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Terrorist test

A July 2, 2007 editorial of Malaysia's New Straits Times newspaper

The two thwarted car bomb plots in central London and the Jeep which crashed and burst into flames at Glasgow airport may or may not have been deliberately timed to provide a baptism of fire to the premiership of Gordon Brown.

Given the fact that the United Kingdom has been a target of terrorist strikes since Sept 11- as evidenced by the numerous security alerts, foiled plots, detentions of a host of suspects, and the July 7 suicide bombing – there was always a possibility that another attack could take place at any time.

But occurring as they did in his first 72 hours as prime minister, the latest terror strikes represented an early test of Brown’s mettle as the country’s new leader.

Much has been made of his sober response to what his Home Secretary Jacqui Smith described as “the most serious and sustained threat�.

But it is too soon to think that Brown will be any less tough on terror or any more likely to address the underlying causes of terrorism.

To continue to assert, as Blair has done, that the Islamists’ “sense of grievance isn’t justified� because “nobody is oppressing� them, or that terrorism has nothing to do with British foreign policy and its uncritical support for America’s “ war on terror� would be a serious miscalculation.

As the recent Pew Research Centre Global Attitudes Survey continues to reveal, it is the strong opposition to the substance and manner of American foreign policy that brings together Muslims of different persuasions.

Failure to address the perception that Britain is complicit with the United States in threatening the well-being, identity and values of Muslims will serve to spawn more anti-Western sentiment and further radicalize British Muslims.

As long as Britain is involved in direct military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it would be virtually impossible to eliminate the security threats.

Foreign policy is, of course, not the only factor for Islamist terrorism and neither have muslims been responsible for all the terrorist acts over the years, as London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone has reminded Britons.

Yet while muslims are “more likely to be law-abiding� and “less likely to support the use of violence to achieve political ends�, as Livingstone pointed out, they are the ones most likely to be arrested on suspicion of terrorism.

Despite the appointment of the first Muslim ministers, it remains to be seen whether Brown will be able to address the fears of the British muslim community that they are being demonized and marginalized.