direction. However, it was also hypocritical, coming from a government that has been both enthusiastically European and an underminer of U.K. unity. The next government should go further. The dilemma is that, while British education already suffers greatly from governmental intrusion, the effort would fail without a national, patriotic curriculum that is supervised in some way because British teachers will not spontaneously decide to teach the merits of Great Britain.
The next government should take two steps. First, on an all-party basis if possible, it should create a strong national curriculum, limited to a small number of subjects, and pass appropriate legislation through Parliament. This curriculum should be enforced by the existing national system of school inspections. Second, it should emphasize, as the Conservative Party has committed to do, the development of independent state schools that are supported by a voucher system. This would allow schools that wish to go beyond the national curriculum to do so.
What Britain and the United States Should Do Together
To defeat Islamist ideology and terrorism, the U.S. and the U.K. should:
- Recognize reliable and representative Muslim organizations that support religious pluralism, tolerance, and democratic principles. There are respected Muslim leaders in the U.S. and U.K. that view Islam as compatible with individual liberty and democracy. They sometimes face ridicule and even violent threats from Islamists who believe the precepts of democracy run counter to traditional Islam. The debate on the compatibility of Islam with democracy must occur within Muslim communities and among the leaders of those communities. The U.S. and U.K. governments should recognize the value of this debate and protect those engaged in it from threats of violence without trying to influence the debate directly. Both governments need to rigorously enforce laws against forced marriages, so-called honor killings, and any other practices -- regardless of their cultural origins -- that are offensive to the laws of their societies.
- Remain committed to stabilizing Afghanistan over the long term. The next British government needs to abandon the current failed public relations strategy for the war, which revolves around saying as little about it as possible, while Britain and the U.S. fight a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan. To prevent the Taliban from regaining influence in Afghanistan, coalition forces need to remain committed to that war over the long term and focus more attention on training and mentoring Afghan security forces, which will ultimately need to guarantee the safety and security of Afghan citizens.
- Coordinate more closely in monitoring international travel to and from Pakistan. As the first condition of existence and recognition, every state is responsible for controlling its own territory. Pakistan does not do this. Other states therefore have the right to defend themselves against Pakistan's failure. The U.S. and Britain should form the core of a voluntary and self-monitoring group of nations that agree to share all data about international travel to and from Pakistan. They should intensively question anyone who visits Pakistan for an extended time. This principle should be extended to all other states, such as Somalia, that similarly fail in their duties and that are prominent sources of Islamist terrorism.
- Continue to cooperate closely on homeland security. The number of British citizens involved in Islamist terrorist plots means that U.S. and British authorities need to continue their close cooperation to ensure that al-Qaeda cannot use British or other European nationals to infiltrate the U.S. To facilitate this cooperation, the U.S. should require long-time members of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to sign bilateral security agreements with the United States. While newer VWP members have entered into bilateral agreements to implement the 2007 security measures, several long-time members have not because the new measures were not required when they entered the program. Congress should demand that these members meet the new requirements and sign bilateral agreements with the United States. The VWP should not have two sets of security standards -- one for new members and one for old. The same standards should apply to all VWP countries, regardless of when they joined the program.
- Adopt consistent policies toward Pakistan that hold the country's officials accountable for stopping all support to terrorists. The connections among al-Qaeda, the Kashmir-focused terrorist groups, and the Pakistani security establishment are troubling and pose a direct security threat to Britain, the U.S., and other Western democracies. The U.S. and Britain should continue to pressure the Pakistan government to shut down Pakistan-based terrorist groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, which increasingly threaten Pakistan's own stability. The U.S. and the U.K. also need to address forthrightly Pakistani noncooperation against terrorist targets. Both Washington and London seek counterterrorism partnerships with Pakistan, but they need to be willing to tell their publics when efforts to cooperate with Pakistan fail. Too often U.S. officials have sought to downplay instances when Pakistan has failed to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts in order to protect other channels of cooperation.
Work to get a better handle on the extremist threat inside Pakistan. The Pakistani authorities need to demonstrate their willingness to punish any citizens that incite, support, or otherwise abet terrorism anywhere in the world. The U.S. and the U.K. need to convince Pakistan that cases against terrorists who attack India should be treated no differently than cases against terrorists who act in other parts of the world. By treating terrorists focused on India with kid gloves, Islamabad has created a permissive environment for terrorists to operate more generally, especially since many of the various terrorist groups share a pan-Islamist ideology and provide each other with tactical cooperation and logistical support.
Firming up Pakistan's response to terrorism will require Pakistan to improve the functioning and impartiality of its criminal justice system to ensure that terrorists who may have links to individuals within the bureaucracy and/or security services do not receive preferential treatment after they are detained. If the government cannot effectively punish individuals involved in terrorist acts, terrorists will find it easier to challenge overall Pakistani state authority and to impose their ideologies on an intimidated public.
- Work with Pakistani civilian leaders to build a consensus within Pakistan against extremist messages and ideologies that foster terrorism. The allies can provide support for interfaith dialogue and activities in Pakistan that promote religious pluralism and empower mainstream religious leaders to actively engage and challenge radical interpretations of the religion of Islam. This would involve diplomats more actively engaging local religious leaders, lawyers, and human rights activists on topics, such as the role of religion in society and governance. In an August 2009 report, the Quilliam Foundation rightly argued that the question over Islamist extremism in Pakistan should be recast as an "ideological rather than a religious debate." Quilliam supports making a clear distinction between the faith of Islam and the political nature of Islamism so that "rejecting the Islamist agenda does not equate to a rejection of Islam." The Quilliam report argues that the best way to counter trends toward Islamism in Pakistan is to encourage civil society actors to challenge Islamism through a renewed commitment to democracy and the promotion of pluralistic values.
The ultimate answer to the problem of Islamist-inspired terrorism based in Pakistan and Afghanistan is clear: Both states need to develop effective institutions that control the entirety of their national territory. In the absence of such control, Britain, the U.S., and their allies need to act to protect themselves. The terrorist links between Britain and Pakistan cannot be broken in one place or all at once. They were built up over generations and will take years to defeat. For that very reason, it is essential to start now and to work on several fronts at once.
The first front is in Afghanistan, where the U.S., the U.K., and their allies need to continue to put military pressure on the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The second front is in Pakistan, which should be held accountable for its failure to act decisively against terrorism. The third front is in Britain, where a well-run system of border controls needs to supplement a firm rejection of cooperation with radical Islamism by all the parties and the promotion of citizenship and economic opportunity.
The United States can offer both direct assistance and inspiration for this battle. It is providing the majority of the forces employed in Afghanistan, and it needs to remain firmly committed to this battle. President Obama's statement that Afghanistan is a "war of necessity" is correct. The U.S. also has a vital role to play in pressuring Pakistan to live up to its basic responsibilities as a recognized member of the international state system and in coordinating measures to protect itself and others from Pakistan's deficiencies.
Equally, the U.S., as a nation of immigrants, offers an important example as Britain recognizes the broader implications of the substantially increased immigration into Britain since the late 1990s. The U.S. has long been a proudly patriotic nation, one of economic opportunity and of personal and social mobility as a result. All of these attributes have value for many reasons, but in this context they are important because they promote the assimilation of immigrants into the broader society. In the long run, the most valuable service that the United States can provide is to keep faith with its founding virtues.
Ted R. Bromund, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation. Lisa Curtis is Senior Research Fellow for South Asia in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation.