Oklahoma City and Lessons on Fighting Terrorism from Within
British law enforcement has confirmed that at least one and probably all of the terrorists who struck London last week were British citizens. Shehzad Tanweer was born and raised in Britain, enjoyed cricket and blew himself up on a train near Aldgate Station, London. Few even knew he was involved in radical Islam.
Violent Islamic extremism is a world-wide problem. But, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today, it’s shocking that the London terrorists were British citizens. What kind of ideology leads a man to blow up his own countrymen? I don’t have a great answer, but I do know it’s happened before and it’s happened here. Oklahoma City 1995.
While the ideologies of Timothy McVeigh and the London terrorists are clearly divergent, their methods were the same. Should Britain’s reaction be the same now as ours was then? Everyone has made it a point to strongly express the truth that the vast majority of Muslims in Britain and elsewhere are good, decent people. But how about the extremist Muslims? Should they and their Mosques be treated with tolerance or should they now be the subject of harsh suspicion?
After Oklahoma City, few Americans took issue with the crackdown on the militia groups across the country. Law enforcement action plus a great upsurge of public condemnation all but ended the militia movement, with the number of active groups falling from 370 in 1996 to 68 before the turn of the century.
Any similar crackdown on religious groups would pose a serious problem for Britain or any other democratic nation. But Britain and other nations know who the radical clerics are and they know which Mosques are preaching hate. The key is turning the public against these terrorist enablers—and not just turning the average Brit against them, but encouraging the British Muslim community to harshly and regularly denounce them as well.
One of the reasons the American militia movement was allowed to grow so large and so radical was that many people and states tolerated them. We stopped that. Just like I think us Westerners must stop tolerating the extreme Islamic sects operating openly in our midst. Citizens of all religions and no religion should offer up harsh condemnation and nations should step up law enforcement against these groups.
I am fully aware that targeting a specific religion comes with the potential of crossing lines of freedom that shouldn’t be crossed. But the terrorists' brand of Islam is not much more than fascism in the guise of religion. We should not and can not confuse Islam with the Islamic-based fascism of al Qaeda and their allies. That would be like confusing Christianity with the Ku Klux Klan. And I know few who think we should tolerate the KKK.
We can only do so much to fight terrorism abroad. But Western nations can do a lot more to fight terrorism coming from within.