The government and media have blown the Islamist terrorism threat out of proportion, giving extremists publicity that is counter-productive, a former head of Britain’s intelligence service has said.
Sir Richard Dearlove, chief of MI6 at the time of the Iraq invasion, said that Britons spreading “blood-curdling” messages on the internet should be ignored. He told an audience in London on Monday there had been a fundamental change in the nature of Islamist extremism since the Arab spring. It had created a major political problem in the Middle East but the west, including Britain, was only “marginally affected”.
Unlike the threat posed by al-Qaida before and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks 13 years ago, the west was not the main target of the radical fundamentalism that created Isis, (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), Dearlove said.
Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, the London-based security and defence thinktank, he said the conflict was “essentially one of Muslim on Muslim”.
He made it clear he believed the way the British government and the media were giving the extremists the “oxygen of publicity” was counter-productive. The media were making monsters of “misguided young men, rather pathetic figures” who were getting coverage “more than their wildest dreams”, said Dearlove, adding: “It is surely better to ignore them.”