Analysis and Future Outlook of Terrorist Attacks in Britain

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


Hossein Kebriaeizadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

The occurrence of terrorist attacks attributed to Islamists seems to be currently order of the day in Europe, in particular, and across the Western world, in general. During the past three years, there were few times when the frequency of terrorist attacks planned and carried out in Europe could match their current rate.

The question is: what factors, apart from political and media factors, have helped such an ominous phenomenon become so widespread and prevalent? What are social grounds for terrorist attacks in Europe, especially Britain, which is the subject matter of this paper? What grounds and potentialities are there in Europe, which have facilitated such terrorist attacks despite high security index across the continent?

Following terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001, global consensus was forged against this phenomenon. After emergence of that consensus, which met the interests of the hegemonic powers, a set of political, social, media and cultural steps were taken in the West, especially in Europe, which was in close neighborhood of the main hubs of terrorism. A manifestation of those steps was legal and political differentiation made between Muslim and non-Muslim European citizens, which directly led to a vicious circle of Islamophobia and increased frequency of terrorist attacks in the European societies.

By and by, following terror attacks in 2001, the aforesaid legal and political differentiation has been enforced in Britain at various levels from the government level all the way down to the public sphere, media environment, and quite recently, the cyberspace. The turning point for those approaches, which are collectively considered under the general title of Islamophobia, came about following terror attacks in London in July 2005.

Difficult conditions considered for employing Muslim citizens in the UK; discrimination in lawsuits; difficulties for obtaining British citizenship by Muslim immigrants; production of movies and stage plays whose main themes include insults to Muslims’ sanctities, their holy book, and the Prophet of Islam; violent treatment of veiled women in public spaces; and depriving Muslim citizens of certain citizenship rights were among major steps taken, which practically introduced British Muslims as the “other.” As a result of these conditions, various forms of social problems, ranging from civil and peaceful conflicts to violent and abnormal reactions by Muslims, emerged within the British society.

This comes as available figures show that the Muslim population is rapidly growing in Britain. In 1991, Muslims in Britain were less than one million, accounting for 1.9 percent of total population of the island nation. However, a decade later, the number of people forming the most important religious minority in the UK stood at 1,546,626, accounting for three percent of the country’s total population. A census conducted in 2011 showed that the number of Muslims in England and Wales had grown by about 75 percent, standing at 2,706,066 and accounting for 4.8 percent of the country’s population. At the present time and according to figures released in 2016, the population of Muslims has increased to three million, making up over 5.4 percent of the UK’s total population. More than half of them have been born outside Britain.If this trend continues, Muslims will account for 24 percent of Britain’s total population by 2050.

The presence of a Muslim minority in Britain, most of which is comprised of young people, can potentially pose many risks to the British society. This young population, which increasingly feels banished by the society, is similar to a powder keg, which can go off any minute as a result of violation of its citizenship rights.

In the meantime, conditioning of the British government and its increased sensitivity toward terrorist attacks without due attention to root causes and breeding grounds for violence has caused some anti-government currents to exploit this situation in the name of Islamist forces. As a result, increased violent measures taken by opponents of the Brexit, or violent measures taken by certain nationalistic groups, including secessionist ones, have been blamed on Islamists.

Under these dubious conditions where the banished and weak voice of Muslims is never heard, as the identity of this portion of the British citizens is increasingly introduced as the “other,” more people from the country’s young Muslim population turn into rebellious citizens. They do not consider themselves as British citizens anymore and take refuge in religion in search of their identity roots and, therefore, are easily approached by Islamist groups that are engaged in underground activities in this country.

On the other hand, since the beginning of the current century, the British society, along with the government, has been taking tougher positions on Muslims following financial crises and also due to consequences of the Brexit and under the influence of media outlets. As a result, the British people consider Islam and Muslims as the main parties to blame for unemployment, violence and social maladies in their country. This situation has played an important part in bolstering institutionalized Islamophobic processes and pushing them toward an overt war on Islam, which has turned the British society into a bipolar one and can even lead to intensification of the ideological war in the country. Evidence to the point is the unprecedented rise in negative positions adopted by various British parties on immigration to Britain by Muslims, increased number of such positions taken by the British politicians on Islam, and increased protests to construction of mosques in the country.

This comes as Britain has in its history the experience of being attacked by non-Muslim groups such as the Irish independent seeking groups. However, increased sensitivity of Britain’s intelligence services toward Muslims and subsequently, spillover of that sensitivity to general society, has had serious consequences the least of which has been unbridled spread of violence through the British society. This issue can play a major role in increasing differences and widening social fault lines in post-Brexit Britain.

The British government can overcome the dominant Islamophobic atmosphere and the general anti-Muslim environment through identification of breeding grounds for ideological violence and paying more attention to social and cultural approaches, thus preventing polarization of the British society. Lack of effective attention to this issue and insisting on recent wrong approaches taken by the government will only lead to uncontrollable spread of terrorist violence across the country, and may even cause Islamist groups and secessionist groups active in Britain to get closer together despite their different roots and different goals that they pursue.


*More by Hossein Kebriaeizadeh:
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*Photo Credit: Independent

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.


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