Samuel Paty’s murder has still not been reckoned with

Two years ago on Sunday Samuel Paty was brutally murdered by an 18-year-old outside his school in a Parisian suburb. The teacher’s crime was to have shown an image of the prophet Mohammed during a class discussion on the freedom of expression.   Paty’s killer was a Chechen, and it’s noteworthy that the two other major Islamist terror attacks in France in recent years – the murder of three worshippers in a Nice church and the killing of a policewoman in Rambouillet – were also the work of foreign-born terrorists.   Homegrown Islamic terrorists are now a rarity in France. They were responsible for most of the horrific attacks that

Sam Leith

The death of David Amess and the narcissism of the discourse

The speed with which tragedy turns into farce these days is quite something. Within minutes of Sir David Amess’s death being announced, social media was filled with sizzling hot takes. The back-and-forth centred on whether the decline in ‘civility’ and the use of dehumanising language in politics was to blame for the murder of an MP. It recalled nothing so much as the recriminations after Jo Cox’s death, except that the teams here had, as it were, swapped shirts at half-time. Back then, the left more or less directly attributed Jo Cox’s murder to the language used by the partisans of Brexit: ‘traitors’, ‘saboteurs’ and so on. Back then, the

Salman Rushdie was never safe

The stabbing of Salman Rushdie sends a renewed message to the world: take Islamism – the transformation of the Islamic faith into a radical utopian ideology inspired by medieval goals – seriously. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the most consequential Islamist of the past century, personally issued the edict (often called a fatwa) condemning Rushdie to death in 1989. Khomeini, responding to the title of Rushdie’s magical-realist novel The Satanic Verses, decided it blasphemed Islam and he deserved death. Initially alarmed by this edict, Rushdie spent over 11 years in hiding protected by the British police, furtively moving from one safe house to another under a pseudonym, his life totally disrupted.  Already

Prevent and the problem of ‘political correctness’

Britain is reviewing its cornerstone anti-terror programme. As the name implies, Prevent is a strategy designed to stop radicalisation before it metastasises into killer intent. But how well is it working? There have been accusations that Prevent is discriminatory. Groups such as Liberty and the Muslim Council of Britain have criticised the anti-terror strategy for targetting Muslims, arguing that it has caused hurt to Britain’s Islamic communities. But there are also criticisms that, even on its own terms, the Home Office programme isn’t working as well as it should. Dame Sara Khan, the social cohesion tsar, last week warned that efforts to tackle Islamist extremism are being hampered by ‘political

Is Israel facing a new Intifada?

Dizengoff Street is one of the busiest thoroughfares in Tel Aviv, a strip of bars, restaurants and Bauhaus architecture that is typically bustling with young people on a Thursday evening. Last night, it was the scene of the latest Palestinian terror attack when a gunman opened fire outside the Ilka bar, killing three and wounding nine. One of those killed was Olympic kayaker Barak Lopen, who represented Israel at Beijing 2008 and London 2012. In the past two weeks, 14 Israelis have been killed by a mixture of Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists. For comparison, there were 17 terrorism-related fatalities in the entirety of last year. I asked on Coffee House

Imran Khan’s cowardly response to Pakistan’s rape crisis

Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan has once again blamed women for an appalling rise in rape cases. Khan used a televised question and answer session this week to say that sexual violence was a result of ‘increasing obscenity’. Women in Pakistan should remove ‘temptation’ because ‘not everyone has willpower’, he added, urging females to cover up to help reduce the sexual violence which has plagued our country. Khan pointed the finger of blame at Bollywood and Hollywood, for spreading ‘vulgarity’. He also repeated the growing divorce tally of the UK as evidence of the ‘ethical plunge’ of the West, which he said is messing up the moral compass of the Muslim world and Pakistan. ‘World history tells when

Will Macron surrender to the mob?

It has been a torrid few days in France. In the early hours of Saturday morning, a former Argentine rugby international, Federico Aramburú, was shot dead on a chic Paris street after an altercation in a bar. The suspect is a notorious far-right activist who allegedly told Aramburú that he didn’t belong in France. On Monday Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna died, three weeks after he was beaten into a coma by fellow prisoner and infamous extremist, Franck Elong Abé, an Islamist who was captured fighting for the Taliban a decade ago. It is alleged that Abé justified his attack on the grounds that Colonna ‘had bad-mouthed the Prophet’. Even among battle-hardened Jihadists, Abé was

Britain’s fatal unwillingness to confront Islamic extremism

More than any other country in the West, Britain has become practised in the arts of self-deception and subject avoidance. If a politician in France had been butchered by a Muslim of Somali descent, the French media and political class would have gone through a cycle of debate about the ideology that propelled the killer. Government and security sources would have talked about the networks surrounding the suspect. And the whole society would have learned a little more about what might have led to such an outrage. In Britain the situation is otherwise. David Amess was stabbed to death in a church while holding a surgery for his constituents. The

The Bataclan trial is forcing France to confront some difficult questions

It’s a stroke of good fortune for France that Salah Abdeslam is a coward. Had he not been he would have died with the other nine members of the Islamist terror cell (one of whom was his brother) when they attacked Paris on the evening of 13 November 2015. Instead of detonating his suicide vest, Abdeslam dumped it in a dustbin and then called a friend in Belgium and asked to be collected. He spent the next four months hiding in a suburb of Brussels before police tracked him down. It’s rare for a potential suicide bomber to be taken alive. In most cases all we have to judge them

The West’s Islamist capitulation

On Monday, Tony Blair addressed a military think tank in London and stated that the West should continue to intervene in countries under threat from Islamist extremism. According to the former PM, who led Britain as it joined the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, an isolationist policy would serve no purpose because:  Islamism, both the ideology and the violence, is a first-order security threat and, unchecked, it will come to us even if centred far from us… Its defeat will come ultimately through confronting both the violence and the ideology, by a combination of hard and soft power. His declaration was along the lines of the one he made in

Don’t be fooled: the Taliban hasn’t changed its spots

Has the Taliban really changed its spots? Those who advocate talking to the Taliban make the case that they have. The organisation, they say, has recognised the mistakes it made in the years culminating in 9/11. Others claim that the organisation is now committed to local and national aims, not international terrorism, and that the Taliban have – or can be moderated – via the tool of engagement. All of these approaches seem to share the view there is a disconnect between the west’s reaction to events in Afghanistan, and the reality. But is this really the case?  Pakistan’s national security adviser, Dr Moeed W Yusuf, has suggested the time has come to

China is the latest victim of Pakistan’s Islamist problem

Nine Chinese engineers were killed in an explosion near Pakistan’s Dasu hydroelectric dam last Wednesday. The government initially said that their bus suffered a ‘mechanical failure’ after it plunged into a ravine, but officials eventually admitted that the incident was a terror attack after Beijing decided to send its own investigators. China has now postponed work on the $65 billion (£47 billion) China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a network of roads and infrastructure projects. The programme represents Beijing’s largest overseas investment and is a critical part of its Belt and Road Initiative. While no one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack, the blast was orchestrated at a time when multiple militant groups

Hamas doesn’t want a Palestinian state

Do Hamas’s supporters in the West know what this organisation really stands for? The reality is that Hamas is no liberation movement in search of a Palestinian nation. Instead, it seeks the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic empire on its ruins. How do we know? Because senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar has said so: Islamic and traditional views reject the notion of establishing an independent Palestinian state… In the past, there was no independent Palestinian state… This is a holy land. It is not the property of the Palestinians or the Arabs. This land is the property of all Muslims in all parts of the world…

Germany’s growing extremism problem

On 2 June 2019, a German politician was found lying in a pool of blood outside his home in Hesse. He had been shot in the head at close range with a .38 Rossi revolver. Walter Lübcke, the 65-year-old leader of Kassel city council, who had been a vocal supporter of Germany’s immigration policy, had been assassinated by a German member of the British neo-Nazi group Combat 18. On Tuesday, his killer was sentenced to life in prison. Lübcke’s murder is the most extreme example of Germany’s increasingly alarming relationship with immigration, anti-Semitism, and fanatical politics. Last year Armin Laschet, the chancellor candidate for Lübcke’s CDU party, dispatched a veiled

Britain must investigate its Islamist ‘dawa’ networks

A few months ago, William Shawcross was asked by the government to lead an independent review into its anti-terrorism strategy, Prevent, and to ‘consider the UK’s strategy for protecting people vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism’. Ever since his appointment was announced, Shawcross has been attacked by an array of activists who want to minimise any scrutiny of Islamist organisations. The campaign against him has been vicious but it has also been deeply instructive. The opposition has been so intense that it has led some to believe that the UK Muslim ‘community’ is outraged by the independent review. There is a significant difference, however, between Muslims and Islamists. Shawcross is

What the demise of Quilliam teaches us about Britain and Islam

There was much rejoicing among Britain’s Islamists last week when the thinktank and campaigning organisation Quilliam announced that it was closing. The Islamists were pleased because for the 14 years since its founding Quilliam has been the most prominent Muslim-run organisation arguing for a progressive, non-Islamist Islam. The exact reasons why Quilliam has shut down are not clear. The co-founder, Maajid Nawaz, has blamed the difficulties of sustaining a non-profit in the era of Covid. Perhaps it is that, or perhaps it is something else. The group never had an easy ride. But the fact that it didn’t, and that so many prominent British Muslims are celebrating its demise, points

The twisted logic of Shamima Begum’s defenders

Shamima Begum is back in the news. Firstly because she’s had a makeover. She can be seen on the front page of today’s Telegraph sporting long, flowing locks, trendy shades and Western clothing. Is Shamima the Islamist now aspiring to be Shamima the celeb? Perhaps she’s angling for her own reality TV show: The Real Housewives of Raqqa. But the second reason she’s in the news is because the British-Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor has expressed sympathy for her. He says she’s a victim of British racism. I really wish Sir Anish would stick to what he’s (very) good at — public art installations — and leave the Shamima business alone.

When will Pakistan take a stand against terror?

Last week, Pakistan’s Supreme Court ordered the release of UK born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was accused of kidnapping and beheading the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. The verdict came after Sindh High Court overturned the death penalty for Sheikh and three alleged abettors last year, ruling that there was insufficient evidence to find them guilty of murder and stating that they had served their sentence for their role in the kidnapping. The decision has outraged Washington, with Joe Biden’s new State Department chief Antony Blinken dubbing it an ‘affront to terrorism victims everywhere’ and announcing his readiness to prosecute Sheikh in the US. As the Pearl family prepares to appeal

Are we witnessing the birth of an African Islamic State?

On Monday, 13 soldiers were killed by the Islamic State in northeastern Nigeria. A week ago, just after midnight on Friday morning, a Boko Haram suicide bomber blew up 14 villagers in northern Cameroon. These attacks — passing us by, as they do, in a stream of news and information — are becoming increasingly common in the beleaguered states of West Africa.  At the end of last year, Islamists kidnapped 344 schoolboys in an apparent ransom attempt. While the raid saw a continuation of Boko Haram’s strategy (in 2014 the group kidnapped 276 schoolgirls, to global condemnation) it marked a change in the terror group’s ambitions. Previously the group had confined itself mainly

The problem with deradicalisation

Is it possible to ‘deradicalise’ terrorists? Jonathan Hall QC, the government’s terror watchdog, doesn’t think so. He may have a point, but it’s complicated. One of the institutional problems we have is a sort of misplaced arrogance based, in part, on the historic experience of counter-insurgency against violent Irish republicans. Until quite recently, the Ministry of Justice press office referred to our prison deradicalisation processes as ‘world-class.’ Hall himself only recently began looking at our distinctly Heath-Robinson terrorist risk management ‘system’ after London Bridge killer Usman Khan ran rings around it. Having enumerated its many obvious defects, he bizarrely concluded it was pretty much fit for purpose. The IRA were enthusiastic human rights violators — but not even