Latest HO statistics show most plots foiled since March 2017 are Islamist
Yesterday, the website of Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) reported that, with the UK Intelligence Services, it has thwarted seven late-stage terror attacks since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March last year. CTP stated:
That takes the total number of foiled terrorism plots since March 2017 to 32 – with 18 related to Islamist extremism, 12 to Extreme Right Wing Terrorism (XRWT) and two to Left, Anarchist or Single Issue Terrorism (LASIT).
The Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, reminded the public that the national threat level is Severe – meaning an attack is highly likely – and warned of “a sustained and high tempo threat, which our world-class police, security and intelligence services are doing everything in their power to combat”. He added:
But it takes a whole society approach to effectively tackle terrorism, and co-operation between the police and the public is vital, so we need you to be vigilant, and we need you to be alert. As we approach the festive period, we need the public to help play their part in protecting the UK.
The warning came with the Home Office’s quarterly release of statistics relating to the police’s use of powers under the Terrorism Act 2000. These revealed there were a total of 188 arrests for terrorism-related activity in the year ending 30 September 2021.
That Islamist-inspired terrorism remains the country’s greatest terrorist threat was demonstrated not only by the higher proportion of foiled terrorist plots as having an Islamist connection – it was also shown by the Home Office statistics relating to prisoners:
- as at 30 September 2021, there were 218 persons in custody for terrorism-connected offences in Great Britain
- of those in custody, the vast majority (71%) were categorised as holding Islamist-extremist views. A further 22% were categorised as holding Extreme Right-Wing ideologies
These figures should be borne in mind as we anticipate the Independent Review of the Government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, led by William Shawcross because there is a concerted campaign led by groups like CAGE to undermine the importance of Islamist ideology in acts of terrorism committed by those claiming to act in the name of Islam. This campaign also aims to foster the idea that Muslims are somehow being unfairly targeted by Prevent, which they deem as an “Islamophobic” enterprise. But this view is not borne out by the facts regarding the number of referrals to Prevent – Muslims now comprise a minority of such referrals. And this week’s announcement by CTP and the statistics from the Home Office should serve as a reminder that the biggest threat remains from Islamist extremism, despite the growth of far-right extremism, which has an ideological dimension.
Peter Clarke, the former National Co-ordinator of Terrorist Investigations and a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange, said:
The CTP report shows that the predominant threat remains that presented by Islamist extremism, which is ideologically driven. It is important that the Prevent review and the response to it does not neglect the essential role that ideology plays in violent extremism, whether it is Islamist or related to the far right.
Indeed, there is a reluctance in some areas of government and the media, perhaps due to a fear of being branded as “Islamophobic”, to acknowledge the importance of Islamist extremism. Last year, senior members of the Metropolitan Police considered abandoning the term “Islamist terrorism” and “jihadis” when describing terror attacks carried out by terrorists acting in the name of Islam. The proposal was put forward by the National Association of Muslim Police, whose representatives felt that the descriptors led to “negative perceptions and stereotypes, discrimination and Islamophobia”.
But this would not be helpful. It is crucial that the police and security services are alert to the motivating factors behind terrorist attacks. Not just the grievances that are alleged to drive terrorism. Because grievances are always perceived through a particular perspective and set of values. We may call this ideological, especially if this viewpoint and these values look not just to address the policies and actions of governments deemed harmful, but to change the very cultural foundations of government towards an alternative world system. This is what Islamism seeks and we should remain aware of it.