It shows Muslims how our laws are applied without fear or favour
I for one would shed no tears if Abu Qatada was put on a plane back to Jordan. But let us not use his victory at avoiding deportation — yet again — as another opportunity to flagellate ourselves. We should be proud that the rule of law prevails, that our courts are immune to the wishes of the Home Secretary. This is what makes our system so much greater than Abu Qatada’s totalitarian vision.
Before certain quarters start bemoaning how human rights law makes us less safe, let us remember what can happen when Islamists are repatriated to Arab countries. They often soon end up roaming free. Thanks to political upheavals and backroom deals, many al-Qaeda ideologues have been freed to preach a renewed Jihad against “the West”. In Egypt, the brother of Ayman Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, openly invokes jihad from his pulpit. In Lebanon Omar Bakri Muhammad, who for many years sheltered in Britain, incites his acolytes across Europe by video link.
We should not regard yesterday’s decision by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission as dismal; we should seize it as an opportunity to rubbish the propaganda of extremist recruiters. They target angry young Muslims by claiming that Britain always treats Muslims unfairly. The UK’s regrettable decision to allow the extradition of the Asperger’s sufferer Syed Talha Ahsan to the US — while blocking the extradition of Gary McKinnon because he has the same condition — allowed the recruiters to rekindle the falsehood that Britain is engaged in an anti-Muslim war. That a man far more dangerous than Talha Ahsan has been allowed to stay in this country shows how our laws are applied without fear or favour.
Europe’s leading extremist cleric himself seems to trust British justice. But by begging for fair play from UK and European courts, Abu Qatada cannot retain his credibility with his fellow travellers. These are fanatics who fight with their lives to destroy “man-made” law, so appealing to it for justice amounts to the very heresy they strive to wipe out. Wilder jihadists, such as Bakri, instructs his followers to acquiesce to sentences rather than demean themselves by using the language of Western rights. So here lies another chink in the jihadist armour; we should exploit these splits.
If we are to discredit extremist views among young Muslims, we should remember what Abu Qatada & Co know: that the narrative belongs to those who seize it. We must stop being defeatist and grab this opportunity to beat the jihadists.
Maajid Nawaz is Chairman of the Quilliam Foundation and author of Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening