Geopolitics

Strange Brew Of Terrorism, From Persian Gulf To London Bridge

The aftermath at London Bridge
The aftermath at London Bridge

"Enough is enough."

Theresa May's remarks after Islamists killed seven and wounded dozens Saturday evening in London — the UK's third major terror attack in three months — amounted to both a new message and a new tone. The British Prime Minister took aim at the "evil ideology of Islamist extremism" and boldly took a swipe at the political establishment (to which she belongs) for having allowed "far too much tolerance of extremism" in the UK.

"We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are," May said. "Things need to change."

The strong words were also smart politics, likely to resonate among increasingly angry and anxious British voters just days before national elections Thursday. A report published today in Le Monde quotes several Londoners calling for their leaders to "get tough." One woman, who lives just next to Borough Market, where the terrorists Saturday night shouted "this is for Allah" during their stabbing rampage, says "we're not going to take it for much longer." The woman added that Britons "never have the right to speak their mind" and "let themselves be pushed around."

But the deeper challenge implicit in Theresa May's remarks — which carries far beyond Britain to the many other countries targeted by Islamic terrorism — is that stopping radicalized individuals and potential terrorists is merely treating the proverbial symptom. Defeating the disease, the "evil ideology" that drives them, is the hard part. Opposing, undermining, eradicating an ideology is a long and subtle process. It requires going after those who promote and spread the ideology without threatening democratic precepts as freedom of speech and religion.

In the case of Islamic terrorism, the ideology goes well beyond organizations such as ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the London attack, or al-Qaeda.For years, and especially after terror attacks, experts remind us about the toxic results of Western countries' ties to the founders and funders of terrorism in and around the Arabian peninsula. The main doctrine fueling the "evil ideology" Theresa May denounced has long been identified as Wahhabism, which originates directly from Saudi Arabia and is intimately linked to the country's ruling Saud dynasty. And yet, just last week, the British press reported that an inquiry into terror funding, and said to focus on Saudi Arabia, was likely to be shelved by the government. Perhaps it is a coincidence that this should happen shortly after Britain, like the U.S. and others, approved a multi-billion-dollar arms export deal to Saudi Arabia.

Such is the context that the latest piece of "terrorism" news arrived on our screens: the surprise announcement this morning that Saudi Arabia and several other Sunni Muslim countries were cutting their ties with Qatar over its support for terrorism, which seemed to be a reference both to Muslim Brotherhood organizations and to regional Shia power Iran. Connected or not to the dramatic events that unfolded in London, the move unmistakably looks like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. One way or another, the British and the West should think twice about drinking from that brew again.

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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