In the five years since the September 11 attacks, a number of Western governments have become convinced that some legal immigrants and children of Muslim immigrants, although the number may be small, can become radicalized and turn on their home country.
Even Canada, whose multiculturalist policies were thought sufficient to protect it from homegrown terrorism, confronted the issue this year when 17 Muslim men and youths, most of them born and raised in Canada, were arrested in June for allegedly planning attacks on the Canadian Parliament building.
But how to solve the problem of homegrown terrorism, or at least keep it from growing? The easy answer for governments is by increasing surveillance and intelligence gathering, but they can also build better relationships with Muslim communities and work with them to improve integration (see Issue #1 Good-bye Multiculturalism — Hello Assimilation?).
Ernst Uhrlau, president of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) touched on both approaches in his November meeting with the German Federal Office of Criminal Investigations. He stressed that successful integration is an investment in terror prevention, but he also called for a broad-based approach with high-tech observation, intensified checks, and a rigorous border and immigration regime.
The United Kingdom is pursuing the "iron fist" and the "velvet glove" simultaneously. Earlier this year, the Identity Cards Act became law, and it will allow all British residents, citizens and foreign residents, to prove their identity with an ID card by 2009. Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote in a recent newspaper article, "I am convinced, as are our security services, that a secure identity system will help us counter terrorism and international crime."
After the London bombings, the UK government commissioned a well-received report, Preventing Extremism Together. Published in November 2005, it includes input from 1,000 British Muslims. Since the report, the government has created a new department, Communities and Local Government, which stated in July 2006 that it has made progress on a number of the report's recommendations and is committed to "working in partnership with Muslim communities to root out extremism and tackle the causes of radicalization amongst a minority of our young people."
In Australia, fears of homegrown terrorism were heightened by the London transport bombings of 2005 and the December Cronulla Beach riots, then rose further this fall when two Australian-born brothers were arrested in Yemen for their ties to Al-Qaeda. The Australian response thus far has been more surveillance-oriented, with the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) receiving a significant boost in its budget this spring.
ASIO chief Paul O'Sullivan, in an interview with the Australian Broadcast Company in November, said, "I think it comes as something of a shock to see that there are homegrown people who would like to do harm in this country."
Thus far, governments have revealed their preference for control over community-building. The future may well bring more security-oriented legislation in the name of protecting everyone.
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