The United Kingdom’s newly minted Under-Secretary for Security, Counter-terrorism and Police Sir Alan West has said that we face a battle that could take up to 15 years to deal with radicalisation in the fight against terrorism.
In his first interview since his surprise appointment by Gordon Brown as security minister, Sir Alan called on people to be “a little bit un-British” and even inform on each other in an attempt to trap those plotting to take innocent lives.
“Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone,” he said. “I’m afraid, in this situation, anyone who’s got any information should say something because the people we are talking about are trying to destroy our entire way of life.”
He said he was determined to build on the Government’s core anti-terrorism strategy of the “four Ps” – prepare, protect, pursue, prevent – but that the “prevent” side, dealing with the radicalisation of young Muslims, was the most important.
I’m not sure his idea about snitching is such a good one though. It would indeed be helpful if people that actually had important information concerning a terrorist threat would come forward, but a society of snitches is going to create an overwhelming number of false positives. The police don’t have the manpower to deal with every nosy neighbour that suspects the darkly skinned man from down the road who because he keeps himself to himself is up to no good.
The admiral, who has been given a far-reaching brief across all government departments, also launched an attack on the phrase “war on terror” – which has been abandoned by ministers since Mr Blair left office.
He said: “I hate that expression. When I first heard it – I think it came over from the States – I though it was totally the wrong thing. It’s not like a war in that sense at all. It demeans the value of a war and it demeans the value of a lot of things.
“I don’t like the fact that we talk about ‘the Muslim community’ and this sort of thing. I have a lot of Muslim friends and they see themselves as British. We’ve got to be very careful. The threat is to our British way of life and all of our British people.”
Of the terrorists, he said: “I think they have severely damaged one of the world’s great religions – the one they purport to support.” The claims that British foreign policy was solely to blame was an erroneous argument, he said.
I do agree with his opinions on the expressions ‘War on Terror’ and ‘the Muslim community’. The use of the former in my opinion actually aids the enemy by giving the impression that the West sees this as a clash of civilisations with the Islamic world and supports the al Qaeda propaganda that the West is trying to destroy Islam.
The latter isn’t really helpful either as their isn’t really any such thing as ‘the Muslim community’. There are many Muslim communities within the UK but they don’t necessarily share a common viewpoint and any Muslim leader does not speak for all British Muslims.