Alphen, Netherlands. 27 February. The purpose of this blog is hard analysis. That means I must regularly foray into areas of policy and consequence that Establishments would prefer remained cloaked in official secrecy, often to hide the mess politicians have made. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the relationship between immigration, societal cohesion and security. For too long the British Government has stuck its head in the sand and pretended that no such relationship exists. Indeed, I witnessed myself the bizarre spectacle of British troops fighting in Afghanistan to keep Islamism at ‘strategic distance’, even as an 80% surge took place in immigration to Britain over the same 2001-2014 period from some of the most conservative parts of the Islamic world. This disconnect between immigration policy and security policy has led to a profound loss of balance in British policy and strategy, most notably in the balance of investments made in to protect society and project British influence and power. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Armed Forces have been starved of resources to fund the domestic intelligence and counter-terrorism efforts. The result is the most unbalanced British foreign and security policy ever, and an accelerated and exaggerated British retreat from influence. Three events this week highlight the extent to which immigration ‘policy’ is in various ways distorting British security policy – the unmasking of ‘Jihadi John’, the latest immigration figures, and a poll of British Muslims.
The revelation that so-called Jihadi John is in fact a British Muslim called Mohammed Emwazi highlights the dark side of immigration. Born in Kuwait in 1988 he came to Britain aged six and seems to have been radicalised by an Islamist group in West London. His profile is similar to that of a lot of British jihadis, a first-generation immigrant from a difficult region who seems to have had difficulty identifying with the norms and values of British liberal society. Such immigrants in many ways import the challenges of their home region into their adopted country, as evidenced by the worrying growth in anti-Semitism in Britain, which the left-leaning BBC, for example, refuses to identify as a problem that is almost overwhelmingly associated with British Muslims.
The second ‘event’ is the release of the latest immigration figures for the year up to February 2015. Net migration last year was 289,000, the highest figure for over a decade. Indeed, some 654,000 people moved to Britain from both within the EU, and from without the EU over the last year. In other words, a city the size of Manchester came to the UK over the past year. Now, the massive bulk of that immigration is a good thing as many are students and most come to take up jobs. Indeed, 62% of all immigrants to London have a degree, and given that Britain is Europe’s most globalised economy such immigration is vital for the economy.
However, such mass-immigration also has profound security implications which government must confront and too often does not. Rather, the political class seems to have given up on the need for secure immigration. Last night on the BBC senior figures from the three leading political parties all shifted from the need to ensure secure immigration to espousing the benefits of mass-immigration come –who-may. This political shift away from secure immigration is evident in the current election campaign, which is perhaps the strangest on record. Indeed, whilst the public want to talk about immigration mainstream politicians do not and in alliance with liberal media have in effect shut the debate down. The man who currently runs Britain, Cameron’s Australian campaign manager Lynton Crosby, even forbade any senior Conservative from yesterday defending what is by any standards an appalling failure of government policy. Yes, immigration certainly helps the British economy grow, but the greatest threat to British security, and indeed societal cohesion, is also a function of mass immigration.
However, a third event this week put the whole issue of immigration, society and security in perspective. A poll of 1000 British Muslims conducted by ComRes found that 95% of British Muslims polled felt loyalty to Britain, something I have seen first-hand when dealing with British Muslim Servicemen. And, 93% of British Muslims polled believe Muslims should obey British laws. These figures really challenge those in society who believe the problem is Islam per se.
However, 46% believed Muslims were prejudiced against in Britain, and 78% were offended by published images of the Prophet (which is why out of respect I refused to re-tweet such an image in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks). Moreover, 11% of those polled felt sympathy for those who want to fight against Western interests, 32% were not surprised by the Paris attacks, whilst 27% had some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris attacks, and 20% believed Islam and Western liberal society would never be compatible.
The number of Muslims living in Britain is some 3 million and growing. Therefore, in February 2015 some 330,000 British Muslims felt some sympathy for those who want to fight against Western interests, 960,000 were not surprised by the Paris attacks, 600,000 believe Islam would never be compatible with Western liberal society, and 810,000 British Muslims felt some sympathy for the Paris attacks. By any standards this is a significant cohort of society that is in some way fundamentally at odds with the rest of society. Indeed, if one assumes (for the sake of argument) that, of those 330,000 who felt some sympathy with the Paris attacks, 5% are actively engaged in promoting extremism some 16500 British people are actively plotting to attack fellow Britons and the British state.
What are the policy implications? First, there is no point in nostalgia. Like many Britons I am horrified that politicians have allowed this situation to develop. However, the focus must now be on long-term policies that promote integration, instead of the disastrous multiculturalism which simply generated mutually-uncomprehending ghettos. Second, respect and tolerance are vital weapons in this struggle. Respect must be shown to Islam, which is now an integral part of British society, and tolerance shown to all those British Muslims who practice their faith within the framework of British laws. Third, all forms of fundamentalism must be rooted out and exposed, as must the racism and hatred it seems to generate in a not-inconsiderable-part of the non-Muslim community. Fourth, government needs to get its own house in order. Too often politically-correct junior officials have thwarted attempts to block extremists and their efforts to radicalise young, vulnerable people. For example, none of the sixteen recommendations made by a leading counter-terror expert to combat extremism in Birmingham schools has been implemented. Fifth, counter-terrorism must not de-stabilise British foreign and security policy. Britain can only exert its rightful influence as the world’s fifth largest economy and fifth most powerful defence actor across the strategic landscape with balanced policy, strategy and structure, and that is clearly not the case today. Finally, British politicians must once-and-for-all confront the relationship that clearly exists between immigration policy and security policy and not simply run away from it as being politically inconvenient, and/or too difficult.
Yes, Britain will and must change, but if such change is dangerous and goes unchecked sooner or later it will tear the country apart. Therefore, it is vital that those who come to live in Britain share at least the core values of a Western liberal democracy. Those that do not must not come, and ensuring that is an issue of sound government policy and practice. The alternative is a British society that becomes a dangerous incubator of terror, led by wishful-thinking politicians, which is a threat not just to itself, but to others. The British people, non-Muslim and Muslim, have a right to expect more than that from their leaders.