Blogs > Cliopatria > Pursuit of the Middle Class Terrorist

Jul 12, 2005 4:49 pm

Pursuit of the Middle Class Terrorist

Tony Blair’s government has released via backchannels a report on Islamic radicals recruiting disaffected middle class Muslim students. However, one hopes that the report uses statistics better than this paragraph from the press report linked above suggests:
It paints a chilling picture of the scale of the task in tackling terrorism. Drawing on information from MI5, it concludes: “Intelligence indicates that the number of British Muslims actively engaged in terrorist activity, whether at home or abroad or supporting such activity, is extremely small and estimated at less than 1%.”

This equates to fewer than 16,000 potential terrorists and supporters out of a Muslim population of almost 1.6m.

I don’t know about you but it makes a big difference to me if that is 16,000 potential terrorists or active terrorists.

Having said that, I think it might be informative to compare the danger posed by the middle class terrorists of the late 1960s and 1970s in Europe with the potential danger today.

For example, what percentage of middle class students then sympathized with revolutionary activity? What percentage went to revolutionary meetings? What percentage actually committed acts of violence or knowingly aided those who did? I don’t know what such a comparison would show, but it would be one way to make the degree of the challenge ahead more concrete.

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