Britain’s Afghans/Securing Europe

Program 0203 January 15, 2002

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(This text has been professionally transcribed, however, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

LORD AHMED: I’ve had letters, nasty
letters from people who said that “Rather than seeing you in the House of Lords
we would like to see you in Tora Bora.”

KRISTIN
MCHUGH:

This week on Common Ground,
controversy over Great Britain’s response to September 11. And the changing
politics of European security.

ESTHER BRIMER: There are important members
of the NATO alliance which are not members of the European Union. The most
sensitive of these, of course, is Turkey.

KEITH PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who
shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. The
reaction to the September 11 attacks is more diverse beyond the shores of the
United States. Great Britain, for example, is a strong supporter of the US war
on terrorism. But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Prime Minister Tony
Blair.

PORTER: The British Parliament has
thrown out a clause in a proposed antiterrorism bill which would have made
incitement to religious hatred a crime. Britain’s Muslims called for the clause
since, as Common Ground’s Max
Easterman reports, some UK citizens have verbally and physically attacked
Muslims in that country.

[sounds of a busy café]

MAX EASTERMAN: I’m sitting in a café in
East London. With me is Shagufta Yaqub, who’s in her early twenties. Like many
third-generation Muslim women here in Britain, Shagufta is wearing traditional
dress, including the hijab, the head scarf. It’s a symbol of pride in being a
Muslim. But Shagufta, I gather it’s also something that’s brought you less than
welcome attention in the past few weeks.

SHAGUFTA
YAQUB:

There’s been some very negative incidents. I mean I was walking down the High
Street in Birmingham yesterday. I was with two other women and we were all
wearing head scarves, obviously visibly Muslim. And a man just said to us,
“Islam,” in a very bitter way. And that wouldn’t have happened before. Suddenly
Muslims have come to public consciousness in a way that we never had before.

HALEH AFSHAH: We have all been
categorized as “the enemy,” and categorized as terrorists. And we have all
found a need to say that we are not terrorists.

EASTERMAN: Haleh Afshah is Professor
of Middle East Politics at York University in northern England. She’s an
Iranian Muslim who’s lived in Britain for 25 years. And she recently
experienced a different but also very typical kind of attack.

HALEH AFSHAH: There was a meeting in
which I was speaking about how many of us Muslims were not guilty. I had a
young American man coming up to me and showing me a picture of his brother who
had died in the Towers, and tell me that my statement that the Muslims were not
guilty had been disrespectful to his brother. And that actually, really for me,
epitomizes the way that many of us have been “otherized” as the guilty parties
who deserve to be killed because we really are the enemy.

EASTERMAN: The frequency of incidents
like these since September the 11th has convinced many Muslims and the Home
Secretary—that’s the Secretary for the Interior—that Britain needed to outlaw
attacks on religion in the same way as attacks on ethnic origin. But a majority
in the House of Lords, the upper House of Parliament, threw out that clause
from a new antiterrorism bill. They said it would infringe freedom of speech.
That’s an argument that doesn’t impress Britain’s first Muslim peer, Lord
Achmed.

LORD AHMED: Since 11th of September
attacks on Muslim communities have gone up at least 75 percent. For instance,
I’ve had letters, nasty letters from people who said that “Rather than seeing
you in the House of Lords we would like to see you in Tora Bora.” And in
Northern Ireland, we have religious discrimination laws and everybody’s
protected. On mainland Britain Jewish and Sikh communities are protected under
law. But the Muslims are not. And what we are really saying is that we don’t
want to become second class citizens; we want equality.

EASTERMAN: Britain’s Home Secretary,
David Blunkett, has disappointed many Muslims. Although he’s in favor of
banning incitement to religious hatred, he’s also said that ethnic minorities
should assimilate more and give up practices like forced marriages which are
not British. Many Muslims now feel that this ambivalence is helping to stoke up
anti-Muslim sentiment. And according to Professor Haleh Afshah, the far-right
British National Party, the BNP, has capitalized on Mr. Blunket’s remarks.

HALEH AFSHAH: The British National Party
is absolutely feeding on that. It’s a very, very obvious policy change, arguing
that of all the “baddies,” the Muslims, are the worst.

EASTERMAN: So they’re worse than the
Jews now?

HALEH AFSHAH: They’re worse than
everybody.

[sound of a phone dialing, followed by the sound of
a modem connection, and then a keyboard clicking]

EASTERMAN: If you visit the BNP Web
site—here it is now—you’ll see their campaign against Islam—a minaret with a
flashing red “No Entry” symbol on it. And a link here takes you over to a score
of different articles: “What if Islam Ruled Britain?”, “No to Islam,” “Islam:
The Bloody Track Record.” Professor Haleh Afshah says it’s now OK to attack
Islam—it’s open season.

HALEH AFSHAH: It has become acceptable to
be anti-Moslem. And it has become a sign of nationalism and almost heroic.
People who might have at one time hesitated about their feelings or about
admitting to Islamaphobia, now almost wear it as a badge of honor.

[people talking at a café]

EASTERMAN: All this has happened at a
time when many young Muslims like Shagufta Yaqub have been rediscovering their
sense of identity through Islam, and also when they and many others have been
showing less and less trust in the political system which they say doesn’t
include them on its agenda. Miss Yaqub, who’s the Editor of Q News, the Muslim monthly magazine,
recently commissioned an opinion poll on her readers’ attitudes to the war on
terrorism. The results must be worrying both for the U.K. and the US.
Two-thirds of them thought the war on terrorism was part of a pre-September 11
agenda—it would have happened anyway. Over 90 percent trusted neither President
Bush nor Prime Minister Blair, and five times as many people trusted Osama bin
Laden than trusted Blair. Shagufta Yaqub says the attitudes of the majority
white community have driven a wedge between Muslims and mainstream politics.

SHAGUFTA
YAQUB:

People do associate what happens in the Middle East with Muslims in Britain and
Muslims everywhere. And I think it’s not the same when you’re talking about the
Irish community—if there’s an international terrorist who’s Israeli or Irish or
of any other nationality, somehow it’s not associated with that community all
over the world. When it comes to Muslims, we’re seen as some kind of monolithic
group, a very extreme one, and that even though some Muslims appear to be very
moderate and living in the West, that somehow deep down they have some kind of
sympathy for the people who perpetrated these crimes on September the 11th. And
it’s very tragic.

[sound of street traffic]

EASTERMAN: This is Bradford, England’s
old wool capital, once the wool capital of the world. It’s a sprawling city of
a quarter of a million people in West Yorkshire, with some fine old Victorian
buildings like the town hall here on my left.

[sound of ringing bells, like church bells]

EASTERMAN: And a long tradition of
civic pride. It’s now more famous for its photography museum than for woolen
mills. Wool’s been in decline for many years. But while it was king it sucked
in waves of immigrants. The last of these were the Pakistanis, Bangladeshis,
and Indians who came in the 1950s and 60s. In percentage terms, Bradford has
the highest urban population from the Indian subcontinent—20 percent. And
that’s set to rise to over 25 percent in the next 10 years. The vast majority
of them are Muslims and there are now 61 mosques and madrassahs in the city.

[the sound of Moslem prayers]

EASTERMAN: I’ve come east, from the
city center to the Amadiyya Mosque on the Leeds Road. It’s a cold, rainy
evening but there are well over a hundred men here at prayers.

[the sound of Moslem prayers]

EASTERMAN: The Imam is reminding the
worshippers here that there are two kinds of Muslims—those who are well guided
by the Koran and those are misguided by it. I’m wondering if this coded warning
about taking what Osama bin Laden’s been saying about jihad and the evil enemy in America too literally.

IMAM NASEEM
BAJWA:
In
these days, the way most of the Muslims are practicing Islam is not the right
way of Islam. So I think in the light of this you can judge yourself what is
the position of Osama bin Laden. He is not one of those people who are
following the messiah. But at the same time I am not saying that what America
and its allies are doing, they are doing everything innocently and they are
very wise people. No. You will, you know reap what you sow. [laughs] So
anything can just destroy those people who are acting unjustly.

[a group of men talking]

EASTERMAN: So in effect, a plague on
both your houses. But if the Imam is determined to be evenhanded, almost
delphic, members of his congregation are much more outspoken. Mohammed Iqbal and
Faran Chaudry are young men with strong feelings about America’s dealings with
the Muslim world.

MOHAMMED
IQBAL:
The
three main fundamental reasons why American policy is so questioned. First of
all, is the Palestine issue. Yeah, we need that resolved. Second issue is
American troops being in Saudi Arabia. That’s a very, very important issue.
Third issue is the bombing of Iraq. America bombs Iraq when and wherever it
feels like it. You can’t keep on doing that. I mean, it’s over a million
children now died in Iraq. Who’s the biggest terrorist then? Is it America, or
Britain, or is it Al Qaeda.

FARAN CHAUDRY: This incident hurt America
deeply because for the first time in a hundred years the victims actually
struck, in a sense, was this a lesson that America needed teaching? I think if
you ask a great many Muslims and non-Muslims who have studied international
affairs, they’ll say that they’re not totally surprised. And the reason being,
because people were becoming extremely frustrated, humiliated. And when they
think their life means nothing to them, then events like this are inevitable.

EASTERMAN: And you mean there are
going to be more terrorist incidents?

FARAN CHAUDRY: It wouldn’t surprise me at
all, to be honest, because I mean, there’s a lot of respect for America for
what it stood for. You know, I grew up with Starsky
and Hutch
, you know, my childhood. And you had so many American heroes, I
can’t count that many anymore to be honest with you. I really can’t.

EASTERMAN: Many Muslims claim that
whatever they say they are misunderstood. The United States in particular, they
claim, deals in simple formulas. There’s no room for sophisticated or complex
argument. But complexity is what Muslims see all around them, especially in the
Middle East. For example, they condemn the Taliban for its crimes against
women, but they also see its good side, that it wanted to establish a truly
Islamic state. Faisal Boti edits the Web site Uma News, and he says the Muslims
everywhere are in ferment over Afghanistan just because it is not a
straightforward issue.

FAISAL BOTI: This precipitous action
that the US have led has confirmed suspicions that when it comes to dealing
with Muslim countries another standard is applied to that when dealing with
other countries. This is a war against political Islam, or against those people
who derive from it some kind of liberationist ideology. I think this war is not
simply about the destruction of the means that Osama bin Laden is employing,
but really, it’s a war against their aims, too. And this is why Osama bin Laden
continues to attract lots of sympathy. Is because people identify with the
aims, if not always the means, of people like him.

EASTERMAN: Faisal Boti’s view is
controversial but it’s not unique in the Muslim community. And there’s another
opinion which you hear expressed by Muslims and non-Muslims alike here in
Britain—that the United States has learned nothing from events and its own experiences
in the Middle East over the last half century. The Muslim peer Lord Ahmed puts
it like this. “America,” he told me, “can wage wars on terrorism till it’s blue
in the face. But it won’t have peace and security until it faces up to why
people want to attack it.”

LORD AHMED: You know, if you look at
the 60s, when there was a problem in Algeria, bombs were exploding in Paris.
When tensions grew in Northern Ireland, bombs were exploding in London. Now
that tension is growing in the Middle East, the incidents have taken place in
New York and Washington. It’s people’s perception that who is responsible for
the, whatever their sufferings are. And I think it’s OK to have laws to try and
prevent terrorism. But unless you deal with the causes of terrorism you’ll
never be able to deal with the symptoms.

[sound of vehicle traffic]

EASTERMAN: The problem for Washington
and for its allies in the British government here in London is this: that
Muslims do have a strong sense of belonging to the Umma, the world congregation
of Islam. This doesn’t mean they’re unpatriotic or ungrateful. Those living in
the West are well aware of how much better off they are than their fellows
elsewhere in the world. But if, as we’ve heard, Muslims in Britain feel they’re
still second class citizens, instant suspects the moment other Muslims do
something wrong, then how much more aware of their second class status in the
world community are the majority of the 1.3 billion Muslims who don’t live in
the West? If there’s a broader lesson to be learned from the tragic events of
September the 11th, perhaps that is it. For Common
Ground
, this is Max Easterman at the Houses of Parliament in London.

MCHUGH: European security, next on Common Ground.

ESTHER BRIMER: I would not say that the
United States needs to feel concerned by the development of the European Union
as an international actor. But we will have to rethink how we do behave in
certain international organizations.

PORTER: Printed transcripts and
audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the
broadcast for details, or visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org. Common Ground is a service of the
Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide
range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world
affairs.

MCHUGH: NATO—the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization—was founded 50 years ago to protect Europe from the Soviet
Union. Now the Soviet threat has disappeared and several nations are clamoring
to join NATO.

PORTER: With the common threat to
NATO gone, are there common values which hold this organization together? If
so, how do those values overlap with the interests of the broader European
Union? I recently put these questions to three experts on European security,
including retired general William Nash. Nash led the US Army’s First Armored
Division and served as commander of the American forces in Bosnia.

GENERAL
WILLIAM NASH:

The nations that joined NATO in the early days were, many of whom were still
recovering from the effects of World War II. Germany, who has been a staunch
member of NATO for many years, was not one of its original founding members,
cause it was not yet in a posture able to join a grouping of largely democratic
nations focused on common values, as you say it. Since the end of the Cold War,
NATO has begun a process by which it’s involved more from a military coalition
with a political foundation to really more of a political coalition with a
military capacity. And therefore as it becomes more and more of a political
organization, the issue of common values becomes more important.

PORTER: Vladimir Madic is from
Clemson University. Tell us your thoughts.

VLADIMIR
MADIC:

Values were a basic ingredient of the alliance, a very important one from the
very, very beginning. And they haven’t lost a bit of the importance. So today
NATO members and aspiring members share the same values as they share the same
interests. I would emphasize also the second phase of the development of NATO
and this is after the end of the Cold War when this was in a way reconfirmed
and when a number of former Communist countries in Eastern and Central Europe
applied and expressed their interest to join the organization. Now, after
September 11, NATO gets even more importance for its members and for the
aspiring members, because it is an organization which in cooperation with, with
the countries associated in different forms with NATO, like the program of
Partnership for Peace or Founding Act in case of Russia, can address some
common new challenges and threats to their own security.

PORTER: We’re also joined by Esther
Brimer, a Research Fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German
Studies. Esther, tell us what you think about this common values system

ESTHER BRIMER: I would agree with my two
participants that there are some underlying political elements. But I did want
to highlight a couple of those. One, of course, the NATO premise of civilian
control of the military, which is a fundamental principle which all of its
participants accept and is an important philosophical point. Interestingly
enough, the other regional organization that you have cited, the European
Union, for example, has always had a question of values or politics underlying
it. Although many people have focused more recently on its security aspects—off
and on its economic aspects—it was, of course, founded with political aspects
to basically solve the Franco-German problem after the Second World War and to
try come up with ways resolving political differences within Europe. As it, we,
as it continues to expand, those issues and solidifying peace among its
members, as we look to succession states, is an important factor. But it is
interesting to note that neither of the institutions—NATO nor the European
Union—is a traditional regional organization in the understanding of the United
Nations’ understanding of regional organizations, which are organizations which
are formed under Article VIII of the UN Charter. And it’s important to notice
that in a sense NATO and the EU are in a sense exceptions to our understanding
of regional organizations on a global basis.

PORTER: Bill Nash, Esther Bremer
laid out some of the values which make up that common value system. How do you
define that common value system?

NASH: I think I disagree a little
bit with the, with the founding principles that, that Esther and Vladimir might
have emphasized. Because I think at the time the leading value of the formation
of NATO was that of survival. Or they anticipated attack from abroad. But,
since then, and without regard to the nature of the history and the evolution
of NATO, I mean, today there’s no doubt that democracy is a very important,
plays a very important role. Which includes, of course, civilian control of the
military.

Second, a free market economy, which of course gives
it an overlap with one of the founding principles of the European Union. And
then the respect for human rights and the respect necessary to the individual
citizens of all the nations that are members.

PORTER: Vladimir Madich? How do you
define this common value system?

MADIC: Well, the overarching concern
when NATO was formed was certainly the Soviet threat and the threat of
communism in Western Europe. And it was heightened by the outbreak of the
Korean War when NATO became what it is, or what it used to be throughout the
Cold War—a formidable military alliance with elements of political, political
alliance as well. Today it is different and these values have gained, gained a
higher importance because it, more of the emphasis is, is on democracy. We may
say that in the beginning it may have been maybe a little bit less important,
but it was important enough not to admit NATO, to have links with a country
which was thought to be indispensable for, for NATO and defense of Western
Europe, through direct cooperation with the United States, based, based on the
fact that we had there a totalitarian regime. And it, which did not qualify for
membership in NATO.

BRIMER: Just to say, while I would
agree with the initial security needs for the foundation of NATO, it is
important to note a good example of why the values have become so important,
that after the end of the Cold War when there had been a nascent discussion
about the role of NATO, that it was felt it was still useful, although the
immediate military threat had dissipated. Clearly, that part of that reason was
because of the values in which it embodied, which were seen as valuable by its
members.

PORTER: Bill Nash, now that we’ve
sort of talked about the history of these organizations and the common value
system, what’s the next stop on the road here? What countries are most likely
to next be members of these organizations? But more importantly, what’s the
connection between the two? I mean, is ascension to the European Union an
essential step to get into NATO? Or is membership in NATO an essential step to
get into the European Union? How do these things interlock?

NASH: Well, technically they
don’t overlap. In other words, the criteria for joining NATO and the criteria
for joining the European Union are different in the sense that there’s not a
process by which they’re connected. Obviously, the principles of democracy,
free market economy, and military capacity in the case of NATO, is an important
element. But I’d like to take you back a little bit more, because in 1994 NATO,
with US leadership, established the Partnership for Peace program, where
practically all of Europe joined the Partnership for Peace over a period of
time, to include Russia, were active participants. And the Partnership for
Peace program was the beginning of what has turned to be a process towards
accession into NATO. A decision was made several years later to add new
members. The first three new ones of course were the Czech Republic, Poland,
and Hungary. This process has turned more from the, a coalition against a
common threat to a coalition of common political values against a threat that
is not as specified as it was during the Cold War.

PORTER: Esther Bremer?

BRIMER: Being a member of one does
not necessarily guarantee membership in another. Let’s take that apart. First,
there are important members of the NATO alliance which are not members of the
European Union. The most sensitive of these, of course, is Turkey, which has
been a long-standing member of the NATO alliance and is in the process and has
begun the process of admission to the European Union. But it’s said to be 13th
on the list of 12 of members who are now in the process. And in many ways at
times feels excluded from the larger process. And I think both leaders in
Turkey and within the European Union would see that this is going to be a long
process and therefore although they’ve been long-standing members of NATO, they
do not feel that they’re on the fast track for admission into the European
Union.

Importantly, there are members of the European Union
who are not members of NATO. A couple of good examples: Sweden is a member of
the European Union—joined in 1995 along with Finland and Austria—but has at
this point maintained its neutral status. That may be under process of
reevaluation, but it is not yet a member of NATO and has said consistently that
it does not want to be a member of NATO.

PORTER: I have one last question
and I’ll start with you, Bill Nash. As NATO and the European Union expand, what
does this do to the American role? Should Americans feel insecure that they are
going to have less and less of a voice in either of these organizations?
Noting, of course, that the United States is not part of the European Union.
Yet still, as the organization grows do we view them as a competitor?

NASH: A stable, peaceful, prosperous
Europe is to America’s advantage. So, as the European Union is the lead agent
for those European countries to build democracy and build economic prosperity,
it’s to our advantage to support that effort. At the same time, NATO, which is
becoming more and more a political organization and less focused on a specific
military threat, is a way for the United States to stay reasonably, actively
involved in Europe, in cooperation with its allies, and then using that
organization to advance our interests in other parts of the world to which we
and the European allies have common interests. And as we’re seeing today, that
interest extends to the Caucuses, to Central Asia, and to portions of the
Mid-East. And it most importantly involves our relationship with the growing
democracy of Russia, which has work to do on a number of levels—political,
economic, as well as military. But it gives us a venue by which, in addition to
our bilateral relationships with Russia, it allows us to do it, to interrelate
with our allies.

BRIMER: I would not say that the
United States needs to feel concerned by the development of the European Union
as an international actor. But we will have to rethink how we do behave in
certain international organizations. That as the EU takes on an international
character we will see the EU as a unified, single organization, present in
addition to the member states. In the World Trade Organization we’ve already
seen this. The European Union and the Commission, in particular, has the
competency to negotiate on behalf of all 15 members on trade issues. As we turn
to the security area, now we increasingly see the European Union countries
voting together in the United Nations. Again, the United States and the
European Union member countries tend to vote the same way, but not always. And
as we look at some of the nontraditional security issues and what we might call
the global issues—human rights, environment, elsewhere—the voice of the
European Union will be an important one. And although we share many important
common values in these areas, we will, we may find that how we implement these
issues will be rather different. And we will find a united European Union voice
on those areas.

IN TERMS OF NATO, it is, of course, important to
remember, and I want to echo what my colleagues have said, that is an important
framework for maintaining American participation in Europe. And that over time
we will want to continue to do that, but we’ll also think about how it is done.

PORTER: Esther Brimer is a Research
Fellow at the John Hopkins University’s American Institute for Contemporary
German Studies. We also heard from retired general William Nash, Director of
the Center for Preventative Action at the Council on Foreign Relations, and
Professor Vladimir Madic of Clemson University. For Common Ground, I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’mKristin McHugh.
Cassettes and transcripts of this program are available. The transcripts are
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The Stanley Foundation.

© 2002 by The Stanley Foundation

Related links:

http://www.number-10.gov.uk/

http://www.nato.int/