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The “knife intifada”: Israeli paramedics evacuate a wounded Palestinian teenager to hospital. He was shot after stabbing a security guard (© Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)


“Your values are our values,” intoned a sombre British Prime Minister in solidarité with the people of France on the morning after the bloodbath in Paris last month. Maybe, but until recently the two countries have taken a markedly different approach to trying to prevent such massacres, the second in Paris this year.

The Paris attacks mark the latest in a series of increasingly successful strikes by French jihadists since 2012. Less sensitive to Muslim sentiment than Britain, the French have sought to counter jihadi terrorism with more draconian legislation than us, while expecting the country’s almost 5 million Muslims to assert the robustly secular values of la République française.

The Cameron government, by contrast, has taken a more interventionist approach when it comes to Britain’s “precious” progressive values. Permanent agitation by Islamists to inject ever more of their version of Islam into public life, overpowering more mainstream Muslim voices, means tolerance, freedom of speech, free religion, free thinking, democracy, and gender and sexual equality can no longer be taken for granted.

Even as the IS slaughterers in France were strapping on their suicide belts, that same night on this side of the Channel British values were being dismissed as “junk” at a debate about Islam at the Corn Exchange in Bedford. “Every single one of these speakers is a caliphate-advocating Islamist,” commented Maajid Nawaz, the co-founder and chairman of the counter-terrorism think-tank Quilliam.

Since the Charlie Hebdo attack that led to the murder of 17 French citizens (four of them Jews) last January, the French have followed a counter-terrorism policy that has moved towards the British approach. Like its British counterpart, the French ministry of education now actively promotes the values that underpin French society, in its case the French Enlightenment that laid the foundation of the Republic.

Not before time. Iannis Roder, who teaches history at a school in one of Paris’s deprived banlieues (suburbs), said those killed in January “didn’t mean much” to most of his Muslim pupils. So convinced were they that their co-religionists could not possibly have slaughtered their fellow citizens, they thought the shootings were staged, much as some Muslims were convinced Jews were behind 9/11.

Swallowing fantastical conspiracy theories — especially about Jews — is an early sign of vulnerability to radicalisation, and is symptomatic of the marked grievance narrative that says the West is persecuting Muslims. At its most extreme it ends with the Paris massacres. No slaughter quite satisfies the jihadists’ appetite unless Jews are included in their crosshairs, and so it may have proved with the Paris attack. The Bataclan theatre, which the jihadists turned into a charnel house with 89 dead, had previously been a target. Why? Because it was until recently Jewish-owned.

The grievance narrative that Muslims are the eternal victims of Jews and the West is known to set David Cameron’s eyes rolling and is one of several extreme but non-violent drivers that can lead to radicalisation. Others include disdain for parliamentary democracy, sectarianism, and regressive attitudes to equality. The entire extremist narrative is now the target of the government’s counter-extremism strategy published this autumn, a narrative which Mr Cameron has exhorted the nation to fight “every day at the kitchen table, on the university campus, online and on the airwaves”. So how exactly are we doing on this side of the Channel?

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Jack Shephard
December 22nd, 2015
2:12 AM
Well done, Mr Ware, for nailing the anti-Semites for what they are. Let them try and wriggle out of it but they said what they said. Mr Hurlow, what is wrong with you? A racist insult, especially one directed at you personally, is not alright, no matter how many times other people have been insulted in a comparable way.

Jonathan Hurlow
December 4th, 2015
7:12 AM
Dear John Ware As Birmingham based atheist Jew I would like to respond with the words of Jewish Canadian singer Geoff Berner `thank you, but no thank you`. Jews are a reducing minority in Brum and I increasingly share the worry that it is too acceptable to be callous about the right to life of Jews in the Middle East as a consequence of the suffering of Palestinians. However on this occasion I think your focus on Waqar Ahmed and Mashuq Ally is at the least unhelpful and at the most misleading. I listened to your radio programme and I am left struggling to understand your concern about Dr Mashuq Ally`s willingness to scrutinise so called trojan horse allegations whilst this is currently taking place in a legal forum. I went to a predominantly white christian Birmingham secondary school and was called a jew boy there too, what does that mean?Racist slurs in Birmingham are something that I commonly heard, this was just one of many. I do not fully understand Waqar Ahmeds potentially clumsy comment about IS, but it hardly seems unforgivable. He is strongly advocating a two state solution and this kind of voice is needed. In your wish to highlight problematic callousness to Jews including those in Birmingham and the Middle East I would kindly ask you to show greater judgement in your questioning, thank you, but on this occassion, no thank you.

Empress Trudy
December 2nd, 2015
2:12 PM
The French just discovered that their policy of throwing Jews on the fire to appease maniacs doesn't work any more. With a far smaller Jewish population in the UK, the Brits will soon run out of Jews to sacrifice and then, of course, the maniacs will come for them too. Neither France nor Britain has a plan B to address this.

Waqar Ahmed
November 28th, 2015
1:11 PM
Dear Mr Ware, Thank you for your article and selective quoting of my posts. I am of course someone as you have said not afraid of standing my ground despite the constant attacks and indirect death threats that I receive. People are able to draw their own conclusions from what they read and I am happy to go by what I have said and provide clarity - no doubt there will be many that will as a result of your article question my suitability for the work I have done for almost 10 years now in an official capacity and 15 years as a normal citizen. For the record I am a believer and supporter of the two-state solution, and Israel's right to exist, I have visited Israel and been hosted by both Palestinians and Israelis and warmly received by both. The Israeli people and Rabbis I met were also staunch supporters of peace in the region and also their government whilst at the same time recognising that religious illiteracy was a problem for both sides. The Israeli people I met themselves told me not to take any experience I may have at Ben Gurion Airport as reflective of the people Israel and that some actions the State may take are at times-extremely disproportionate. Indeed I did not blame the fact that I had an experience (and I will not mention it here or describe it for the reason of increasing a grievance culture that you state) but will mention that Jewish people including a Rabbi unknown to me offered me encouraging words of support and solidarity, even though I did not expect them to as it was not their doing, apologise for the actions of the security staff. But I mention them because they gave me hope of a future for a solution where Israelis can live together with Palestinians side by side in peace and security - a fundamental basic human right for both sides. Maybe you are right to suggest it was wrong of me to link the action/inaction of the Netanyahu led Government to Daesh, it was not suggested in its entirety to be reflective of Israel as you suggest but merely to speak out against an act of injustice where religious illiteracy is used to justify/condone an act of injustice against a people in a similar way as Daesh do. Ironically it was supposed to have the effect of separating state action/inaction from the people. (Maybe it is understood more in my head than those that may read it, a criticism I am happy to accept). What I refuse to accept however is that I am somewhat anti-Israel or someone who refuses to acknowledge conspiracy theories are a major factor. Of course Israel is not the same as Isis and extremely wrong to suggest so - but we have people who use religion to carry out acts of violence and sometimes these are ignored by the state which leads to intentionally or unintentionally a perception of condoning such actions. Sir, I no doubt will as a result of your article be questioned and abused and misunderstood by some, I am used to it and I will deal with it in my own way, which is to just get on with the job of ensuring our communities are safe not just here but also across the World including Israel and Palestine. My job of course is difficult as it is and only just gets harder by such reports, accusations questions of loyalty etc - but in the true Brit spirit I will just get on with the job at hand. Respectfully, Waqar Ahmed

Barbara King
November 27th, 2015
8:11 AM
Exactly agree with Peter Buckley. I think the Muslims referred to in this article who are put in charge of de-radicalisation are in fact only objecting to the "tactical error" committed by ISIS in exposing the religion for what it actually is. They are not fundamentally opposed to it per se. The supposed blind spot they have about the Palestinian conflict is a huge red flag. The government is being criminally naive. It has no cultural awareness of the environment in which Islam is flourishing, and of course knows nothing about Islam except for what has been fed to them by parties with a vested interest.

Peter Buckley
November 26th, 2015
7:11 PM
"Radicalization" is a word invented by The West to try to explain away the simple change that occurs within an individual muslim when he/she adopts "Medinan Islam" as opposed to "Meccan Islam". This is a big "tactical" error on the part of said Muslim, since it alerts the non-muslims about the true nature of the religion. More importantly, the word suggests that "something" has "radicalized" the individual in the first place. May I remind Guardian readers once more that many muslims, particularly Jihadists are, by their nature, "already radicalized", and that they need no pretext for violent behaviour. In the words of one such British jihadist: "When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how WE USED TO LAUGH IN CELEBRATION whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was WESTERN FOREIGN POLICY. By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the 'Blair's bombs' line DID OUR PROPAGANDA WORK FOR US. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: ISLAMIC THEOLOGY." http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jul/01/comment.religion1 So there you have it. Straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The only thing that "radicalized" Hasan Butt and his jihadist friends was Islam. This idea that muslims are being "radicalized" into violent behaviour also collapses when you look at the routine daily mis-treatment of non-muslims in muslim countries. What is "radicalizing" so many muslims there? Is it the "mere presence" of non-muslims....?

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