Dr Robert Lambert says the Muslim contact unit helped seize back Finsbury Park mosque by helping local Muslims stand up to Abu Hamza and his henchmen. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
Comments about 'neo-conservative' direction of fight against terror mark five years since 7 July bombings
Britain's fight against terrorism has been a disaster, because its "flawed, neo-conservative" direction alienated Muslims and increased the chances of terrorist attacks, a former leading counter-terrorism officer has told the Guardian.
Speaking to mark today's fifth anniversary of the 7 July attacks in London, Dr Robert Lambert said the atrocity had led the Labour government to launch not just the publicly declared battle against al-Qaida, but a much wider counter-subversive campaign that targeted non-violent Muslims and branded them as supporters of violence.
Lambert, now an academic, served for 30 years as an officer in Scotland Yard's special branch, dealing with the threat from Irish Republican terrorism through to the menace from al-Qaida.
He was head of a counter-terrorism squad, the Muslim contact unit (MCU), which gained intelligence on violent extremists, and won praise from Muslims, even those who have criticised police.
Lambert said the Labour government adopted a "flawed, neo-con analysis to react to 7 July. The view was that this is such an evil ideology, we are entitled to derogate from human rights considerations even further."
The effect of this, said Lambert, was to cast the net too wide: "The [British] analysis was a continuation of the [US] analysis after 9/11, which drove the war on terror, to say al-Qaida is a tip of a dangerous Islamist iceberg ... we went to war not against terrorism, but against ideas, the belief that al-Qaida was a violent end of a subversive movement."
Lambert said this approach alienated British Muslims, as those who expressed views such as opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, also held by non-Muslims, feared that holding such beliefs made them suspects.
"The best way of tackling al-Qaida is to reassure the communities where it seeks support and recruits, is to show those communities that their grievances can be expressed legitimately," Lambert said.
His comments come as Andy Hayman, the former assistant commissioner who led the 7/7 investigation, warns in the Times that Britain remains "under severe risk" from terror attacks.
"There are now probably more radicalised Muslims, their attack plans are more adventurous and the UK still remains under severe risk," Hayman said.
Five years ago today, four Britons inspired, and some trained, by al-Qaida exploded homemade bombs on three London Underground trains and a bus. They killed themselves, murdered 52 people and injured 750 more.
Lambert said the government was desperate to deny that British foreign policy drove sections of the Muslim community to support or sympathise with al-Qaida. He continued: "What the bombers did, and what al-Qaida does successfully, is to exploit widely held grievances. That should not be difficult to grasp. The last government spent most of the last five years denying that, looking for other narratives to explain what had happened."
"All this is happening under the shadow of military action … with terrorist groups planning to legitimise their attacks in the UK on the basis of what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Lambert said the government's decision to go down the wrong path took the police with them. Senior officers could have done more to tell the government their policies were making the task harder by alienating Muslims. "We could see the Bush-Rumsfeld approach would be counter-productive and impact on us as police officers in London. "There is still a duty on the police to let government know what the impact of their policies are, a duty on the police to report the damaging impact on Muslim community support."
Lambert was awarded an MBE for his work heading the MCU and retired in 2007. He said the fight needed to focus solely on the terrorists, and not on those who may share some of their political views, but who will express them peacefully. He said that British policies handed the terrorists propaganda victories. Such policies included the Iraq war, civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the torture of terror suspects at Guantánamo and elsewhere, rendition, the muted response to Israel's attack on Lebanon and the attempt to hold terror suspects in the UK for 90 days without charge.
Remarkable recovery: 7/7 victim's return to health
Five years ago, Davinia Douglass suffered horrific burns to the left side of her face in the Edgware tube bomb blast that killed six passengers.
At the time she was photographed holding a gauze mask to her face and being helped by a former firefighter (right), one of the most striking images from the 7/7 attacks.
Initially, she feared the scarring left by her burns would be so severe that her life would be ruined. The pictures of her face at the time showed extensive damage and seemed to bear out her worst fears.
However, the doctors at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital, where she spent several months, did a remarkable job of repairing the damage.
Today the 29-year-old corporate expert, who married last year, has made a remarkable recovery and her features bear almost no sign of her injuries.
Fonte: The Guardian