Fallon tells Muslim airstrikes against Daesh is not war against Muslims

26th Feb 2016
Fallon tells Muslim airstrikes against Daesh is not war against Muslims

(L-R) Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nicholas Houghton, Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, MP and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Gordon Messenge

(Photo: Crown UK Copyright  2016)

Ahmed J Versi

Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, MP, told an invited Muslim audience that the air strikes against Daesh [IS or ISIL] was not a war against Islam.

Over 30 Muslim leaders were hosted at the Ministry of Defence headquarters in Westminster on February 3. Leading defence leaders, including the Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nicholas Houghton, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Gordon Messenger and Defence Minister Earl Howe, briefed Muslim leaders on military airstrikes against Daesh.

“Many Muslims portray this [air strikes] intervention in Iraq and Syria as a clash of civilisation. It isn’t. It is not a war against Islam,” Fallon insisted as he tried to explain rationale of bombing of Muslim countries. It is also not “about picking a side between Sunni and Shia or about targeting innocents,” he added.

He justified the military action by saying that the bombing is against a terrorist group “who have killed more Muslims than others,” and that “there have been no reports so far of any civilian casualties.”
The Defence Secretary told the meeting that Daesh cannot be defeated by military means alone but “we have to defeat its poisonous ideology.”
Fallon acknowledged that there are not enough members of the armed forces from the ethnic minorities. “We can’t have strong armed forces unless it reflects people who we serve. We want to see more Muslim soldiers,” he said.

On the issue of sending 1,000 British forces to Libya, Fallon told The Muslim News, “We are waiting for the news political government to be formed. We will then help it. The West has to help. We have interest in stabilising Libya. You have to have right boots on the ground. The fight against terrorist organisation has to be led by local forces.”

Sir Nicholas Houghton reiterated what Fallon said that we have to defeat not only the “physical Caliphate” in the Middle East and its franchise elsewhere but also the ideology of Daesh. Domestically, he added, we have to work on de-radicalisation, which is “part of Prevent strategy.”

Lieutenant General Gordon Messenger said UK is leading internationally on defeating ideology of Daesh. He added that Daesh is now not gaining ground. “Daesh is no longer expansive…they are now rolling back.” He then enumerated what the coalition is doing to support those fighting against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. “We are training local forces, both [Kurdish] Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.” He added that they are also training Kurdish forces and “moderate” opposition groups in Syria and helping neighbouring countries Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Chief of Defence Staff was asked whether the UK is working with Iran in Syria. “We are at foothills in establishing diplomatic relations with Iran. Therefore, military cooperation is quite a long way away.”

Many in the audience were concerned about the Government’s Prevent Extremism policy and said very clearly that it is used against the Muslim community. This surprised the military heads. Sir Nicholas said, “It is the first time I heard of Prevent issue was used against Muslims.”

Defence Minister Earl Howe said he would “take back” the concerns of the Muslim community on Prevent to the Home Office.

The group were also against President Assad being in power in Syria.

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