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Don't LET Up

The transatlantic air plot and the problem of British Islam.

3:15 PM, Aug 10, 2006 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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BRITISH AUTHORITIES have been slow to acknowledge openly the Pakistani-Muslim background of the suspects arrested in the mass terror conspiracy that brought chaos to British and American airports Thursday. At first, official sources in the United Kingdom would confirm only that they were working with "the South Asian community" on the case; then it was disclosed that the Pakistani government was involved in the investigation.

This reticence in naming the focus of so significant a terrorism inquiry is a symptom of the larger problems of Islam in Britain, and of "Euro-Islam" more generally. Put plainly, Pakistani Sunnis in Britain--more than a million strong--are the most radical Muslims in Europe. British Islam is dominated by Pakistan-born clerics. It is saturated with extremist preaching, media, and charity efforts which support the recruitment of terrorists.

News from Pakistan itself indicates the main trail from there to Heathrow. British and Pakistani sources linked the plan to the Pakistani government's house arrest of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, founder of the armed paramilitary movement Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET, or Army of the Righteous). LET, which is designated a terrorist organization by the State Department, is an ally of al Qaeda and is present wherever Pakistani Sunnis congregate and violence is hatched.

In America, LET was behind the Northern Virginia jihad network, whose members were jailed beginning in 2003 and sentenced to varying federal prison terms for terrorism-related acts. LET was also accused in the Bombay train bombings in India last month. It has significant resources in Pakistan, Britain, and elsewhere.

Yet notwithstanding the courage of Tony Blair, the British government appears paralyzed in dealing with this radical influence over British-Asian Muslims. Instead of confronting Pakistani-born extremist imams on British territory, the Brits organized a roadshow in their Muslim communities under the rubric of "the radical middle way"--an extraordinarily inept promotional conceit--in which young Muslims are called to renounce extremism.

The British and other media are referring to the arrested suspects in the airline conspiracy--as they did when bombs exploded in the London Underground last year--as "homegrown." If history is any guide, politicians will soon wring their hands and ask why people brought up in the West turned so violently against it. Leftists and isolationists will blame the war against terror for terror.

But the force that drives mosque congregants and their children to build bombs in Britain does not originate in social conditions experienced by Muslims in Europe. Rather, it represents a doctrine brought from the Arab world, via Pakistan and well-funded groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, to communities from Birmingham, England, to Fairfax, Virginia.

Britain must take off the blinders of political correctness when examining Islam in its Pakistani population and should insist on British training for Muslim clerics officiating on its soil.

Otherwise, London's 7/7 bombs and the latest transatlantic travel conspiracy could mark the emergence of Britain as the main theater of jihadist violence in Western Europe.

Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.