A WELSH academic has said the phenomenon of British Muslims prepared to carry out attacks on their own soil is the result of British foreign policy which has alienated the Arab world.
Speaking about why British citizens would plan attacks on their own country, Michael Sheehan, a professor in international relations at Swansea University, blamed the situation on Britain's actions abroad, rather than a breakdown within society back home.
Professor Sheehan, who is also head of the university's Callaghan Centre for Conflict Studies, said, "It's not a rejection of British society as such but a rejection of British foreign policy. Britain is on the sharp end because it's seen to have failed the Islamic world in terms of its slavish support of Israel and failure to support Palestine. That's created a major dislike of the West, and specifically the UK and the US, because they are seen to be most associated with Israeli interests.
"There's a sense that the West isn't really interested in the Arab world - apart from oil - and, when it does have an interest, it favours Israel.
"The invasion of Lebanon has reinforced the feeling that it's one rule for Israel and another for the rest of the Arab states in the Middle East.
"As long as you have got that feeling, there will be some people who will be prepared to take violent action against the West."
Although some have linked the rise of Islamic extremism among young British Muslims to divided communities, failed assimilation and lack of a shared concept of Britishness, Professor Sheehan disagrees. He links the growth of organisations, such as al-Qaeda and groups linked to it, to the "march of fundamentalism" fuelled over the past 20 years by the rise of anti-West powers in some countries within the Middle East and the retreat of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, which he said convinced many of the conquering power of Islam. Such religious fundamentalism, rather than a lack of British identity, is to blame, he said.
"I think the people who are arguing have misunderstood the situation. They have over-reacted to the events of last summer and come out with this idea before they knew about the groups and the people connected with them," he said.
"People come to Britain because it's an attractive place to come to. It was a refuge from the horrors they were fleeing. You wouldn't go to a country if you hated it.
"But, as long as you are part of an immigrant community, you will continue to have a connection with the home country."
A letter sent by leading Muslim organisations and MPs to the Prime Minister, printed in national newspapers over the weekend, also blamed British foreign policy for Islamic terrorism.
Signed by 38 Muslim groups, as well as three Islamic MPs, and four peers of the faith, the letter accused the Government of fanning the flames of Islamic extremism and putting British citizens at risk and urged Tony Blair to make more effort to end the violence in the Middle East.
But Labour Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood, the parliamentary aide to Home Office Minister Tony McNulty, criticised the letter's signatories of trying to shift the blame and said the problems lie with Muslim leaders who have failed to tackle the rise of extremism at a grassroots level.
He said, "This is just grandstanding on a massive scale. There is no real substance to this criticism. Firing off a letter like this is the easiest thing in the world but all the sectarian violence in Iraq can't be laid at the feet of British foreign policy."
Describing the letter as "nothing but sabre-rattling and complete nonsense", he criticised groups, such as the Muslim Council of Britain, for not working with ordinary Muslims.
He said, "There is no leadership in the Muslim community. Part of the reason that young people are being radicalised is because there is no real moderate leadership."