Scotland’s “extreme tolerance” could prove a fertile breeding ground for radical Islam, according to a new report.
An article in the CTC Sentinel, the in-house journal of the West Point Military Academy’s Combating Terror Centre, said that despite being at lower risk than elsewhere in the UK, Scotland was “not immune” to the threat of violent Islamic radicalisation.
Written by Stefano Bonino, of Northumbria University, the article also warns of an “ongoing rift” between orthodox and more liberal sections of the Pakistani community, exemplified by the recent battle for control at Glasgow
Dr Bonino states: “While the spectacle of terrorism is likely to hit major European cities hosting disenfranchised Muslim communities, the possibility that Islamist militants will strike against Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen or Dundee in the future should not be ruled out.”
The article said SNP opposition to the war in Iraq, the Scottish Government’s positive stance on refugees and Scottish opposition to airstrikes in Syria had all helped “keep a lid on violent extremism”, while at the same time helping “turn a blind eye” to the threat of radicalisation.
It said the murder of Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah last month had further highlighted sectarian tensions in the Muslim community.
Dr Bonino said: “Scotland’s extreme tolerance could prove to be a fertile ground for the development of Islamist movements, which may not exploit deep-rooted sociopolitical grievances but may take forward anti-Western rhetoric, an ideological rejection of modernity, and distorted interpretations of Islam.”
Despite the warnings, Dr Bonino praised community cohesion built around an “inclusive sense of Scottishness”.
And he said then First Minister Alex Salmond’s decision to issue a call for unity at Glasgow Central Mosque following the 2007 terror attack on the city’s airport had been “politically astute”.
Last month Assistant Chief Constable Ruaraidh Nicolson said the nature of any terror attack in Scotland was unlikely to be as “sophisticated” as those in Paris last year due to the relative difficulty of obtaining firearms. Asked about where the threat would come from, he said: “It’s going to be from people who are already in the country.”
Police Scotland has repeatedly said that building community relations is the key to defeating extremism.