Foley beheading video should be reality check for British Muslims

After the James Foley beheading video it is simply no longer possible to advocate the completely bogus line that “British Muslims going to Syria to fight are heroes akin to Spanish civil war revolutionaries,” writes Roshan Muhammed Salih.

For too long now prominent members of the Muslim community have been way too complacent about the involvement of British Muslims in the war over there. So I hope the gruesome James Foley beheading video will serve as a wake-up call.

I watched the video this morning and even considered sharing it on 5Pillarz before deciding against it due to its gruesome nature and the fact that we could be shut down for publishing it.

So for those of you who haven’t already seen it the video apparently shows a man with a British accent in a balaclava executing an American journalist in revenge for the recent US air strikes on ISIS in Iraq.

The media and political reaction to it has been swift and crushing and the video will basically give the West every excuse it needs to wage further war in the Middle East as well as crack down on Muslim activists at home.

Very few in the wider non-Muslim community will want to listen to any of our arguments anymore.

British jihadis

In the course of my career I have watched far too many of these videos by “hardline Muslims” and unfortunately many now indelibly associate Islam with terrorism because of the actions of the psychopaths in our midst.

This mentality has been nurtured by decades of brutal Western imperialism, repressive dictatorship and the increasing stranglehold that Saudi Arabia has over Sunni Islam. And faced with the political, military and media juggernaut that is the West (as well as limitless Saudi petrodollars) there is sadly very little that we in Britain can do to arrest this trend.

But one thing we can do is at least not encourage it by sending completely the wrong messages out to our youth. Rather, we need to be clear with them – they have ZERO ability to help the Syrian people by going out there to fight and they will probably end up doing a lot of harm to themselves and others.

I held this position a long time before the emergence of the James Foley beheading video and I am even more convinced of it now – hardline groups are polluting the noble Islamic concept of jihad and British Muslims are getting mixed up with them.

Hundreds of British Muslims are fighting in Syria
Hundreds of British Muslims are fighting in Syria

ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra (Al Qaeda) are among the main players in the rebel movement now in Iraq and Syria and the consensus (even amongst Muslims) is that these are terrorist organisations which distort the teachings of Islam.

Not all British Muslims going to Syria will get involved with them but a good proportion of them will. And certainly enough for us as a community to make it clear that British Muslims should not go out there.

Thankfully many community leaders have adopted this position although unfortunately too many of them are closely associated with the government like the Islamic Society of Britain.

However, a few with street cred such as Abu Easa, Shaikh Haitham al Haddad and Yasir Qadhi have also made it clear that Western Muslims should not go to Syria to fight despite the fact that young, ignorant fools who think they know better than their elders have excoriated them for it.

There is also wide evidence that most of the Syrian rebels themselves don’t want British Muslims coming out there to fight. They may welcome battle-hardened Chechens but wet-behind-the-ears-kids from the UK are a different matter altogether.

What the Syrian rebels want – according to the leaders’ statements I’ve seen – is money and weapons, not naive, over-zealous kids who know nothing about the local conditions and just want to kill kuffaar.

British strategy

Now of course the “Syrian jihadi” threat is being deliberately exaggerated by the British authorities and media for their own purposes.

Firstly, we should acknowledge that the British government let Muslims travel freely to Syria via Turkey to join the fight against Bashar for several years after 2011. So the sudden about-turn during the last eight months in British government policy and media coverage of British jihadis is hypocritical to say the least.

Personally I think it is down to the fact that the Brits now realise that Bashar will not be overthrown and that MI5 is looking for more funding to fight the “terror threat” at home.

MI5 headquarters in London
MI5 headquarters in London

In short, the politicians and military want to meddle further in the affairs of the Middle East; MI5 and MI6 see British jihadis as their new cash-cow now that the threat to the British mainland has decreased following the pull-outs from Iraq and Afghanistan; and the British media will just regurgitate any stories the government and intelligence communities throw at them.

It is also now clear that the high-profile arrest of Moazzam Begg on trumped-up Syria-related charges was the prelude to this new strategy.

That said, given the attacks and plots which have already taken place on the British mainland (often by people trained abroad) we just can’t expect the government to allow British jihadis back into the country and to hand them roses. British Muslims should also be concerned about the poisonous sectarian ideology that they will bring back with them.

So, sure, they are exaggerating the “threat” but no one seriously doubts that some “threat” exists.

Our response

Lest anyone remind me, I have reported and written about Western imperialism all my career and I’m fully aware that it is the number one issue in the Middle East and everything else is basically a reaction to that.

I also don’t want to gloss over the very real atrocities that are taking place in Syria about which every Muslim feels emotional.

But just because Western imperialism is the main enemy that doesn’t mean that we have to act like complete imbeciles and give the stronger party (the West) an excuse to destroy us. Sunni Islamist groups, especially, need to read some Sun Tzu.

I’m also tired of the “victim politics” we play and want to move on from it. The West will do what they have to do but I’m more interested in how we respond. And responding like monkeys should get short shrift from all of us.

Finally, in anticipation of the slander to come, I would like to add that the government has not paid me to write this article and I have come to this conclusion independently of what the authorities think. I have absolutely no contact with them and do not believe in engaging with them as long as their foreign and domestic policies are so Islamophobic.

But right is right and and telling our youth that it’s okay to go and fight in Syria is irresponsible and counter-productive for them, our community and Syrians themselves.

The sooner we all wake up to this reality the better.

@RMSalih

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