Thursday 31 March 2016

The Returnees


As is my way, I was reading my way through the comments at Biased BBC the other day and saw a comment from one of the newer regulars asserting "unbelievable pro Jihadi bias by the BBC". 

Duly alerted - though sceptical about such an outlandish-sounding claim of bias - I then listened to the programme in question: The Returnees, on Radio 4, presented by the BBC's Gordon Corera...

...and I've been mulling it over in my mind (on and off) ever since.


Why I've been mulling it over rather than bursting straight in with a post about it is because I found it quite hard to take it all in. There were so many trees in the programme that I found it very hard to see the wood.

Please listen for yourselves and judge for yourselves. 


I think the wood is now in view for me - and, hopefully, clearly so: 

The Returnees didn't adopt a 'nothing to see here, move along' approach to the problem of British Muslims who went and then fought in Syria but it did adopt a heavily liberal approach to the matter. 

The programme presented us with: 

The 'framing' case of a 'nice' returnee who had fought in Syria but, being interviewed for the programme by the BBC, made all the right noises about not disliking us and not wanting to attack us.

We then heard from a series of experts - anti-extremism activists and academics, former MI6 officers, continental European academics, senior British police officers - all of whom, in one way or another, argued for the liberal position......

.....and that includes the generally admirable Shiraz Maher and even the police's Helen Ball. 

We heard Helen Ball saying the UK government was being "over cautious". 

We heard Shiraz Maher saying he argued (at the highest levels of the British government) for a more flexible approach towards 'returnees', and agreeing with the BBC reporter that politicians were playing politics with the issue.


We heard a former MI6 officer praising the highly liberal Danish (Aarhus) model of dealing with returnees.

We heard from Preben Bertelsen of Aarhus University, the man behind the highly liberal Danish model, saying it was "not religion" (ie Islam) and much more about alienation and disenfranchisement and the like. and stressing the need for help (including psychological help) for the returnees.

We heard from an East Jutland police superintendent backing Prof Bertelsen's approach.

We heard the BBC's Gordon Corera describing the 'success' of the Danish approach.

We heard Daniel Koehler, director of Germany's GRIDS, who uses family and friends to help returnees, and who talked of returnees he encountered being "traumatised", "disillusioned", "shocked".

We heard from a very disgruntled Muslim mother of one of the returnees - one who's received a stiff jail sentence. 

And we heard from left-wing lawyer Gareth Peirce, representing that Muslim returned, frothing about "the hunter and the hunted" (with the authorities cast as the former and the returning jihadis as the latter).

And the 'nice' returnee's concluding message? That we could learn from what they've seen and they could tell their fellow Muslims what they've seen.

We could face this for another two generations, warned Gordon Corera.


"Unbelievable pro Jihadi bias by the BBC"?

That is overstating it, but it was strongly biased, and the bias was in favour of a liberal approach to returnees for Syria.

No one (absolutely no one) argued for a tough approach. 

No one even argued against the Danish model...and - Googling around - I've learned that the Aarhus model has plenty of critics in Denmark.

The UK government's all-over-the-place, self-contradictory approach was criticised, but criticised 'from the Left' (so to speak), and contrasted with the 'more successful' (liberal) European models of dealing with Muslim radicalisation.


Whether we'll face this kind of thing from the BBC for another two generations is another matter entirely. 

Hopefully not, in so many ways.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, sounds like you've nailed it there - it's the standard pro-liberal narrative (rather than being overtly pro-Jihadi). The lefty-liberal narrative has it that Jihadis don't become Jihadis because they sincerely believe in Sharia-seeking Jihad but because they are poor, marginalised, uneducated and unaware of the benefits of femninism, homosexual equality, secular democracy etc. In other words, the left-liberal narrative is premised on an explicit denial that there is a coherent alternative world view on offer - the Islamic view (which has been around for 1400 years and which in terms of competing models of society can be seen as highly successful). Or to put it yet another way, the left-liberal narrative is in denial of reality. Personally, I prefer to say that these Jihadis pretty much knew what they were doing. They might have not liked what they found when they got to the war zone but that would only be (in most cases) because it fell short of the Islamic ideal. I prefer to treat Jihadis as equals. Accordingly, I prefer to say they chose to transfer their loyalty to IS. Let them live with that while we take away their citizenship and passport rights.


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