Extremists have no intention of changing their opinion of us

Those who have chosen to side with IS will smear opponents whatever we do.

Those who have chosen to side with IS will smear opponents whatever we do

As MPs returned to Parliament last week to overwhelmingly approve escalating British involvement in the US-led campaign against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria, a predictable backlash has emerged. Blaming the West for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, this narrative urges against intervention, maintaining it will exacerbate violence and alienate the UK’s Muslim population – furthering fears of a Western ‘War on Islam’.

The Stop the War Coalition has led this charge with claims that “western military action of any kind only serves to kill innocents, destroy infrastructure and inflame violence”.

It has been joined by those on the more extreme end of the spectrum who declare the West’s actions are responsible for blood spilled on our streets by terrorists, and issue what amount to veiled threats that any intervention will lead to further attacks.

Putting aside the victim-blaming inherent in these excuses – which echo the domestic abusers’ protestations that his partner ‘asked for it – it is surely comforting to imagine that by standing aside the UK can ensure its actions do not fuel resentment, and that this will see a decline in the threat it faces.

The problem is though that the appeasement of Islamist violence inherent to this position fails to appreciate that these extremists have no intention of changing their opinion of us, and will seek to frame any action by the West as evidence of its hatred for Muslims.

This duplicity can be seen in the charges which have already emerged from the West’s inaction in Syria, which include wild conspiracies alleging that IS is a creation of the CIA designed to undermine Islam, and the arguments that the West has always opposed the Syrian revolution – and is now colluding with the Assad regime to crush the rebels for their dedication to Islam.

The desire to undermine the West has also already been demonstrated following the first US-led strikes inside Syria. An influential Facebook page called ‘Live Updates from Syria’ – run by British extremists based near Aleppo – has shared a picture of two dead children with the message claiming they had been killed by the “US and Arab coalition”.

The usual outrage ensued. Shared over 200 times on Facebook, the pictures drew comments from users chastising the pilots and their controllers as “murdering scum” who were “worse than animal[s]” and “equal as Bashar”.

There was one catch. The picture did not show children killed by the US or its Arab allies at all but instead was the heart-breaking aftermath of a barrel bomb attack by Syrian forces in March. Reminiscent of reports in July which found images of dead and wounded children from Syria being shared on Twitter using the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack, this highlights how extremists manipulate the truth in order to incite hatred and resentment against the West.

Meanwhile, as this material is being shared online, evidence that British nationals fighting in Syria have been killed in new strikes, as well as existing threats to target the UK, emphasise the extent to which this country’s radicals are already present in Syria.

When combined with figures suggesting up to 3,000 European foreign fighters have travelled to the country this highlights the sheer numbers that have been radicalised as much by the West’s inaction as by its potential military operations.

To suggest that Western air attacks will not kill civilians would be foolish, and it is clear that should the RAF begin targeting IS there will be attempts to whip up anger amongst British Muslims.

However, the evidence of the past few years, as well as the past few days, shows that those who have already chosen a side in this fight will smear opponents as ‘crusaders’ targeting Islam regardless of their actions – and we should therefore keep this in mind before allowing the feelings of extremists to dictate our policies.

Elsewhere on Left Foot Forward

5 questions every supporter of intervention should ask

Syrian air strikes: Bashar al Assad is not the ‘lesser evil’, but a major part of the problem

Commons vote on ISIS: let’s clarify things

Killing people rarely kills their ideas

Taking on ISIS: doing something is a high risk strategy. Doing nothing is disastrous

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

10 Responses to “Extremists have no intention of changing their opinion of us”

  1. John

    Ok that baby was fake but there will be real babies being killed soon. And they will be useful propaganda for ISIS (as well as a tragedy in their own right.
    Yes there’ll be a hardcore that hate the West whatever we do but most are influenced by Western attacks on Muslim countries (Iraq, Israel, drones etc.).

  2. Bradley Allsop

    I feel betrayed by this title- nowhere is anything even approaching proof or even logical reasoning employed to support the claim in the headline.

  3. Al

    Left Foot Forward should cut its ties with the illiberal Henry Jackson Society.

  4. WORLDbytes


    Interesting post! I would love to know what you and your readers think about some new videos created by UK CitizenTV channel WORLDbytes. Focusing on ISIS and Western-intervention these videos include discussions, interviews and Vox Pops on the streets of London where volunteers ask the public to air their views and find a different
    perspective from mainstream media.

    Please feel free to comment, embed, share, copy and pass on them on to anyone
    else you think may be interested.

    Don’t Shout at the Telly: Gaza, Israel, ISIS & Ukraine

    View on the streets: Why have young Brits joined ISIS killers?


    Best wishes,
    WORLDbytes Team

  5. Donald Carthlan

    If the UK is serious about combating Islamic extremism they they will have to cut the head off the snake and tackle states that support terrorism including Kuwait, UAE and especially Saudi Arabia. All of these states are our “allies” despite being up to their necks in funding, enabling and even supporting Islamic terrorism.

    This article explains it very well here http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/31/combat-terror-end-support-saudi-arabia-dictatorships-fundamentalism

  6. Dave Roberts

    Good article and it’s about time time the Trots were confronted. From Chomsky to Naomi Klein through Seamus Milne we have had enough of the guilt tripped Guardianista white liberals. Bomb them back into the stone age and get boots on the ground.

  7. Guest

    Magical Trots!

    And of course you want to bomb British cities and send thugs to root out the non-idenolgically pure. Thanks for revealing your plans, Dave, to murder so many British people for reading the “wrong” newspaper!

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    No, they won’t. Domestic extremists, either. Funny how they are rarely discussed.

  9. Paul J

    Oh, right, they’re still hanging out with THAT lot, are they?

    This explains a lot. The retarded editorials about Syria, the delusional attitudes towards the ” moderate” (yeah, right) rebels, the insane idea that you can fight ISIS and Assad at the same time, the complete unwillingness to reflect on the idiotic policy you’ve been pressing for thus far.

    Look out for Leon W posting in his own name and as “guest” on this thread BTW.

  10. IftikharA

    The British establishment is wrong in thinking that Imams are to blame for extremism. Imams are not solution to the problem for extremism. Extremism is nothing to do with Imams. Extremism is not created from abroad, it is coming from within. Britain fails to help Muslim communities feel part of British society. Race trouble is being predicted by the
    Daily Express, because of an ethnic boom in UK major cities. Muslim communities
    need imams for the solutions of their needs and demands in their own native
    languages. Muslim parents would like to see their children well versed in
    Standard English and to go for higher studies and research to serve humanity.
    The fact is that majority of Muslim children leave schools with low grades
    because monolingual teachers are not capable to teach Standard English to
    bilingual Muslim children. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village.
    He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit.

    Terrorism and sexual grooming is nothing to do with Masajid, Imams and Muslim schools. Those Muslim youths who have been involved in terrorism and sexual grooming are the
    product of western education system which makes a man stupid, selfish and
    corrupt. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage, literature and poetry. They suffer from identity crises and I blame British schooling.

    Only less than 10% of Muslim children go to Muslim schools and over 90% go to state schools to be mis-educated AND DE-EDUCATED BY STATE SCHOOLS WITH NON-Muslim TEACHERS. All those Muslim youths who are in Syria and Iraq, are the product of state schools where they could not develop their linguistic, cultural Identities. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage and are unable to enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. It is an educational issue. It is nothing to do with integration or

    The shocking level of targeting of the Muslim community of Birmingham is indicative of the normalisation of the dehumanisation of the Muslims of Britain. Under the pretext of “extremism”, criminal undemocratic and unethical abuse of public institutions and the Muslims of the UK can occur without much accountability. This pervasive attitude,
    especially amongst officials like Michael Gove needs to change. Our schools are
    truly trying to develop our children to do well at schools so later in life they are able to stand on their own two feet, but if we stop our schools from doing this than our country will have up rise of unemployment, benefit issues, crime levels high, I think its time for you apologize and allow practitioners to do their job right.

    Muslim children not only need halal meat or Eid Holidays but they need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their development period also. There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This means the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out
    balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to
    criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who
    they are and an understanding of Islamic teaching of tolerance and respect which
    prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are
    attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching
    Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual
    Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their
    developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands. There is no place
    for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school. Legally, the state has
    an obligation to respect the rights of parents to ensure that ‘education and
    teaching(of their children) is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.’ The schools must satisfy the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural needs of Muslim pupils. State schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers are not in a position to satisfy their needs. A good school is not just a knowledge factory or a conveyor belt for churning out exam passes – it is a community, a family. A community is held together by common values and principles.

Leave a Reply