The British continue to be haunted by reports of terrorist plots. However, there was an important twist in one of the recent stories and, ever since, I have been watching to see if journalists will dig into a crucial detail. At first glance, this was just another plot to kidnap, torture and behead someone identified by Islamists as an enemy of the faith. Here is the top of one of the basic U.S. reports, taken from The New York Times:
The British police conducted a series of raids ... arresting nine suspects on terrorism charges in what appeared to be a shift in the tactics of terrorism in Britain. The suspects are accused of devising a plot that included plans to kidnap, torture and behead a British Muslim soldier and broadcast video images of his killing on the Internet.
The arrests, in the central city of Birmingham, were part of what the authorities called a major operation involving hundreds of officers after months of preparation. Eight suspects were arrested in eight different homes, and a ninth was seized on a highway near the city, the police said. Four businesses were also searched.
According to the report, the planned use of the Internet was a "marked departure from previous terrorist plots."
Really? Since when?
I was struck by a detail that drew little attention in this story and many others. It has received little or no follow-up attention, in and of itself. I refer to the fact that the terrorists planned to behead a Muslim soldier who is serving in the British Army and, therefore, has become an enemy of Islam in their eyes.
This is a crucial point that many in the West fail to realize, a point that has been researched by my Oxford Centre colleague Dr. Paul Marshall. When it comes to the wrath of Islamists, no one is in more danger than a Muslim who is viewed as a supporter of Western freedoms and values. Here is a piece of a column I wrote about one of Marshall's lectures, after we taught together in Oxford last summer:
... Islamists are using laws against apostasy and blasphemy to threaten liberal Muslims just as often, or more often, than against actual converts. When Osama bin Laden issues pronouncements against blasphemy, he reserves his strongest words for Muslims who want to compromise with the West.
There is no law higher for Muslims than Sharia law and no courts higher than those that enforce it. One notorious law in Pakistan says: "Whoever, by words either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by imputation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished by death."
In the wake of the latest alleged plot, the British tab called The People did feature one interesting follow-up that showed some of the tensions inside the Muslim community nearby. In this case, a television reporter secretly filmed a sermon rejoicing over the death of a different Muslim soldier in the British miliary. Now the police want that tape as they investigate the sermons of this "mystery cleric" who may or may not have influenced the beheading plot.
All of that raises questions about religious liberty and free speech, among other concerns. Nevertheless, here is the key quote from the television tape:
The mystery cleric -- now being urgently hunted by detectives -- ranted about the dead serviceman at a meeting in a Birmingham mosque. He said: "There was an individual killed in Afghanistan recently. Do you know what was written in a newspaper? Hero of Islam! The hero of Islam is the one who separated his head from his shoulders!"
... Tapes of the programme were seized on Thursday in the week nine men were arrested over a plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier. A West Midlands Police source said: "These tapes could be crucial to the investigation. Not only is the death of a British Muslim soldier applauded, but there is talk of beheading. Considering the mosque is only a stone's throw from where some of the arrested men lived, it is important we analyse the footage."
Once again, there is a story here. The lives of moderate and liberal Muslims are at risk because, in supporting the values of Western society, they are being accused of being heretics and apostates. It is hard to embrace and praise some Muslims in the West without putting their lives at risk.