Interviewer: I’m wondering about your take on the British-born Muslims leaving to wage Jihad abroad. Of course we should be concerned about what they’re going to do while they’re there, but how big of a concern is it for when they return?
Douglas Murray: Obviously it’s a real concern. I don’t think it’s being overhyped; to the contrary, I don’t think people realize how dangerous a thing this could be.
We’ve been quite lucky in recent years. I don’t say that lightly. A lot of people who’ve been involved in plots in this country have had the desire but not the capability. I’m thinking of the second set of attempted suicide bombings in July 2005, where the chemicals were mixed incorrectly so four additional bombs didn’t go off in the heart of London.
Or take, say, the Detroit airline bomber, Abdul Mutallab, who tried to ignite the device in his underwear which just ended up burning his genitals off. But you know, we were lucky that that didn’t go off, because if so we wouldn’t be laughing about the underwear bomber — we’d be mourning the thousands of people on the plane and on the ground in Detroit who were killed on Christmas Day.
So a lot of these people haven’t had the technical knowledge that the IRA did, say, at the end of their campaign in the 1980s.
But there is a real risk in Syria of jihadis going out and, aside from anything else, connecting with people who actually do have the technical know-how, who do have the expertise, and then coming back.
There are various reasons why it might not play out like that, though. For one, there is a large likelihood that nearly all of the people who go out will be killed. There are believable rumors that there are squads of executioners specifically roaming Syria and now Iraq in order to find foreign fighters and machine gun them immediately. Because they don’t want these foreign fighters and actually realize foreigners are part of the problem — that they come to do bloodthirsty things and boast about it then go home.
So a lot of these people won’t return, and I don’t shed a tear for any of them.
But I do think there’s a question which is worth pondering about why anyone would end up in that situation.
There’s some historical revisionism about it. There was an awful, lamentable George Monbiot column in The Guardian earlier this year, saying the jihadis that have gone out to Syria are no different from those who went out to fight Franco with international brigades in the 1930s. He even went on to say that British jihadis are the Laurie Lees and George Orwells of this generation.
But I’m fairly sure that after a few months of chopping off peoples’ heads and killing innocent Muslims in Syria and Iraq, these guys aren’t going to come back and write ‘Cider with Rosie.’ They won’t even write ‘Sparking Water with Rosie’s Dad.’
And I think that part of the problem is precisely saying that these jihadis are like that — getting history wrong and getting the present wrong — and giving them an additional boost.
Douglas Murray riffing in an interview last summer (these comments can be found 22 minutes in).
- Murray reflects on why terrorism works
- Murray laments the excuses we give terrorists
- Clive James asks what good is culture in the face of terror?