Britain "soft touch" for Islamist attackers: think-tank
by Michael Thurston
LONDON (AFP) - Britain is a "soft touch" for Islamist extremists who target the country's "fragmenting, post-Christian society," a respected think-tank warned Friday.
The country is crippled by a lack of cultural self-confidence, fuelled by "misplaced deference" to multi-culturalism that leaves it vulnerable to threats from home and abroad, said the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
The government rejected the report, saying Britain has a "detailed and robust strategy for countering international terrorism."
But the think-tank, an internationally recognised authority on defence and security issues, called for a comprehensive rethink of security stategy including the creation of a new powerful cabinet committee.
"The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and its political identity," it said in a report.
"That fragmentation is worsened by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate.
"The country's lack of self-confidence is in stark contrast to the implacability of its Islamist terrorist enemy... We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without."
The report comes a week after head of the Anglican church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, triggered a storm by saying the introduction of Islamic sharia law in Britain was "unavoidable."
The comments re-ignited a debate about the potential for division among ethnic communities in Britain, particularly the country's 1.6 million Muslims, at a time when the government is trying to promote a more cohesive society.
The notion of multiculturalism, promoted for decades in Britain's ethnically diverse society, has come under increasing question in recent years amid successive waves of immigration.
Britain, the main ally of the United States in the anti-terrorism strategy launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks, has been on high alert ever since suicide bombers killed 52 people on the London underground in July 2005.
The RUSI report specifically called for the creation of a new comittee of senior ministers, officials and defence chiefs to co-ordinate security policy.
"It warns that social fragmentation is "worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in mis-placed deference to 'multiculturalism' (has) failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities."
This led to an "undercutting (of) those within (immigrant communities) trying to fight extremism," it added.
As well as terrorism, the report also highlighted the mounting economic threat of China and India, the risks of climate change and the resurgence of Russian nationalism.
"We have a detailed and robust strategy for countering international terrorism and by establishing the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism we have ensured that our policy is better co-ordinated than ever.
"The government firmly rejects the claim that the United Kingdom is a fragmented society," he added.
1) Britain "soft touch" for Islamist attackers: think-tank