Demonising Muslim organisations which have been key to reducing Al Qaeda's recruitment and influence in Britain has resulted in a counter-terrorism policy that is "damaging, dangerous and demeaning", according to Bob Lambert, the former head of the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism unit in charge of relations with Muslims.
Lambert was one of the key players in the successful operation to oust radical cleric Abu Hamza's supporters from Finsbury Park Mosque in 2005. Now an academic at the University of Exeter and the University of St Andrews specialising in counter-terrorism and Islamophobia, his book Countering al Qaeda in London is being released on September 7th, to mark the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Lambert, who headed the Metropolitan Police Muslim Contact Unit (MCU) as part of the force's counter-terrorist operations, makes the case for a fresh approach to tackling Al Qaeda inspired or directed terrorism and challenges head-on the assessment of Britain's counter-terrorism policies advanced by Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron.
In Countering al Qaeda in London: Police and Muslims in Partnership, Lambert calls for stronger links between police and Muslim community leaders, as well as a better understanding of the grievances which push some Muslims to the brink. He draws on his expertise as an experienced specialist police officer to argue that Muslim communities have legitimate grievances that should be acknowledged and channelled effectively in mainstream politics.
The key to success, Lambert argues, is to recognise that Al Qaeda propagandists aim to exploit real and legitimate political grievances about American and British, policies in the Muslim world. To illustrate, he describes how Abu Hamza skilfully manipulated community anger about uncritical Western support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians as a powerful terrorist recruitment tool.
He points also to the influence of conservative think-tanks - such as Policy Exchange, said to be influential with the Prime Minister - which sought to counter the MCU's approach under Lambert's direction. The book also reveals how successful and effective British Muslim organisations, such as the British charity Interpal, have been undermined because of their active support for the Palestinian cause.
The book also highlights the work of Jeremy Corbyn, the local MP, in undermining the violent and inflammatory rhetoric of Abu Hamza during his time at the helm of Finsbury Park Mosque. Corbyn's strength, Lambert argues, was in showing that a representative of Parliament could engage easily with Muslims in a non-confrontational manner, at a stroke undermining Abu Hamza's fear-mongering.
"I want to show how we won the respect of Muslim community organisations which have otherwise become suspicious of government policy throughout the so-called 'war on terror', and how this should be central to the country's approach to Muslim communities as a whole," Lambert explains.
"I hope the book can serve as a guide for politicians, policymakers and the police, as they seek to engage Muslim communities in projects intended to keep London and other major cities safe against terrorist attacks inspired or directed by al Qaeda."
Lambert adds: "After the Breivik massacre in Norway, and in the face of routine violent anti-Muslim hate crimes in the US and Europe, it is even more important that Muslims are not demonised for holding legitimate political grievances, which they share with many of their non-Muslim neighbours. They should also be recognised for their outstanding contribution to community relations, as exemplified in the recent riots. Mosques and Muslim organisations - many of which have been wrongly labelled as 'extremist' as a result of current counter-terrorism policies and procedures - have been on the front line, protecting local people and businesses against looters and rioters in London, Birmingham, Manchester and other towns and cities."
Posted September 6th, 2011 at 1005 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: email@example.com