Miriam Gonzalez Durantez has a right go at Brexiteers over terrorism claims

Earlier this week, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez took to the pages of the Telegraph to deliver a scathing riposte to those “Leave” campaigners who seek to scare us into believing that being in the EU increases terrorism.

She started with an insight at her feelings over the Coalition years:

Having felt for five full years the frustration of seeing my husband, Nick Clegg, regularly reversing ill-judged Conservative decisions with little public credit, it is tempting to remain silent on the Brexit referendum – yet another ill-judged Conservative government decision that puts at risk the future of all our children just to sort out internal difficulties in the Conservative Party.

She tackles the idea that the EU’s freedom of movement is behind a flood of foreign criminals ending up here. In fact, she places the blame closer to home:

These assertions are made despite the fact that the UK is not part of the Schengen area and that, even for those within Schengen, there are exclusions to the freedom of movement on public security grounds. So if the Home Office has allowed criminals and terrorists into this country, it is nothing to do with EU rules and everything to do with the Home Office itself.

Terrorism, she says, is always the fault of hate-filled individuals, but she cites 3 key foreign policy decisions on Iraq, Syria and Libya as enabling ISIL to expand. Surprisingly, she questions her own role:

When I saw how some of those decisions were taken I was a Middle East and North Africa adviser in the office of the EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner. While my role was minor, I too feel responsible for not having done more to avoid them. It beggars belief that people that were much closer than me to those decisions feel they can now simply – and cheaply – pass the blame on to others.

She does, though, think that the EU could do more to combat terrorism:

But why haven’t all the prime ministers and governments used those four months to implement strict and meaningful measures to control the financing of Isil? What are the intelligence services waiting for in order to share information with each other? Why haven’t all implemented urgently the EU measures to control firearms? How many more need to die before all heads of government spend their time on what really matters to us all – in Britain or on the Continent – instead of on their immediate political preoccupation at hand, be that the forgettable renegotiations of UK membership that have dominated the agenda until February or anything else?

And her conclusion will resonate with many readers:

The fact is that those terrorists appear to be spreading and getting stronger – our response to their attacks cannot be to become smaller and weaker.

You can read her whole article here.

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21 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Apr '16 - 1:57pm

    Get her elected.

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Apr '16 - 2:14pm

    A good article. It is refreshing to see someone put most of the blame for terrorism onto terrorists. The current UK and American foreign policy community doesn’t seem to really like doing this and seems to try to explain terrorism by blaming others.

    I am annoyed that I’ve been shouted at for saying Assad is not more evil than ISIS and saying so arguably justifies the existence of ISIS, but this is the kind of thinking that people, including those in Chatham House, have got themselves into.

    The case for equivalent evil is there, but you can’t look at death counts and decide who is most evil by looking at that otherwise Tony Blair is more evil than ISIS and the west will probably not progress much whilst it listens to this kind of thinking.

    Deciding evil by looking at current death counts is what the far left does, but why have the mainstream, with Obama a notable exception, done this?

  • Eddie Sammon 2nd Apr '16 - 2:20pm

    Sorry, I take back my generalisation in my last paragraph, but the point remains the same: some blame the west for everything and it seems others blame Putin and Assad for everything. Most of the blame should be on the terrorists.

  • Miriam rightly says: “There is never any excuse for terrorism, political or otherwise.” But I question her next statement that “Terrorism never has a political cause….. But some political decisions – or, at times, lack of decisions – though often taken with good intentions, have made it easier for those terrorists to establish new bases from which to organise their attacks.” I would go further and say that those same political decisions have helped to radicalise frustrated jihadists and encourage them to go and join ISIL from Europe. I would add – to the list of policies that have stimulated jihadism -the failure of European governments to follow up criticism of Israel for its steadily increasing colonisation of the West Bank, and its violence against and continued siege of Gaza with serious pressure to observe international law. Indeed several of them, including Britain, continue to allow the supply of arms to Israel. These things cause immense resentment among young muslims and have encouraged a small minority of them to resort to jihadism.

  • Jayne Mansfield 3rd Apr '16 - 11:43am

    Miriam Gonzales Durantez’ views on terrorists seem to mirror mine.

    I continue to find it incomprehensible that whilst we condemn the behaviour of barbarous individuals we offer them the excuses that they greedily adopt as a rationale for their obscene behaviour. One might describe those excuses as explanation rather than excuses, but I doubt that the vicious perpetrators see it as other than reinforcement for their psychopathic behaviour.

    Yes, appalling wrong-headed decisions have been made, ones that I as a mere citizen was opposed to at the time, but the reality is that those who hate will always find a reason to hate, and one should remember that others who could offer the same excuses and indulge in similar behaviour, do not do so. By indulging the sick minority, we are seen as weak by them, as indeed we are. We take the petty criminals and psycopaths at their word and feed their narrative.

    Sorry for this rant, but when one reads of more bodies of men, women and children being excavated in Syria and that those fleeing atrocities are being denied their legal right to seek asylum in a safe country, it has made me very angry and done nothing to undermine my belief that our indulgent self -flagellation, lack of moral courage and absurd moral relativism and hypocrisy lies at the root of Western inaction to prevent the terrorists becoming stronger.

  • @Jayne
    “I continue to find it incomprehensible that whilst we condemn the behaviour of barbarous individuals we offer them the excuses that they greedily adopt as a rationale for their obscene behaviour.”

    To be honest, when I read the article I felt that Miriam was indulging in a little of that herself.

  • Jonathan Coulter 3rd Apr '16 - 4:48pm

    While making no excuses for people pursuing murderous agendas, I feel we in the UK must accept our share of the responsibility for the growth of Jihadist terrorism.

    Notably Miriam, while first saying that terrorism “never has a political cause”, goes on to mention Western decisions re Iraq, Libya and Syria that have facilitated its development. But the problem is older than this. I suggest reading the book by Mark Curtis on British involvement in the Middle-East since World War 2, called “Secret Affairs, Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam”. It describes innumerable cases of Britain colluding with radical Islam, including terrorist organisations, in pursuit of its geopolitical aims, whether protecting British colonial interests, fighting nationalist or socialistic regimes, fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, securing control over oil or capturing petrodollars from the Gulf. In particular, Britain has maintained close relationships with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two key countries that have allowed or sponsored Jihadist movements, and also treated them as key allies in ostensibly fighting against terror.

    And then there are John Kelly’s observations on the resentment caused by Britain’s failure to follow up on criticism of Israel. We have good reason to be self-critical.

  • @Jonathan Coulter
    “While making no excuses for people pursuing murderous agendas, I feel we in the UK must accept our share of the responsibility”

    Surely if we say we are partly responsible then by definition we are making excuses for them? No, the reality is these people are 100% responsible for their own actions.

    As is often pointed out, Muslims are themselves the biggest victims of the Jihadis. The attack in Lahore – carried out, so the alleged perpetrators claimed, not as revenge for political injustices but simply as a faith-based hate crime – killed more Muslims than Christians. A Muslim schoolteacher was among the dead in Brussels.

    Ultimately we need to reject entirely the notion that a political grievance can in any way be a justification, or even explanation, for the killing of kids in a park or a teacher on a tube train. While we must always be self-critical and strive for wise foreign policy, linking the two is tasteless and inevitably provides succour to the wrongdoers.

  • Miranda Pinch 4th Apr '16 - 5:21pm

    When the US, Britain and others fight proxy wars on the land of others and, before that, divvy that land up to suit themselves, while also playing god over which dictators, often educated in the West, should continue and which should fall, then we need to accept the consequences of our actions.
    Those that say the individuals involved are responsible and nothing else are as right and wrong as accepting mitigation on the part of an abused wife who plots the death of her husband or a Palestinian, or other abused person, who is so desperate that they feel reduced to commit murder an a vain attempt to make themselves heard, or a religious/ethnic group who consider they are victims with right on their side and so steal land and resources from others who are largely innocent with impunity, then you have to stop seeing things as a black and white issue. Both are to blame. It is a combination.
    Until I read the following article in the guardian, I did not understand exactly what drove educated young men to go to fight in Syria, and worse, to join ISIS. Having read this I realised that, had I been in their shoes, I probably would have joined them.
    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/mar/31/brighton-to-battlefield-how-four-young-britons-drawn-to-jihad-syria

  • @Miranda
    “Those that say the individuals involved are responsible and nothing else are as right and wrong as accepting mitigation on the part of an abused wife who plots the death of her husband”

    If my spouse abuses me and I retaliate by killing my spouse, there is certainly a sense in which my spouse has provoked retribution.

    If my spouse abuses me and I retaliate by going to a park and blowing up a bunch of random kids, there is no sense whatsoever in which I am not responsible for my actions.

    Can you appreciate the difference?

    “Until I read the following article in the guardian, I did not understand exactly what drove educated young men to go to fight in Syria, and worse, to join ISIS. Having read this I realised that, had I been in their shoes, I probably would have joined them.”

    I saw that article yesterday and it was depressingly familiar. All the stories we read about young people joining IS boil down to the same reason: they hate living in a secular democracy and wish to live in an Islamic theocracy under full shariah law. They are very explicit about this – the Guardian article makes that clear.

    How on earth can you have any sympathy at all with such views? And exactly how far do you think the UK should bend to give them what they want here, so they don’t feel obliged to travel to some hellish warzone to obtain it?

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Apr '16 - 12:56am

    @ Miranda,
    I had already read the article.

    It is a depressing story of racism and alleged family dysfunction and violence. A familiar story of the bullied becoming the bully, the victim becoming the perpetrator.

    I am all too familiar with the racism that is prevalent in our society and the effect that it has on children and young people. I have experience of the deep pain that it causes. But with help and support, especially of a strong, loving family, children can learn that it is not they who have the problem and develop a positive sense of identity and belonging.

    Listening to the rantings of our ‘home grown jihadis, it is clear that they have as much understanding of the Middle East and its history as I have, which is virtually none. Their ravings about their ‘Muslim brothers and sisters ‘ and their ‘Muslim lands’ is pathetic. They are more than happy to blow up any Muslim who happens to be on a bus, an underground train, or in a crowd. They are more than happy to kill those Muslims that they consider to be the ‘Kuffur’ because they belong to a different strand of Islam.

    I am not prepared to aggrandise their destructive descent into violence, and lack of empathy for those they kill by accepting their narrative that they are motivated by some noble political cause. There is nothing noble about racism, bigotry and murder.

    Given the same set of circumstances as the Brighton jihadis, would you really consider joining ISIS and the likes of Sally Jones and her al- khanssaa brigade?

  • Miranda Pinch 5th Apr '16 - 3:45pm

    Stuart and Jayne, I think you are both missing something in your responses to me. First I said it was not a black and white issue, which it is not. In the USA you frequently get examples of white kids killing many schoolmates because of a grudge. It is not just a Muslim phenomena. Yes, it is totally wrong and I find it very difficult indeed to blame anyone but the perpetrator in such cases. I also agree that blowing up or decapitating innocent people is wrong whoever they are. No one should be excused for killing innocents, whether they are governments or individuals. At the moment and for a long time, we have seen mass murder of many innocent individuals that too many countries either describe as ‘collateral damage’ or terrorists. What is more those who fall into those categories are, more often than not, not white Europeans, but Middle Eastern or African. It is hard not to still see a not-so-hidden western supremacy in the deaths of those unfortunates.
    You have both obviously not read the article as I did or tried to step inside the shoes it depicted. If you spend your life teased, ridiculed, abused and rejected because you are of Middle Eastern origins and therefore must be a problem if not an actual terrorist, it is likely you will have little self-respect and feel rather aggrieved with the society around you. It is not such a big step to want to join a group of people who say that you are worth something and give you a reason for living and an aim in life, is it? It may be all lies and the result may be unintentional death and the killing of innocents, but are you really telling me that, having read the article, you cannot see why they turned against our society and our values?

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Apr '16 - 9:33pm

    @ Miranda,
    I can’t tell you how much I feel for the two mothers. They have lost their sons.

  • @Miranda
    “are you really telling me that, having read the article, you cannot see why they turned against our society and our values?”

    I can certainly understand why any young person – Muslim or otherwise – would become alienated by our society and political system. In a sense, that’s quite an uninteresting (though not unimportant) question, since it is so common and predictable.

    To me, the much more interesting question – and one that is very rarely asked – is this: why do these young people NOT feel alienated, or for that matter utterly repelled, by the sickening antics of the “society” they choose to move to instead? While some do in fact experience this repulsion, and come home full of regret, many of them (including the one quoted in the Guardian article) regard the kind of society where women are kept as sex slaves and gay people thrown off buildings as a kind of paradise on earth. Is it really any wonder such a person is going to feel like an outcast in Brighton? And should we be beating ourselves up about the fact that Brighton didn’t provide them with the kind of society they wanted to live in?

    These boys (and girls) didn’t turn their back on Britain because they wanted it to be the kind of tolerant, prejudice-free society you and I would like it to be. Quite the opposite – they want to live in a brutally bigoted society, but one where their own kind of bigots are the ones in charge.

    I don’t think the solution is for us to postulate all sorts of “reasons” why we might have helped nudge these people in the direction they have taken. I think the solution is for all people who don’t share their nihilistic world view – including of course the vast majority of Muslims – to unite and tell them in no uncertain terms that the way they want to live is wrong.

  • Miranda Pinch 6th Apr '16 - 8:26am

    Stuart you say: “While some do in fact experience this repulsion, and come home full of regret, many of them (including the one quoted in the Guardian article) regard the kind of society where women are kept as sex slaves and gay people thrown off buildings as a kind of paradise on earth. Is it really any wonder such a person is going to feel like an outcast in Brighton? And should we be beating ourselves up about the fact that Brighton didn’t provide them with the kind of society they wanted to live in?” I find that shocking and once again shows that you have not understood.
    Children who grow up in any society that treats them with contempt and as second class citizens, will often rebel. It is NOT a case that they wanted to live in the sort of society you are accusing them of. It is that they were groomed (there has been a lot of evidence of this) and been lured into a situation where they feel they will be valued, respected and have a role. Just as young British girls were lured into prostitution by men who approached vulnerable ones with the promise of love and respect. People who feel vilified and rejected are easy prey. Once there it is difficult to leave both physically and emotionally.
    I was at a conference in Bethlehem just 3 weeks ago, called ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ and organised by Palestinian Christians. They said how unfair we are to Muslims generally who have lived in relative harmony with Christian and Jew alike in the Middle East until comparatively recently. Islam has not changed, it is the attitude to it that has changed. The Islamaphobia around today affects ALL Muslims, not just those who are extreme. I don’t suppose you and others have ever experienced that kind of prejudice, discrimination and abuse? It is very isolating. The Palestinians said that what was needed was not bombs, but ‘pre-emptive love’. In other words, we must stop alienating the moderate Muslims because that is what leads to extremism.
    That applies to other religions and ethnic groups as well. It is not just an Islamic phenomenon.

  • Miranda Pinch 6th Apr '16 - 8:38am

    To continue briefly. Once in the hands of others, the conditioning of people in many religions to see themselves as superior and special and as agents of God to destroy the other is actually quite common. Christians have done similar both in the past and the present from the Crusades onwards. Did you know that the Crusaders massacred not just Muslims, but Christians and Jews as well? Then look at Ireland and see the indiscriminate bombing in London. Then look at Bush and Blair and the damage they have done as practising Christians. Is ISIS more extreme and unpleasant than these?

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Apr '16 - 11:49am

    @ Miranda,
    I don’t actually disagree with much of what you say about the making of British jihadi.

    I don’t want to enter into the realms of cod psychology, but I have seen the same phenomena before. The psychological traits that you say underpin the decisions that lead jihadis into violence don’t seem very different to the explanations that were given for the pull of violent football gangs in my youth. Anger, alienation, helplessness, the social dissociation and desire for respect from ‘the group’. The group or ‘families’ they found for themselves had their own rules for according respect, which might include a greater propensity. for violence and destruction. Many of those who were drawn to becoming football thugs now seem to me to have found new families and a sense of belonging in right wing groups.

    It is all very well, you littering your posts with criticisms of ‘society’, and accusations of Islamophobia. You make too many assumptions about the life experiences of others. Many people like myself have have used everything in our limited power to prevent people developing the psychological make -up that makes them vulnerable to grooming.

    Forgive me if I am wrong with this, but you fail to acknowledge that not everyone in ‘society ‘ has the values that you ascribe to them. There is a blindness to that, which is encouraged by some, so that anything good in our society is ignored, consciously or otherwise. Those Brighton boys, could have, given the nature of our society, with help and support, made something of themselves and gained respect within mainstream culture.

    I wish that people like yourself would stop throwing the word Islamophobia’ round like confetti. It is as tiresome as being called a ‘self loathing white’. or ‘traitor’. The feeding of grievance, is not in my opinion, helpful for those who really do care about the well -being of young people who are bullied because they look different. All it does is put the backs up of people who would normally find some common agreement with some of what you say.

  • Miranda Pinch 6th Apr '16 - 7:21pm

    Jayne, why are you taking my comments personally? Of course there are good people out there. It is just sad that they were not there for those boys or there were not enough of them.
    The Israeli lobby chucks accusations around of anti-Semitism at anyone who dares to criticise Israel. so many refuse to see that right now Islamaphobia is even more damaging or at least as damaging. This page is about Lib Dem policy. I belong to a party that I hoped was founded on international law and human rights, not to mention those in society most in need of help and support.
    The UK government supports both Israel and Saudi Arabia, both of whom flout human rights and trade weaponry. We have followed the USA into bombing campaigns and worse that have destroyed the lives of millions. I want to be in a Party that is seen to have some integrity and guts in putting the case forward to support human rights and back that up with real action. Until we do that, we are just going to make matters worse.
    On the subject of terrorism, unfortunately ISIS was created through the war on Iraq and has grown through the Syrian war with funds coming in from some very suspect sources. It is now a huge problem, but we can help to stop it growing further here in the UK by stopping alienating people and treating all Muslims as if they are terrorist and always supporting regimes like Israel, Saudi and others who are doing immeasurable harm in the Middle East.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Apr '16 - 12:26pm

    @ Miranda,
    Sorry, but I was addressing whether there was a political reason for a descent into brutal, psychopathic behaviour.

    My view remains unchanged. Those like the men who perpetrate such atrocities as 7/7, murdered disabled people watching a pop concert in France, tortured and murder British aid workers, indulge in wholesale slaughter of people, Muslim or otherwise, who don’t share their hate- filled ideology and refuse to submit to their fascist desire for absolute control over others, are in my view, in the same league as the David Copelands and Anders Breviks of the world , damaged, warped, hate -filled individuals who use a ‘political ‘ cause as an excuse for for their obscene behaviour.

    Frankly, I think it is a bit late to stop alienating ‘Muslims’ in our society, and do you know what, the vast majority do not respond by perpetrating atrocities or travelling to Syria to perpetrate them. The majority carry on doing what they have always done, they live blameless lives, and make positive contributions to society. They treat me and others with respect and kindness when we visit the hospital or the GP”s surgery. They display multiple acts of kindness like the young girl in the hijab who fishes me out from the queue in the supermarket and helps me with the new fangled technology so that I am not held up. They continue to demonstrate the unutterably sweet nature of young Muslim midwife on last weeks , ‘There’s one born every minute ‘ .

    I don’t fear that British Muslims will descend into wholesale violence and hatred because of ‘alienation’ and a ‘political cause’, even though many could give the same excuses as the British jihadis for doing so. It seems to me, that some people have personal backgrounds or psyches that that make them more prey to manipulation than others.

    On the matter of whether there can be a political excuse or explanation for the sort of behaviour we have witnessed, I am afraid that I am an un- moveable object and I have nothing more to add.

  • Miranda Pinch 7th Apr '16 - 6:25pm

    Jayne, it is NEVER too late to stop alienating people.
    I don’t disagree with anything else you have said. However our treatment of many here in the UK falls very short of the inclusive, tolerant society we should be, and every little helps as they say.
    There are many vulnerable people who can easily feel excluded and isolated for all sorts of reasons. Not all those who are treated poorly behave badly it is true, but we can help those who are not so strong or good natured. By helping some, we help all.
    I speak as a retired social worker who is extremely concerned with the collapse of our social welfare and the rise of racism and intolerance in our society.
    Racism and intolerance is fed by our foreign policy now and in the past, as is the resentment for it felt by those whose families and friends have been caught up in it. All these factors are important. change of course and policy is never too late.
    Your experience and treatment of Muslims may indeed be laudable, but there are far too many who are not as caring and tolerant as you are, so I stand by my previous comments.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Apr '17 - 8:24am

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