30/12/2013 10:24 GMT | Updated 28/02/2014 05:59 GMT

In 2014 - Can We Stop Blaming Everything on Muslims?


It's Islamophobic to blame Islam for terrorism. There - I've said it. If you're scared of Islam, or want to "stand up to extremists," you are servile to an irrational fear. Is radical Islam somehow causally linked to acts of terror? No.

Eliza Manningham-Buller, former director of MI5 describes how "our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalised a whole generation of young people,"  and "spurred some young British Muslims to turn to terror." Obama said of Guantanamo Bay in April, "this is a recruitment tool for extremists"

Muslim isn't even that well-represented among the terrorist demographic - only 6% of terrorists are Muslim.

So to be scared of Islam because it drives terrorism is irrational - it's a phobia. It's Islamophobia.

It was reported yesterday that hundreds of anti-Muslim offences  are being carried out each year in liberal, tolerant, multi-cultural Britain. In London we've seen five hundred recorded incidents of Islamophobic crimes this year. The picture at the top of this post depicts just one of these disgusting crimes.

Our politicians implicitly endorse these crimes - "We mustn't pander to extremists," said Gove, bluntly, of the gender segregation row surrounding Universities UK. He doesn't bother to engage in whether the issue was widespread, if it was dangerous, if it's spreading, or if the Muslim audience even cared. He just saw Islam and an easy opportunity to "look strong."

Tackling extremism on campus, in our mosques and in madrassas abroad is certainly part of addressing terrorism. There is a role for addressing arguments, observing and monitoring potential jihadists.

But there will always be collateral damage to our social fabric - fragmentation of our communities along religious lines, as we intrusively watch and listen. And fragmentation lead to more radicalism. Our obsession with extremism breeds more extremism.

With this collateral damage such a clear and present danger, we need to be certain that radical Islam is really the cause of terrorism, and not the symptom of our own aggression.

Islam itself certainly is not. While many citizens of the Middle East harbor ill-will to the West, very few take up arms. The same is true in the UK.

But what drives someone into radical extremism - to blow themselves up? Or grab a chopping knife and attack an unarmed man in the street, then calmly announce to smartphone wielding passers-by that this was done in the name of Islam? Or walk into a shopping mall or hotel and start firing indiscriminately.

It is not Allah. He is not moving in mysterious ways, moving men to murder. It is, as Lee Rigby's killers said, because we are waging war on "Muslims" abroad. Does Lee Rigby speak for all Muslims? No. But our foreign policy is systematically ignored in our understanding of terrorism.

Our expeditions to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been, without exception, failures. Our dismantling of the top rungs of Al Qaeda has led simply to more crazed men taking their place. Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars describes drone strikes as a surreal global whack-a-mole. Christians remain the most persecuted religious group globally. And Lee Rigby's murder, massacres in Kenya and India show how elusive, unnetworked individuals can carry out horrific acts of media-friendly terrorism with minimal resources. They will continue to do so.

It is unlikely we will ever win the "War on Terror." Should we want to? According to the moral case, yes. A playground favourite - "they started it."

The savage killing of thousands of Americans, provoked the war on terror. But advocates of the war have historical myopia. What provoked 9/11? Can they remember beyond that fateful day?

Advocates of the war on terror forget decades of Western meddling in Iran, the crude sculpting of Israel out of Arab lands, the brutal autocracies supported and the oil dollars ruthlessly extracted. They forget how easy it is for young, unemployed and uneducated men to be recruited to an anti-West cause, when the evidence of the West's meddling and attempted imperialism is so profoundly obvious. Islam isn't the cause of this terrorism, it is a tool used by manipulative terrorist leaders to fight Western oppression in their lands, just as Catholicism was used by the IRA as an emotive recruiting tool to the cause.

It is not religion that causes terrorism - it is meddling. We provide the arguments that the radical preachers need to radicalise their young cohorts - and send them to the West to terrorize us illegally and immorally. I am no apologist for terrorists, their acts are medieval and immoral. But it is not wise to give angry young men with capability of doing great harm reason to hate you, especially if they are trained by evil and wealthy men.

We also need to firmly recognise that the legislative excesses of Iran and Saudi Arabia are bastardisations of Islam. "Islam is the religion that chops off peoples hands, that forces women to wear the burqa, that hangs people in the street. We don't want that here," oft goes the cry of the Islamophobes.

Long before Western ideals started sweeping the Middle East in recent years, Iranians recognised that the justice delivered by revolutionary tribunals was far from Islamic. Mehdi Bazargan, first Prime Minister after the Shah fell, was highly critical throughout the Eighties. The machinations of these courts are still frequently observed as being far out-of-step with the Prophet Muhammed's teachings. Indeed the subjugation of women in nearby Saudi Arabia is cultural and political - not religious. The Qu'ran may lay out that the role of women is as child-bearers and wives, but fully endorses their rights to political life, a business, a vote and to go on Haj. Men are protectors of women, but they are equal. If anything, they owe a duty of care to their spouse. They are subservient.

So before we blame radical Islam for terrorism and loss of freedom - consider that our Security Services blame our foreign policy, not any religion, for acts of terrorism. Radical Islam is a bastardisation of true, peaceful Islam. And the effect on our social fabric of continually scapegoating Muslims for our own aggression abroad is painful, and breeds yet more jihadists.

If we want to really fight terrorism, we need to tackle the cause - and that cause is meddling in the Middle East.