The big danger with ISIS is if ordinary people take them seriously. It’s clear that the radicalisation of their followers is crude and extreme; even Osama Bin Laden urged them to temper their ruthlessness. Rightly he said this would turn the tide of ground-level Suuni support against them.
The much-touted Islamist threat to Western democracies depends on their infiltrating countries with discontented ethnic minorities. Done with subtlety, plus limited terrorist and other activities to provoke Western governments into imposing rigid counter-terrorist laws and heavy-handed action, these minorities could be radicalised into Northern Ireland-style sectarian violence. Waterboarding and GitMo are examples of this in the USA.
The more radical ISIS becomes the better. The Moslem communities of Western countries value the prosperity for which they and their forefathers came to the UK. They see the destruction of Arab communities and values that attend Islamic extremism.
We do currently have a problem with Brits radicalised to go and fight against the odious Assad regime in Syria. But their families and home communities are not supporting them.
We must therefore support our own Moslem communities as they struggle to keep the mad dogs from ravaging the lives they have built from themselves in our country.
Above all, we must not blame them for the inflammatory activities of a few radicals, and the ignorant preachers that support them. This includes not allowing panic to lessen our liberty and democracy, for which so many of our forefathers fought and died.
In practical terms, in the name of counter-terrorism, our Police seek extra powers. We know from previous inquiries, scandals etc, that these measures will be used with discrimination against our Moslem communities. This is not to be anti-Police, but to understand that when under the very great pressures of policing ethnic community areas, some Police officers take short-cuts.
We should remember that Al Qaeda grew into (arguably) the world’s most effective terrorist organisation to date, amid the severe repression of the Wahabi regime in Saudi Arabia. There is an arithmetic correlation between the intensity of terrorism, and the degree of repression within which it develops.
The United Kingdom has always been an example to the world of tolerance and freedom. Provided we can stick ruthlessly to our principles and refuse the compromises that terrorist seek to have us impose on our people, this will defeat the increasingly rabid dogs of ISIS and other terrorist groups.
We also need the equally ruthless but characteristically tolerant shadow of the British soldier, ready to take action. We very much hope this will not be required within the UK – as with Northern Ireland, and with much more understanding and thought from our politicians than with Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. But that’s another whole series of articles…
The Brit example of tolerance is also the solution to the enormous problems of the Middle East. But it seems those countries have a long way to go before they can even begin to try to emulate it.