By Manzoor Moghal
Islamic jihadism continues to cast its dark shadow across the world. The atrocity in the Nairobi shopping centre is a chilling reminder of the global reach of this vile ideology.
The reported death toll now stands at 62, with most of the victims singled out simply because they were not Muslims. That is sectarianism at its most lethal, where every last ounce of humanity is obliterated by a pitiless dogma.
Although the horror is still unfolding at the Westgate mall, it now seems certain that the attack was carried out by the Al-Shabaab group, a Somalian terror cell linked to the Al-Qaeda network.
This tragedy has been particularly shocking to me, because Kenya is a country I know extremely well.
I lived in neighbouring Uganda for more than 30 years, and regularly visited Kenya, both for business reasons and because I had developed a large number of friendships there.
I left Africa in the Seventies, and the idea back then that Kenya might be ripped apart by fundamentalism would have seemed laughably absurd. Nairobi was an open, prosperous, cosmopolitan city where all races and religions generally lived happily together.
There was little violence and no religious strife. The creed of the African Muslims, with whom I worked and worshipped, was a moderate one. We were on excellent terms with the local Christian communities, regularly attending functions at their churches.
Tragically, all that has changed. Indeed, I could sense a new, more anxious mood in Nairobi during my recent visits within the past few years there to see old friends. There was a smell of fear on the streets. The easy intermingling of the past had vanished.
Houses in the more affluent areas of the city had become mini-fortresses, complete with security grilles and metal doors. Now, as the corpses are removed from the Westgate centre, all the grimmest forebodings have been realised.
Al-Shabaab’s attack in Nairobi has largely been a murderous reaction to the decision by the Kenyan Government in 2011 to send troops into Somalia, under the umbrella of the African Union, to smash the terror regime there.
But we should not pretend that the loud-voiced grievances of the jihadists throughout the world have a shred of justification. The focus of their supposed victimhood varies — they blame anything from American foreign policy to the plight of the Palestinians — but their real aim is the same.
They want to establish a Muslim caliphate across the world, where Islam and sharia law reign supreme. In this religious empire, there is no room for dissent or democracy, no space for compromise or conciliation.
That is why, wherever they operate, the Muslim hardliners are so intolerant. The goal is totalitarian, their methods pure bigotry.
Only this weekend, while one gang of Islamic terrorists was causing mayhem in Nairobi, another gang was murdering 75 Christians at a church in the city of Peshawar in Pakistan, with another 110 innocent worshippers wounded.
And while we in Britain look on in horror at these appalling events in distant lands, the fact is that we cannot pretend that we are immune from the malevolent impact of the zealots in our own country.
It is not just that we have endured a number of serious terrorist attacks in recent years, most notably the London transport bombings in 2007. It is also the deeply worrying social and cultural influence of Muslim fundamentalism within Britain.
The aim of true multi-racialism should be to promote tolerance, understanding and integration. These are vital qualities if our increasingly diverse society is to function successfully.
But while the vast majority of Muslims are tolerant people, the extremists are pushing in precisely the opposite direction. Their eagerness to impose their fundamentalist, alien values is undermining harmony, with suspicion and division rising in their place.
Only this weekend, this was graphically symbolised by reports of events at the Al-Madinah school in Derby, a free school established last year to cater mainly for Muslim pupils. Sadly, the hardliners appear to have taken over its management already.
It’s claimed that, in defiance of all British traditions of tolerance, girls and boys are segregated at the school; that even non-Muslim staff are required to wear the hijab, the Muslim headscarf; and that stringed instruments, singing, the telling of fairy tales and even the use of the word ‘pig’ have all been banned.
I am a proud Muslim — but I find this appalling. Such superstitious, divisive nonsense should have no place in a British school.
We are not living in rural Pakistan or a Taliban-run region in Afghanistan. Apart from anything else, the pupils are being deprived of a proper, rounded education and therefore will not have the same life chances in adulthood.
That is why I am glad the Ofsted inspectors have been sent in to the school. For far too long, the British authorities have turned a blind eye — out of misguided fear of being seen as racist — to the creeping prevalence of militant Islam in our midst.
We see this same fearful attitude in the official tolerance of informal sharia courts in Muslim areas of urban Britain. Such tribunals should not be allowed to operate. Muslims do not need separate judicial institutions.
Under the great English tradition of justice, we are all meant to be equal before the law, regardless of status, wealth or religion. Indeed, it is exactly that genuine equality under the law that has long attracted many migrants to Britain.
How can people ever integrate if the authorities allow separatist enclaves and customs to take root, as we now see all the time in places like Birmingham, Dewsbury in Yorkshire, or Leicester, where I arrived in 1972 and set up my own business interests, integrating happily into the community and setting up civic and political structures to help others integrate?
One of my relatives, who lives in London, recently visited Birmingham to buy some fabrics for his fiancée. On touring some of the city’s Muslim neighbourhoods for such material, he was astonished at how divorced their atmosphere was from mainstream English society, in dress codes, language, food, even architecture.
Women were wearing the full veil or niqab, men foreign garments and headgear. He admitted to me that, despite his own Muslim faith, he felt like ‘an alien’ in this environment.
Nothing imposes that sense of alienation more powerfully than the full veil, which is at the centre of a furore over whether it should be tolerated at educational colleges, or worn by hospital staff and defendants in court.
I personally dislike the growing fashion for wearing it because I feel it is an outward symbol of segregation. There is certainly no religious requirement to wear it. Indeed, I would argue that in British society it is imprudent to wear it, since one of the guiding principles of Islam is that Muslims have a duty to abide by the laws and customs of whatever country they are living in.
Crucially, to me, the veil is a highly politicised refutation of Western values. Its supporters talk about ‘choice’, but there is no choice for schoolchildren or teenage girls from patriarchal families whose parents force them to wear it.
Just as there is no choice for girls who want to mix with boys, or play stringed instruments in Al-Madinah school in Derby, if we are to believe the weekend reports.
My great worry is that, if the British authorities continue to allow the Islamic hardliners to have their way in the name of choice when it comes to segregating boys from girls in schools, or sharia courts, or insisting that women should be allowed to wear veils in all circumstances, then those hardliners will feel they are pushing at an open door.
We must, sadly, accept that there are people in our midst who want to see a hardline Islamist caliphate in Britain. And while the security and intelligence services are nothing less than heroic in their fight against Islamic extremists, continuing to foil terror plots on a regular basis, our civic institutions have in contrast been far too cowardly in their reluctance to challenge fundamentalism.
The shocking slaughter in Nairobi is the true face of Islamic fundamentalism. And we in Britain should never appease such a mentality.
Terra Incognita: It’s time to define Islamism as a crime against humanity
By Seth J. Frantzman
The attacks at Nairobi, Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall follow a familiar pattern to other attacks that occurred in the last few days: in Pakistan, where 81 were killed in the bombing of a church, and in Nigeria where 159 people were slaughtered by Islamists near Maiduguri.
The media and political reactions also follow a neatly crafted script we have all become accustomed to.
First Islamist terrorists attack civilians, attempting to sort out the Muslims from the non-Muslims so as to kill only one group. There are the condemnations of “senseless acts of violence” and appeals for “calm and unity.” Then all is forgotten.
Those terrorists captured alive will be put on trial and perhaps executed. And life goes back to normal with the refrain, “terrorism will not prevail.” The problem is that this script misses a central facet of Islamist terrorism: We must stop treating it as a simple isolated crime; even the word “terrorism” has begun to downplay its actual horror; rather it must be defined as a worldwide crime against humanity.
When the al-Shabaab attack began in Kenya, witnesses related that Muslims were permitted to leave. “They came and said: ‘If you are Muslim, stand up. We’ve come to rescue you,’” Elijah Lamau told the BBC.
The Muslims put their hands up and walked past the gunmen. “One man with a Christian first name but a Muslim-sounding surname managed to escape the attackers by putting his thumb over his first name on his ID. However... an Indian man standing next to him who was asked for the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s mother was shot dead when he was unable to answer.”
Similarly, in 2004, 17 al-Qaida terrorists attacked the Oasis compound housing oilcompany employees in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
Upon entering the compound, the terrorists waylaid the first Arab looking man they saw and said: “Are you Muslim or Christian? We don’t want to kill Muslims.
Show us where the Americans and Westerners live.” The killers then came upon a US citizen from Iraq named Abu Hashem.
He later told reporters that the attackers were polite; “They gave me a lecture on Islam and said they were defending their country and ridding it of infidels.” “Don’t be afraid,” they told him, “we won’t kill Muslims, even if you are an American.”
The murderers then proceeded to hunt down non-Muslims from the US, South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines, Egypt and Sweden. After a 24-hour siege, 22 of the residents were murdered and many others wounded.
In another instance, on November 27, 2008, in the midst of the Mumbai terror attacks, the perpetrators received a call from their Pakistan-based masters, asking, “How many hostages do you have?” The terrorist responded that they had killed a Belgian hostage but had others.
“I hope there is no Muslim among them.”
“No, none,” replied the killer.
Later the Pakistani handlers called the terrorists at the Oberoi Trident Hotel and spoke to those located on the 10th floor. The intercepted conversation goes as follows: “Kill all the hostages, except the two Muslims, keep your phone switched on so we can hear the gunfire.”
They reply, “We have three foreigners, including women from Singapore and China.”
Then the terrorist can be heard telling the hostages to line up, asking the two Muslims to stand to one side. Gunfire reverberates, followed by cheering from the terrorists.
IT IS interesting how quickly reports of these attacks downplay the guilt of the attackers and filter references to the focus on non-Muslims and the allowing some Muslims to escape the carnage. In November 2009 Fareed Zakaria at CNN did a special on the Mumbai transcripts. Zakaria claims the men were sent from Pakistan with “instructions simply to kill.” After playing one clip in which any reference to letting Muslims live is absent, he notes that “they were told to go to Mumbai and kill as many people as they could.” Actually they were told to go to Mumbai to kill non-Muslims.
Zakaria emphasizes that the terrorists were poverty-stricken children. “These are peasant boys,” he says. To his credit, he does play a transcript from the terrorist attack at Nariman house, where the Chabad center was targeted. The CNN host mentions the “animus against Jews” but then claims, “in the ’60s and ’70s most Indian Muslims would not even know where Palestine was.”
He compares the actions of the terrorists to “brainwashing... it’s sort of the Manchurian Candidate writ large.” Later in the program the presenter again attempts to emphasize how young the terrorists were “these are peasant boys... these kids seem like teenagers... it [their action] seems almost mercenary.”
Note how often Zakaria stresses that these were “boys” – he calls them “boys” twice, “kids” twice and “teenagers” once.
The only terrorist captured alive, Ajmal Kasab, was 21 at the time of the attacks.
The oldest attacker, Nasir Abu Umar, was 28, while the youngest was 20.
Why the conscious effort to redefine these men as children? Why the conscious decision not to include the part of the transcript including the instructions not to kill Muslims, and to paint the attack as indiscriminate? The real story was that these men set out to kill as many non-Muslims as possible.
The media seeks to hide this facet to foster the narrative of “unity,” yet presenting Muslims and non-Muslims as the victims of terror obscures the genocidal nature of the crime. When the radical, right wing Golden Dawn party gained popularity last year, the media highlighted the “antiimmigrant violence” it was involved in.
There was no downplaying the members as “peasant boys” or obscuring of who the violence was directed at.
THESE THREE examples – Mumbai, Khobar and Nairobi – are only the tip of the iceberg. From southern Thailand, to Mindanao in the Philippines, to Syria and beyond, the Islamist or jihadist mentality leads to the mass killing of either non- Muslims, or sometimes to the sectarian slaughter of Muslims, usually Shi’ites.
Hundreds of Shi’ites are massacred every year in Pakistan by the Taliban, for instance.
In many cases the terrorists separate Shi’ites from non-Shi’ites, usually identifying them by their first names. For instance, on August 17, 2012, it was reported that “gunmen wearing army uniforms checked the identification cards of the passengers, lined up the Shi’ite passengers on the roadside, tied their hands and then opened fire on them.” Sound familiar? Many over the years have identified Islamism as “Islamo-fascism” and argued that it champions a form of genocide. But it has not sunk in. We don’t prosecute terrorists as war criminals committing crimes against humanity. Instead, we often obfuscate the nature of terrorist attacks, pretending that terrorists are “misguided youth” who “set out to kill as many as possible.”
The genocidal nature of this type of terror is downplayed. The New York Times described the Nairobi perpetrators as “Shabaab militant attackers.” Really? When they killed 78-year-old Ghanian poet Kofi Awooner and Kenyan radio host Ruhila Adatia-Sood, was that part of a “military” operation? The scenes of piles of dead women sprawled on the floor of the mall; is that “militant?” In a Times article on the anniversary of the Ku Klux Klan bombing of a church in 1963 the perpetrators are not called “militants.” Yet the objectives and methods of the KKK were no different than the Shabaab or Taliban: the killing of specific groups. No one pretends the KKK “set out to kill indiscriminately.”
The KKK is estimated to have killed 4,743 people between 1882 and 1968. The number of primarily sectariantargeted killings in Iraq in 2012 was 4,574.
That’s just Iraq.
Adding up the number of victims from attacks patterned along the lines of the one carried out in Kenya, or the ethnic cleansing of non-Muslims in places such as Egypt and Northern Nigeria, would bring the number up to tens of thousands in the past decade – millions in the past century. This is a “soft” genocide, embodied by the firebombing of a church in Egypt or the shooting of Alawite truck drivers in Syria.
It is time to stop hiding what connects Mumbai to Westgate and Khobar. It is a worldwide campaign of ethnic cleansing and murder, and the world community must define this as a crime against humanity and not just as “terrorism.”