14:03, June 08 67 0 theguardian.com

2017-06-08 14:03:02

 

Who’s to blame for the savagery seen in Manchester and London?

Today, 16 years since 9/11 and with attacks now occurring across Europe and multiple wars in the Middle East and north Africa region, it is time for the west to reflect far more deeply on these matters. To date shortsighted policy responses like Prevent have not been evidence-based. Responses to the immediate problem of terrorist acts need to be much more intelligent and informed.

At the same time, simplistic representations of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism versus the west are highly inaccurate. It is now clear that the initial US response to 9/11 sought to exploit this event in order to initiate operations against countries unconnected to al-Qaida. The Chilcot report cited a British embassy telegram saying that “regime-change hawks” in Washington were arguing that a coalition against international terrorism “could be used to clear up other problems in the region”. The most notable outcome of this exploitation was the catastrophic Iraq invasion.

Recently, highly destructive conflicts in Syria and Libya demonstrate powerful inconsistencies regarding official claims to be fighting terrorism. In Syria, the priority of toppling Assad has involved support, intentional or unintentional, for extremist groups and allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are implicated in supporting Islamic State and other extremist groups. Indeed, the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and support in that country for “Islamist jihadists” has become a UK election issue. Regarding Libya, the Manchester attack triggered debate over the relationship between the alleged attacker, British security services, and the movement of extremists between the UK and Libya.

Responding to the dreadful events in London and Manchester requires rational responses and critical reflection upon the way in which western governments are embroiled in exploiting and facilitating terrorism. If we are to end the cycle of violence, it is time to end western involvement in terrorism.

John Pilger Journalist and documentary film-maker, Prof Vian Bakir University of Bangor, Prof Ruth Blakeley University of Kent, Prof Daniel Broudy Okinawa Christian University, Prof Emanuela C Del Re Niccolò Cusano University, Prof John L Esposito Georgetown University, Prof Des Freedman Goldsmiths, University of London, Prof Natalie Fenton Goldsmiths, University of London, Prof Jenny Hocking Monash University, Prof Eric Herring University of Bristol, Prof Tim Hayward University of Edinburgh, Prof Tareq Y Ismael University of Calgary, Prof Richard Jackson University of Otago, Prof Jeremy Keenan Queen Mary University London, Prof Timo Kivimäki University of Bath, Prof David Miller University of Bath, Prof Mark Crispin Miller New York University, Prof Fredrick Ogenga Rongo University, Prof Julian Petley Brunel University, Prof David H Price Saint Martin’s University, Prof Piers Robinson University of Sheffield, Prof Salman Sayyid University of Leeds, Prof Tamara Sonn Georgetown University, Prof David Whyte University of Liverpool, Amir Amirani Producer and director, Dr Nafeez Ahmed Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Matthew Alford University of Bath, Max Blumenthal Author and journalist, Dr Emma Briant University of Sheffield, Remi Brulin New York University & John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Dr TJ Coles University of Plymouth, Sarah Earnshaw Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Dr Philip Edwards Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Lucy Morgan Edwards Researcher, Muhammad Feyyaz University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Dr Ciaran Gillespie University of Surrey, Stefanie Haueis Fachseminarleiterin, JGHerder-Gymnasium, Berlin, Dr Mark Hayes Southampton Solent University, Dr Emma Heywood Coventry University, Dr Nisha Kapoor University of York, Dr Paul Lashmar University of Sussex, Dr Sarah Marusek University of Johannesburg, Dr Narzanin Massoumi University of Bath, Dr Anisa Mustafa University of Nottingham, Ismail Patel Friends of Al-Aqsa, Peace in Palestine, Dr Piro Rexhepi Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Dr Rizwaan Sabir Liverpool John Moores University, Cathrin Ruppe University of Applied Sciences, Münster, Dr Joshua Shurley Clovis Community College, California, Dr Katy Sian University of York, Dr Greg Simons Uppsala University, Dr Giuliana Tiripelli University of Sheffield, Dr Fahid Qurashi Canterbury Christ Church University, Dr Milly Williamson Brunel University, Stephanie Weber Curator of Contemporary Art, Lenbachhaus Munich, Dr Kalina Yordanova Assistance Centre for Torture Survivors, Dr Florian Zollmann University of Newcastle

Tariq Ramadan (Enough is enough with stigmatising Muslim citizens, 7 June) suggests that rather than targeting “Islamist-inspired terrorists” in response to the recent attacks in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge, we should be bringing people together in a united front against all violence, avoiding restrictions upon rights including through the Prevent strategy, and seeking a holistic solution to the politics of the Middle East.

While the Middle East certainly needs sorting out (but how?), Mr Ramadan’s other proposals are unlikely to succeed because they fundamentally misdiagnose the problem. Every type of violence in the UK, from domestic abuse to acts of terrorism, requires a response tailored to its distinctive features. The defining characteristic of the savagery inflicted upon innocent people in Manchester and London was that a particularly warped and distorted interpretation of Islam provided the motive. Why else, for example, would the London Bridge murderers have yelled “This is for Allah!” and “Islam, Islam, Islam!” as they butchered their victims?

Mr Ramadan also needs to explain why, if Muslims are so unfairly stigmatised by Prevent, nearly 400 mosques and many ordinary Muslims cooperate actively and willingly with it, including by reporting suspicions about other members of their community to the authorities, as was apparently the case with respect to these atrocities.

Steven Greer

Professor of human rights, University of Bristol law school

I was impressed by Moni Mohsin’s informative article (Yes, Theresa May, we can talk about extremism – starting with your relationship with Saudi Arabia, G2, 7 June), which describes the growing influence of intolerant Wahhabism promoted by Saudi Arabia, and the government’s apparent reluctance to publish an investigation into the funding of jihadi groups in the UK. Surely the government is not balancing a potential rise in jihadi attacks against the huge profits from the arms trade with the Saudis? Such a cynical calculation could quickly go awry, not least on security costs, if the situation spirals out of hand.

Ian Pollard

Newcastle upon Tyne

Moni Mohsin is quite right about the funding of fundamental religious schools teaching a strict version of Wahhabism in Pakistan. Indeed the funds were already flowing in to Afghanistan and Pakistan for the support of the madrasa system as far back as the 1970s.

Seeing the extremism flourish has been sad for people who have visited both countries in the past. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have long histories, great literature and rich cultures. In my time visiting and living in both countries I met many kind people who treated me and my family with great courtesy.

I would also advocate the release of the report commissioned by David Cameron into the funding of extremist groups. We need to trace the roots of extremism from wherever they arise, work positively and constructively with our communities, not fan the flames of hatred and intolerance further with careless language.

Dr Susan Juned

Alcester, Warwickshire

Theresa May’s proposal to introduce longer prison sentences for acts of terrorism (Analysis, 7 June) is fundamentally flawed. She must know that these radicals go on their murderous errands with every intention of losing their lives while causing as much mayhem as possible. Longer sentences have no deterrent effect on endgame missions such as these. What is needed is a return to the Peelian ideas of police officers as citizens in uniform, patrolling on foot, genuinely interacting with their community and getting to know what’s going on locally. What we have now (at best) is largely unapproachable heavily equipped semi-paramilitaries going about in pairs or sitting in cars.

Peter Shadwell

Bramley, Hampshire

Every person has the right to life, liberty and security; their private and family life should be respected, and they have the right to get married. No one should be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and everyone has the right to a fair trial. No one can be enslaved; or suffer discrimination due to sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status. People should have freedom of thought and religion; and, in accordance with law, freedom of expression, association and assembly.

That is the European convention on human rights. We should not be afraid of having our laws measured against these principles by an independent court, free of political bias. Only two other European nations refuse to recognise the ECHR, Kazakhstan and Belarus; Theresa May shames us by aligning Britain with these dictatorships.

Under article 10 our security services can invoke derogation if required to protect our national security: “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security.”

Eric Goodyer

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters