UK Hindu convert 'not born Muslim nor underprivileged' - planned attacks to kill thousands long before wars in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan
November 8, 2006
Justice triumphs but vigilance still vital
The prosecution and conviction of al-Qa'eda terrorist Dhiren Barot must be regarded as an exemplary chapter in British criminal justice. The security services in particular deserve to be congratulated for foiling a plan to murder countless innocent people. They mounted a painstaking surveillance operation over two years, which culminated in charges based on evidence so soundly documented that the defendant felt compelled to plead guilty, sparing the state the expense of a lengthy jury trial and denying Barot a propaganda opportunity.
Mr Justice Butterfield, sitting at Woolwich Crown Court, stipulated that Barot must serve a minimum of 40 years in prison. He condemned in excoriating terms what he described as Barot's intention to cause carnage on "a colossal and unprecedented scale" and to bring about "the incalculable loss of blameless life". He went on to say that the terrorist's plan was "designed to strike at the very heart of democracy and the security of the state". He implied, quite justifiably, that Barot's role in the al-Qa'eda conspiracy was a crime worse than the committing of an actual murder.
But there is more of significance in this case than the kudos it earns for our anti-terror agencies, and the eloquence and good sense of the judge. The story of Barot's life as a terrorist in effect gives the lie to a number of myths about British Islamic extremism. First, he was neither Muslim-born nor from a disadvantaged background. He could not, in other words, claim either a lifetime's experience of anti-Islamic prejudice in Britain, or poverty. Born of a comfortable Indian Hindu family, he converted to Islam as a young adult and went on, without any apparent grounds for personal grievance, to choose the fundamentalist path of violent extremism.
Second, as videotape evidence released yesterday revealed, Barot was actively engaged in plotting attacks on Britain and America five months before 9/11. This means that his terrorist inclinations could not have been provoked by the British and American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which were undertaken as a consequence of the attack on the World Trade Centre. Those who ascribe indigenous Islamic terrorism to Britain's participation in the Iraq war should reflect on this, and perhaps seek to revise their prejudices.
The success in this case gives no cause for complacency. The recruitment of terrorists has moved from the clearly visible mosque to the disembodied internet. If someone like Barot is not to succeed in the future, the Government must ensure that the security services are properly equipped to thwart this insidious campaign, and its lethal recruiting sergeants.