via Catholic Journal
by William Borst
The British public experienced shock in late June when they learned that three young men who were members of one of the United Kingdom’s oldest mosques, the al-Manar center in Cardiff, had joined the Syrian terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). As one member of the mosque explained to a reporter from The Guardian (June 27), “Those boys have been very naïve…. They have been radicalized. I don’t believe it happened here.”
Actually, the fact that three young Britons had become radicalized should not be a surprise. While most Muslims in Britain are moderates, sizeable numbers of young British Muslims have enlisted in the jihadist movement in Syria, which has now spread to Iraq and Jordan. The United Kingdom’s tolerance of jihadist clerics under a policy of multicultural toleration should be a lesson to the West, especially in the United States. Homeland Security estimates that at least seventy young Muslim Americans, influenced by websites and radical clerics, have also joined Syrian extremists. They are being used by radical websites and Twitter accounts for propaganda purposes to enlist other Western Muslim youth. The greater threat is that they are being trained as terrorists to return to their home countries to wage war. Federal officials have placed security at airports on high alert.
The lesson to be learned is the failure of multiculturalism in the West. The inability of the United Kingdom and the United States to integrate some Muslim immigrants into the broader society and the resistance to inculcating Western values sow the seeds of terrorism in our own countries. Our schools, universities, media and political elites too often spout multiculturalism, a vague concept of tolerance for ideas antithetical to Western values, whether concerning the treatment of women, economic opportunity, the rule of law, the separation of church and state, or religious toleration. Instead, new immigrants learn that the West is sexist, racist and oppressive; its seeming prosperity is built on the subjugation of poorer nations throughout the world; and its values boil down to overconsumption, gross materialism and hedonism.
As used by today’s proponents, multiculturalism becomes a ram to knock down core Western values. The teaching of Western history, literature, politics and civics has been superseded by an incoherent narrative of class, gender and racial oppression. Learning about George Washington and the founding of the Republic is replaced by learning that our founding fathers included white slaveholders. Shakespeare and writers such as Mark Twain are replaced with obscure women writers or Third World authors; religious leaders such as William Bradford, Roger Williams and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton are ignored in favor of Malcolm X. Plato, Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas are not assigned lest they crowd out French postmodern cultural theory or gender epistemology.
This erosion of core Western values in the classroom, the media and popular culture is not new. What is new is that homegrown terrorists are now in our midst. This is no longer a war of words, but a real war.
The British experience is especially revealing in this regard.
Terrorists from Wales
The three British Muslim youths, two brothers and a friend, who joined ISIS in Syria, were first radicalized in Cardiff, Wales. Nasser and Assel Muthana, 20 and 17, and their friend Reyaad Khan, 20, became committed jihadists while attending the al-Manar mosque close to the Cathays Park offices of the Welsh government. Once in Syria, Nasser and Khan appeared in a recruitment video for the terrorist group ISIS. A third man, identified only as Raqib, appeared in the video as well. The BBC reported that he was educated in Aberdeen, Scotland after moving from Bangladesh at an early age.
Members of the al-Manar Center claimed to be surprised that these brothers had become declared terrorists. The brothers came from a comfortable background and were educated in the United Kingdom. The al-Manar Center is not seen as a hotbed of radical jihadism. The Guardian reports, however, that privately some Muslim leaders in Cardiff criticize the al-Manar Center as having given a platform for extremist views. When Saudi cleric Mohammed al-Arifi spoke at the center in 2012, he called for the overthrow of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Al-Arifi is well known for his extremist views and has since been banned from the UK by the Home Office. A Home Office spokesman told The Guardian that “The government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe they represent a threat to our society. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who seek to subvert our shared values.”
While Al-Arifi has been banned from speaking in the UK, other extremist Muslim clerics appear to have free voice. Indeed, Al-Arifi was not the only jihadist to appear at the Cardiff Muslim center. Haithan al-Hadad, a preacher in London and a member of the Islamic Sharia Council, recently visited al-Manar. Two other brothers, Gurkanth Desai and Abdul Hiah, who were part of an al-Qaida-inspired terrorist cell that conspired to bomb the London Stock Exchange, also attended the center.
But radical Islamic propaganda in the UK extends beyond Cardiff. If the al-Manar Center were the only source of jihadism in Britain, we could perhaps see its harmful fallout as an isolated case. Extremist views— while not representing the majority of Muslims in Britain—are found in Muslim communities, mosques, and on the Internet throughout the UK. The father of the Muthana brothers believes that his sons were radicalized at “pop-up” meetings in Cardiff rather than by any one mosque or Internet video. He reported that extremists were leafleting Muslim communities in the city, encouraging young men to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq. Secretive recruitment meetings were held in cafes, restaurants, private homes or leisure centers, never in the same venue twice in order to avoid police infiltration.
Some Muslim clerics have tried to counter this campaign to recruit youthful jihadists. The imam in the South Wales Islamic Center in Butetown, a few miles from al-Manar, has given sermons aimed at dissuading young Muslims from going to Syria. Other Muslims in Wales have denounced the Muthana brothers, asserting that they are not representative of the community. “We’re part of this country,” Welsh taxi driver Ishmail Yossef told The Guardian (June 23, 2014). “We respect the law of the country. A few kids are bringing shame on us.”
Most Muslims in the United Kingdom are hard-working and law-abiding immigrants who came to Britain to find a better way of life for themselves and their families. A few Muslim leaders have denounced extremism, but their voices have been a minority. At the same time, the Home Office has banned and deported notorious radical preachers. The problem is not that jihadists represent a majority of the Muslim population in the UK, but that Muslim youth are not being effectively assimilated into the larger British culture. It is not clear to the majority of Britons, let alone the elite classes, exactly what British culture is these days. What does it stand for?