Commentary Magazine


From Baghdad to Birmingham

Any doubts that Britain has become a major theater in the war on terror should have been dispelled by the arrest in Birmingham of a jihadist cell that was plotting to kidnap, torture, and behead Muslim soldiers or other “collaborators” involved in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nine suspects were apprehended in a series of dawn raids on Wednesday, after police—who had been watching them for months—decided that the abduction of a Muslim soldier living nearby was imminent. Prime Minister Tony Blair was kept informed about this operation, which required some 700 officers, presumably because of the possibility of protests by the local Muslim population.

A heavy responsibility for creating the climate in which this hideous plot could be hatched is borne by Muslim community leaders in Britain. After Lance-Corporal Jabron Hashmi, a British Muslim and resident of Birmingham, was killed in Afghanistan last year, the Muslim Council of Britain could barely disguise its contempt. MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala commented: “It would be entirely wrong . . . to smear him [Hashmi] as being a supporter of the war. When you are a soldier, you have no choice about where you are sent.” Bunglawala made no mention of Hashmi’s courage, patriotism, or sense of duty.

After London, Birmingham is home to Britain’s largest Muslim community, and it has become a bastion of Islamism. Green Lane Mosque, one of the most prominent in Birmingham, has fallen under Wahhabist influence. It was recently revealed by the BBC’s Channel Four that the mosque is providing Islamists with a platform to preach hatred against the West. Salma Yaqoob, the most prominent Muslim woman politician in Britain, represents Birmingham Central Mosque and was elected to the city council for the Respect party, which promotes an extremist anti-Western Islamist agenda and polls ahead of the mainstream parties in Muslim districts of Birmingham. (Speaking in London a fortnight ago, Ms. Yaqoob described the 7/7 terrorist attacks on the London subway as “reprisal events.”)

Earlier this week, the think tank Policy Exchange published a poll showing that 40 percent of British Muslims age sixteen to twenty-four say they want to live under shari’a law, and that one in eight admires al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that “fight against the West.” It seems that in Birmingham they don’t intend to leave it at that: admiration of al Qaeda is giving way to emulation.

A century ago Joseph Chamberlain, Birmingham’s greatest statesman, gave a speech there in which he declared: “The day of small nations has long passed away. The day of Empires has come.” What would he have said to the people of his beloved “Brummagem” today, when the empire so many of them dream of is a caliphate?