Westminster palace

This is a difficult piece to write for it takes me into very troubled waters. And yet it is the duty of the analyst to sail such waters. I am ashamed. Wikileaks confirmed yesterday that my country was the strongest recruiting ground for Al Qaeda outside the Middle East. Britain is also the main source of funding for the Taliban. No wonder French Intelligence call my country’s capital – Londonistan. How has this been allowed to happen and what must be done about it?

I am also angry. I am angry that over the past decade we have sent thousands of British troops to the foothills of the Hindu Kush to keep Islamism at ‘strategic distance’ and yet at the same time radical Imams have been allowed into Britain behind the backs of our soldiers to radicalise Muslim youth – both British and immigrant. It is self-evident that there has been a profound disconnect between security policy and immigration and asylum policy that is verging on the insane. As a result Britain has been simultaneously fighting and appeasing Al Qaeda.

One only has to visit official Britain to understand how this happens. Shot through with political correctness, poorly led by politicians too weak and lame to deal with this reality, with complacent security services and a Human Rights Act that seemingly places the well-being of aggressive minorities above the well-being of law-abiding majorities such contradictions have been allowed to flourish. The result; this refusal to face facts has left Britain today a far more divided and insecure place than it was in 2001. It is an insecurity that is now threatening key allies – such as the United States and France.

It would be easy for me to blame the Labour Government that ‘served’ for some thirteen years but these failings go back a long time. Indeed, one of the profound ironies of the past years has been the implicit alliance between right-wing businessmen in search of cheap labour and left-wing ideologues in search of a ‘new’ Britain. Dissent over policy has been suppressed by accusations of racism with the result that only the lunatic right have ventured into this dangerous swamp. The result; the mainstream has been forced to look the other way as cities have deteriorated into ethnic ghettoes and the white middle class has fled to the hills.

Former Labour Home Secretary (Interior Minister) David Blunkett said last night that he was still not sure that official Britain really understands the nature of the threat posed by Al Qaeda in Britain – either to the British people or partners. He should know. Look at the provenance of the various shoe-bombers, look at the 7/7 bombing of London.

Government is beginning to take this threat seriously but riven by ideological divisions between Conservative and Liberal Democrats it is too little, too late. Indeed, too often ‘action’ has meant simply trying to mask the nature of the threat from the British people for the sake of virtually non-existent ‘social cohesion’.

So, what is to be done? First, the debate over the security impact of mass immigration and asylum must be confronted. To that end, the debate must be taken back from the far right and much greater efforts made to properly understand how so-called ‘preachers of hate’, such as Abu Hamsa and Abu Qatada, exploit vulnerable members of British society.

Second, the Human Rights Act must be urgently reviewed. The HRA has been used time and again by extremists and criminals in a way that was never envisaged. It is now nigh on impossible to deport such people once they are in Britain with the result that my country is too often a safe haven for enemies of our very existence. The Government promised a new British Bill of Rights and then kicked it into the long grass of a commission. Another bullet dodged.

Third, properly confront the failings of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is lazy government. As I have seen in my own home town Sheffield, communities live parallel lives with completely separate belief systems. Ten years on from the race riots in Lancashire little progress has been made to break down barriers and this has only served to deepen the pools of hopelessness and despair that Al Qaeda exploits. Over the same period large numbers of immigrants have arrived from the Punjab and Bangladesh which some of the poorest and most conservative regions in south Asia. Any yet very little has been done to integrate them into what must be a bewildering Western society. It goes without saying that the vast majority are decent people, seeking a better life. As an immigrant myself I know how difficult life can be and I life in an advanced Western society. However, pretending that the importation of large numbers of people from such places at a time of radical unrest has no impact on security is precisely the kind of delusional behaviour that has brought Britain to this sorry place. Prime Minister Cameron promised action. He often promises action – before elections.

Fourth, we have the society we have and we must make it work better. Discrimination is rife in Britain. Large numbers of second and third generation Britons are routinely discriminated against and not accorded the respect that is their due. I do not believe that diversity is strength, but I do believe that if one invests in people they can feel comfortable with a whole range of identities. Respect people and they respond. That is the future. To that end, Government must seek real partnership with communities to de-radicalise youth with a much more systematic approach than was offered to the PREVENT programme. The great institutions of state have a critical role to play in this regard. At the same time, the Government must take much firmer steps (and openly so) to insist that institutions vulnerable to extremist infiltration act, such as terminally politically correct British universities.

Finally, aggressively educate society as to the essential contribution of Muslims to Britain. The massive majority of British Muslims want what is best for Britain. That is why they or their forebears came to Britain. The current climate of fear and mistrust at community level simply starves decent people of the chance to communicate across communities. Mosques are unfairly and routinely seen by the rest of the population as recruiting grounds for terrorists. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For too long the British have lectured others on how to deal with the challenges posed by radical Islam and yet at home have hoped the problem would simply disappear. By engaging Islamism abroad but doing far too little at home Britain has become a threat to itself and to others. This is all the more galling as successive British leaders have told a disbelieving British public that Britain is an example to the world, as others have laughed at us.

Professor Julian Lindley-French is a member of the Strategic Advisor’s Group of the Atlantic Council, Special Professor of Strategic Studies, University of Leiden, Netherlands and Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French’s Blog Blast.