Richard Walton’s article in the JC is a timely and factual reminder of the threat that Islamist extremism poses to our country and our communities.
In particular, Islamist extremism poses a threat to Jewish communities and their institutions. Let us not forget cases like Ummarayiat Mirza, 21, and his wife Madihah Taheer, 22, who were sentenced to jail for 16 years and 10 years respectively in December 2017.
Days after the Westminster Bridge attack, Mirza planned a knife campaign to murder innocent people. He had scouted out the central synagogue in Birmingham as a possible target. He fantasized about life in the so-called Islamic State and his wife was part of the plot by buying him the knife that he aimed to used to cause carnage. Just imagine if he had targeted the local synagogue while men and women prayed and came together as a community to find spiritual solace.
Or take Muhammad Sajid Khan, 33, and his wife Shaista, who were inspired online by Al-Qaeda propaganda material in 2010. The Oldham couple had been planning to attack Orthodox Jewish community members in Prestwich and it was only when Khan attacked his wife’s father that his in-laws informed the police about his extremist views.
What the police found by chance was bomb-making equipment that was to be used against innocent British Jews going about their everyday business. It was clear that the couple were on a murderous mission to kill British Jews, psychologically egged on by the antisemitic hate of Islamist groups like Al-Qaeda.
Other countries have suffered terrorism that has been intricately entwined with Islamist antisemitism. Take the barbaric and brutal actions of Mohammed Merah in 2012 when he killed four people, including three children, at a Jewish school. Just a few days earlier he had shot dead three French soldiers.
Or Mehdi Nemmouche, who in May 2014, armed with a pistol and automatic assault rifle, killed two Israeli tourists and two staff members at a Jewish museum in central Brussels.
Or Amedy Coulibaly, who in January 2015, who having killed a Parisian policewoman, decided to hold hostage Jewish shoppers at a Kosher supermarket. His hostage attempts led to him murdering four shoppers who had come to the supermarket to buy kosher food.
Or Omar E-Hussain, who in 2015, attacked a Danish cultural centre, killing a film-maker speaking at an event about Islam and free speech. Having murdered the film-maker and injured three police personnel, he went on to murder a volunteer outside a synagogue and injured two more police officers.
In all of these cases, the perpetrators and their murderous intentions were inspired by Al-Qaeda or Islamic State rhetoric. Islamist extremism has pervaded into their minds and made Jews an ongoing target.
These few examples demonstrate one key element and thread. That Islamist extremism is fused and intertwined at the core with murderous antisemitism and Jewish communities are at the frontline of this ideological battle.
This is why we should not accept the relativism bought into by so many - that all forms of extremism are ‘just as’ threatening. This is not to dismiss the fact that far-right extremism has a history of murder, violence and hate attached to it that has led to major terrorist attacks - like the Soho nail bombings in 1999. David Copeland, for example, set off a chain of nail bombings that terrorised communities and put London on high alert at a level it had not seen since IRA attacks.
Yet, when you look at the sheer number of cases coming through the courts and the violence and antisemitic rhetoric attached to them, Islamist extremism tops the lot. This is why we must look at the facts and not bury the real and impending threat of Islamist extremism.
Richard Walton has tried to cut through the meaningless mantra ‘that all extremism is bad’. No-one can deny this. The problem is when some seek to place all forms of extremism together on a par. We should challenge this simplistic and relativist view.
Islamist extremism is a global virus that at its heart, wants to target, diminish and annihilate Jewish history, lives and traditions. We, collectively, as Jews and Muslims, should never lose sight of that. Islamist extremism is a cancer within for many Muslims. It is therefore a shared battle that needs to be won together. More than ever, we need to redouble our efforts to challenge and counter it where we find it. If we lose sight of that, we allows the shadows and the darkness of it to fall over us and our futures.
Fiyaz Mughal is the founder and Director of Faith Matters, which counters extremism and promotes social cohesion