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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Campus Jihad Continues

Campus Jihad

By ANTHONY GLEES October 23, 2006; Page A15

LONDON -- U.K. intelligence officials have just provided a chilling assessment of the terrorist threat Britain faces. The country has become "al Qaeda target No. 1," security sources told me, confirming last week's press reports. Intelligence services now judge Britain's "home grown" terrorists to be organized, trained and controlled either directly from Pakistan or via Pakistani networks in Britain.

Until now, intelligence services thought British Islamist terrorists had no hard links to al Qaeda despite sharing its ideology. "Clean skins" in the security jargon, they were believed to have acted alone or in self-constructed cells. This theory was the product of what MI5 thought it knew about the terrorists before last year's July 7 bombings, which was far too little. Just two months before the attacks, MI5's Joint Terrorism Analysis Center concluded, "there is not a group with both the current intent and capability to attack the U.K."

The ringleaders of the July 7 bombers, Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer, both former students at Leeds Metropolitan University, showed up on MI5's radar on as many as nine occasions before the attacks. According to Whitehall sources, credible intelligence indicated that Mr. Khan had visited Pakistan between November 2003 and February 2004 and sought to contact al Qaeda. But MI5 discounted the significance of these visits at the time and only started taking them more seriously early this year. The London bombers' connections to Pakistan were initially dismissed as harmless, requiring no further analysis. It was "obvious," security sources explained in the aftermath of the attacks, that people of Pakistani descent would visit "their families" back home or take a "long holiday or gap year" there. The generally accepted theory was that the terrorists had simply used information from the Internet to build their organic peroxide bombs.

Senior military intelligence officers now dismiss this line as well, believing the bombers received crucial weapons training in Pakistan. They argue that if Britain is now al Qaeda's primary target, it makes sense to look much more carefully at the Pakistan dimension and also at the links between virulent Islamic groups in Pakistan and the U.K. Many British Islamic colleges have ties to fundamentalist Pakistanis. Other links exist to extremist Kashmiri groups, in turn allegedly connected to al Qaeda or the Pakistani secret service.

MI5 has hugely upped its game, as recent arrests show. But MI5 also believes that the number of extremists is rising and not just because it now knows better where to look for them. MI5 keeps very close tabs on more than 1,000 extremists; 14,000 British Muslims are considered potential terrorist threats, security sources told me.

I believe a significant number get radicalized and recruited on university campuses. At least 13 convicted Islamist terrorists and four suicide bombers have been students at British universities. Radical Islamist student societies make full use of university resources. They operate Web sites, hosted by university servers, which direct visitors to organizations that glorify jihad and terror. These "religious" groups are given "prayer rooms" on campus, which are also used to disseminate extremist literature and DVDs. Muslim students concerned about these developments tell me that at many of these Islamic societies terrorism is portrayed as justified acts of "resistance." A leading imam in Birmingham often preaches on British campuses that the London bombers have to be seen as "martyrs."

Organizations like Hizb Ut Tahrir and Al Muhajiroun, which advocate a world caliphate, demand that Britain adopt the Shariah and express a violent hatred for the West and Jews, have repeatedly tried to gain student converts at the University of East Anglia. It is only thanks to a courageous campus imam that their infiltration attempts have been thwarted so far. His colleague at London Metropolitan University, Sheikh Musa Admani, repeatedly warns about Islamic radicalization at his and other London campuses. Just two months ago, the head of an Islamic student society and several fellow students at London Metropolitan were charged with planning to smuggle explosives on a plane bound for America. Yet university authorities usually consider these societies as "religious gatherings," and thus off limits.

Government minister Ruth Kelly two weeks ago urged universities to monitor their students more carefully and report signs of extremism to the security services. But many British universities are reluctant to step up security. Universities U.K., an association of British universities, criticized Ms. Kelly's proposals as "unreasonable," saying "there are dangers in targeting one particular group within our diverse communities." When I suggested last year similar measures the government now proposes, I was myself attacked by Universities U.K. The vice chancellor from the University of Sunderland asked my own vice chancellor to "shut me up." I was threatened with legal action if the name of a particular university was mentioned in connection with terrorism. Unfortunately, my research showed that Islamic radicalization is a threat on campuses nation-wide.

But British universities prefer burying their heads in the sand of political correctness. When the Foreign Office invited 100 academics to bid for £1.3 million of government funds to participate in a counter-radicalization program, the academics said no. John Gledhill, chair of the Association of Social Anthropologists, welcomed their move, saying last week that "it did appear to be encouraging researchers to identify subjects and groups involved with terrorism . . . that could be interpreted as encouraging them to become informers." Martha Mundy, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, dismissed the government plans as having "an overtly security-research agenda" starting from the (false) premise that there is a "link between Islamism, radicalization and terrorism."

Is Ms. Mundy seriously saying there is no connection between Islamism and terrorism? "Security" is not a dirty word, even if totalitarian regimes have abused it. Every British university subscribes to the 1997 Dearing Report, which states that the "aim of higher education is to play a major role in shaping a democratic, civilized and inclusive society." This is the basis on which the British taxpayer agrees to fund them.

Academic institutions should surely help protect Britain from those who clearly do not believe in democracy, are not civilized, and who try to harm us. Now that we are the prime target for Islamist terror, Britain's universities must get real.

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