Londonistan author Melanie Phillips on the rising al Qaeda threat in the UK, and the lack of response to it.
HH: And the biggest story of all is not getting much attention. It is the story in yesterday’s Sunday Times of London, that al Qaeda leaders in Iraq are planning their first large-scale terrorist attack on Britain and other Western targets, with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report. After the break, I will talk with the United States editor of the Times of London, Gerard Baker, but we begin tonight’s show with Melanie Phillips. She is the author of Londonistan, as well as a columnist for the Daily Mail. She joins us from the U.K. this evening. Thanks for being on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MP: Hi, good to speak to you.
HH: Now did this story in yesterday’s Sunday Times surprise you?
MP: No, not at all. Our security service has been warning for a very long time that al Qaeda is attempting to produce, to procure nuclear and radioactive weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, to use against the United Kingdom, that it’s a matter of not if, not if but when they do this. And our security service is extremely concerned. And the fact that Iran is involved doesn’t surprise me, either. I mean, people may raise an eyebrow, obviously, at a potential alliance between Iran, a Shia country and al Qaeda, a Sunni network, but nevertheless, you know, we would think back to the axis during the Second World War, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Stalinism and Nazism, these things happen.
HH: Now has there been any reaction that is widespread in England to this story? It’s not really getting much attention at all in the United States.
MP: There’s been no reaction at all.
HH: You see, that’s amazing to me.
MP: Well, you know, there is…I don’t know what it’s quite like, whether it’s quite the same in the United States. I think not. But in Britain, there is an air of unreality about this whole thing. I mean, people believe that the war in Iraq is a disaster. They don’t just believe that, but they believe that it’s kind of responsible for everything else that’s happening that’s bad. And they believe that Iran is only threatening us because of Iraq. I mean, this is ahistorical, it’s completely ignorant, it is false, and it’s demonstrably untrue. But people in Britain are in a state of denial. They do not want to face the fact that we actually are facing a regime in Iran which 25 years ago declared war on the West, and the desire to, the intention to Islamize the West. They have ignored the fact that, you know, in that intervening period, the West and its interests have been attacked repeatedly by the agents of Iran. And all of this has been conveniently forgotten in the desire to pin everything on the war in Iraq as the scapegoat for all the terrorists that we face.
HH: Now you’ve got a new edition of Londonistan coming out in June…
HH: …with an expanded…it came out, huge success last year…
HH: …opened a lot of eyes, but now you’ve expanded the preface with new information. What’s happened in the last year in London with regards to the Islamic radical movement there?
MP: Well, it’s proceeding a pace, unfortunately. We now have, according to our security service, a fantastic number of Islamists in Britain who are expanding by the day. I mean, one has to say that the majority of Britain’s Muslims are entirely peaceful and law-abiding, and are horrified by all this. But nevertheless, in absolute terms, we have approximately, I don’t know what the latest figure is, but it’s something like 1,200 individuals who are known to our security services at British Muslims who are potential terrorists. We have dozens and dozens, literally dozens and dozens of terrorist plots, terrorist conspiracies, rather, currently being monitored by our security service. The scale of this is enormous. Now this has all been happening over the last year since my book was published, and we’ve had the trans-Atlantic terror plot was discovered, we’ve had various other discoveries, and we’ve had a whole lot of uproar going on. And so the result is that the British people are increasingly extremely concerned about the Islamist threat, they’re extremely concerned that our government in Britain has sought to appease radical Islamism rather than take it on, and on a rhetorical level, our government has become tougher in what it’s saying, but we’ve yet to see, really, any sign on the ground that it’s taking any practical action that is any tougher.
HH: Now you directed, via your website, readers today, and I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com, to a speech made by a member of Parliament, Goodman, I believe is the name, about the Islamist agenda in Great Britain. He posed questions to the government, questions that you noted were simply not answered. Now how long does that non-conversation go on? It’s very reminiscent of not being able to get answers out of Stanley Baldwin or Neville Chamberlain during the 30’s.
MP: Yes, well of course, the reason why he’s not getting any answers is because the government does not wish to answer it. I mean, the fact is, you know, for example, that we have advisors within government to it on how to combat radical Islamism, who are themselves radical Islamists. I mean, there’s no answer to that, is there?
MP: And we have a situation where our chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown, who is tipped to become the next prime minister when Mr. Blair steps down, has said, and this is already a policy that’s in action, that London is to become the global center for Islamic banking. Now Islamic banking is answerable to Sharia law. It is a Trojan horse, to put it mildly, for the Shariaization of Britain. So you know, our government is in a kind of dream world, unfortunately, and this is the kind of thing Paul Goodman, this member of Parliament that you referred to, and one or two other members of Parliament are trying to get out of the government, to get it to acknowledge that its policy of turning a blind eye, and of hoping something is going to happen to put all this right, is just a disaster.
HH: Now Goodman quoted from a preacher, Abu Usama, I couldn’t quite tell if he had been preaching in his constituency, although the DVD he referred to was being distributed there. Has your country gone about expelling any radical Islamists other than the most famous of them, whose back in Jordan now?
MP: Yeah, no, it really hasn’t. I mean, it’s…in the last few months, it’s been a little bit tougher. It’s got a couple of new laws, which it’s used to arrest a couple of Islamic preachers. But there’s been no wholesale or widespread movement against the mosques and the imams and the preachers who are steadily recruiting. My information is that these people are still coming into this country, and they are still recruiting.
HH: Al Qaeda Iraq is cited in the report of the joint terrorism analysis center, quoted by the Sunday Times yesterday, as saying that al Qaeda Iraq have networks that are active in the United Kingdom, meaning that people have cycled through al Anbar Province, have fought with al Qaeda there, and have come back to the UK. Have any of those people been arrested, to your knowledge?
MP: To be perfectly frank, I don’t know, but I suspect not. The policy of our security service tends to be to keep people under surveillance rather than arrest them, and that’s for a number of reasons, partly because in time honored fashion, the British Security Service likes to keep people in the open where they can see them, and they can watch them, and they gather intelligence, but also because we are very hampered in this country by our human rights legislation, and by the fact that for this, and for a number of other reasons to do with our legal procedures, it’s actually quite difficult to produce evidence that is likely to lead to a conviction. And consequently, our security service, I think, and our police, our counter-terrorism people, tend to have their hands really quite a bit tied, that they can’t really proceed into the court system, and therefore, have very little alternative but to keep these people under surveillance. Quite whether they can keep so many people under surveillance is a very moot point. I suspect they can’t.
HH: Is there any effort within the British Muslim community, which, you know, goes back hundreds of years in London, to right itself, to reform itself?
MP: The British Muslim community in a large scale does not go back hundreds of years. I mean, it’s a relatively recent arrival.
HH: I thought it was actually from the time that India was colonized, that the…but go on, you correct me. Go ahead.
MP: Yeah, I mean, well, there’ve always been Muslims in Britain, but not to the sort of communities of the size that we have seen in the last 20, 30 years. That is a relatively new phenomenon. The answer to your question is that there are many British Muslims who are very, very seriously concerned about this. They’re concerned, among other things, that their own children are going to be radicalized if nothing’s done, and they are doing their best to bring this under control, to cooperate with the British security authorities and so on, and doing their best, also, to challenge those so-called representative Muslim institutions who pose as moderates, but are anything but. And truly moderate Muslims who tend to be apolitical, they tend not to be involved in politics because they are indeed moderate people, are finding it very difficult to organize rival, alternative, representative institutions that present a truly moderate view. But nevertheless, one or two have been formed, and this is a very encouraging sign.
HH: Melanie Phillips, I appreciate your staying up late to join us. I look forward to talking with you more, and perhaps when the new edition of Londonistan comes out, we can go over it in detail on the air.
MP: I hope so.
HH: I appreciate you talking to us.
End of interview.