The British Connections
By Dr Shireen M Mazari

As Britain finally buckles down to implement some strong anti-terrorist measures to counter its homegrown brand of Muslim extremists and its tradition of giving shelter to wanted criminals and extremists from other parts of the world, we find a British connection in another controversial international debate today -- that of non-proliferation.
While it had been known in some quarters that Britain had aided Israel's early nuclear weapons development, this has now been confirmed through official British government documents. Britain exported 20 tons of heavy water for around 1.5 million pounds sterling, in 1958, for the production of plutonium at the Dimona reactor. The heavy water itself was of Norwegian origin, purchased by Britain in 1956, and so the deal officially was shown as a deal between Norway and Israel. It is certainly interesting to see two European states, so belligerent over Dr A. Q. Khan's role in proliferation, themselves guilty of the same crime at the official level of the state itself. Certainly an irony given how the Norwegians have sent so many parliamentary delegations to Islamabad to learn more about the Khan proliferation issue and chide us on it! Given this European expertise in clandestine proliferation, it is no wonder the IAEA chief declared in 2004 that Dr Khan was the "tip of the iceberg" in the global proliferation network with the rest of the iceberg floating in Western Europe.
Coming back to the anti-terrorist measures taken up by Britain, certain troubling questions come to mind because it appears as if the measures only target Muslim extremists. Given Britain's past experience with terrorism on its shores in the form of the IRA, it should surely be less blinkered in its targeting. For instance, among the measures the British government is taking is one which will create new grounds for excluding and deporting people from Britain and these will include "fostering hatred, advocating violence to further one's beliefs or justifying or validating such violence." We know that alleged extremist Muslims are going to be targets of this decree but will this law also cover secular politicians, living in Britain under the right of political asylum, indulging in such hatred and preaching of violence in their home countries? Will it include people who provide funds for extremist organizations abroad including fundamentalist organizations who conduct violent acts against Palestinians and Muslims?
Then there are measures that will strip people of their British nationality if they act against British interests. But what if these people happen to be British born and bred -- and not of immigrant stock either? After all, there are white fascist groups indulging in violence and spreading an evil message of hatred and intolerance in Britain -- or are they kosher and in line with British interests?
Then there are measures to deal with websites, bookshops and centers that preach violence and hatred. Again, will this only target Muslim sites and bookshops or will all extremist sites be targeted without prejudice. There are numerous sites that spew hatred as well as other fascist sites, such as,,,,,, -- to name just a few of the many that spew hatred and incite to violence against Muslims. Will the British government deal with these websites also? If it is truly intent on its commitment, it should seek the list of anti-Muslim hate-spewing websites from a French anti-racist group, Mouvement contre le racisme et pout l'amitie entre les peoples (MRAP).
And what about authors who spew the message of hate against Islam and other religions and ideologies? After all, such messages themselves lead to a violent reaction and as the British government has explained, any message that can lead to violence will be targeted also. So where would authors like Rushdie and Naipul be then? Where would the British draw the line between literary freedom and a threat of engendering violence and hatred?
If one examines these issues one realizes only too clearly that the British measures are Muslim-specific and this has been reflected in the decision to expel 500 radical Muslims including not just preachers but also Islamic bookshop owners, teachers and writers. What is disturbing is that Britain will arbitrarily decide to strip the British citizens of their nationality and return them to the country of their origin -- thrusting the problem on to a third party that was certainly not responsible for the evolving extremist mindset of these British citizens. And what of those born in Britain itself? Cleary what the British are seeking to do is to shift the problem, arising primarily from British political issues like Iraq, on to a third party -- a Muslim state. This is indeed ironic given that many of these Britishers of foreign birth were given refuge in Britain against the wishes of their country of origin in the first place. Having fed their extremism on the lush British soil, they are to be sent to their "countries of origin". Truly an absurdity!
Of course, the British will force Muslim states to accept the extradition treaties but they are being naive to think that they can simply ship away their extremist or terrorist problems by these means. Like the rest of us, they have to accept a certain responsibility and deal with the root causes of terrorism while applying their laws without prejudice and bias to all their citizens and foreign visitors alike. While the British forces were in Northern Ireland, it was IRA terrorism that haunted Britain and now with Iraq it is Muslim obscurantists conducting acts of terror.
Furthermore, over a period of time, the British have deliberately chosen to give succor to those funding terrorism or extremists escaping from their home countries -- be it the Tamil tigers, or politicians from many developing countries who have used their British base to push their supporters to violence and terror at home. And now when the chickens have come home to roost, they want to simply ship all these well-nourished terrorists and extremists back to their "country of origin".
Clearly, while the international community battles with conventions and laws relating to terrorism, it also needs to deal with this increasingly controversial issue of "country of origin". How long does the "country of origin" bear responsibility for individuals who have left to set up a life abroad and have acquired a new nationality? These are people who are either living on the largesse of their new country of residence -- provided for by that state of its own will -- or are tax-paying members of that civil society. Surely the responsibility for these people's actions also lies primarily with the country of residence or new nationality?
Finally, it is indeed an irony that Britain and Pakistan have found so much in common beyond their colonial links. But the manner in which they are dealing with their common problems is very different and reflects the differing mindsets. For instance, while Pakistan has accepted that it has a homegrown terrorist problem and is seeking to move in ways to deny space to such people; Britain is attempting to wash its hands off the problem by trying to cast it in a "country of origin" mode -- despite its earlier experience with Irish terrorism which also led to many innocent deaths in bombings in British cities like London. On proliferation also, in true colonial spirit, the British state has shown no regret for its actions; Pakistan has chosen to punish those of its citizens guilty of proliferation.
(The writer is Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.