Britain admitted lapses in its attempts to tackle Islamist militancy on Wednesday after an attack in Sweden by a U.K.-educated bomber revived old charges the country is overly tolerant of the threat.
Britain became a hub of Islamist activity in the 1990s thanks to a tradition of granting asylum to Middle East dissidents, but after Sept 11. cracked down on what many
believed had become a dangerously radical militant scene.
The attack in Stockholm on Saturday by Taymour Abdulwahab, a Swede of Middle Eastern origin who had studied in Britain, has reheated accusations that the country is soft on militancy, particularly in its universities.
Critics point to attacks dating back to the 1990s by radicals who had studied in Britain, including the failed bid by a London-educated Nigerian to bomb a plane over Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009.
Speaking about the Swedish blast, Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament Britain had to do more to stop militants and ask why "so many young men" had become radicalized.
'Not done enough'
"We have not done enough to deal with the promotion of extremist Islamism in our own country," he said.
"Whether it is making sure that imams coming over to this country can speak English properly, whether it is making sure we de-radicalize our universities, I think we do have to take a range of further steps," he told lawmakers.
"But we've also got to ask why it is that so many young men in our own country get radicalized in this completely unacceptable way."
Fellow worshippers at a mosque where Abdulwahab prayed in the English town of Luton have said they knew he had radical ideas, a fact apparently not known to police or local government.
Andy Hayman, formerly Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer, said the amount of information flowing to police from Britain's Muslim minority remained scant despite large sums spent on efforts to identify young men most vulnerable to recruitment by al-Qaida-aligned groups.
"If it was drug dealing or housebreaking being done, the phones would be red hot," he told BBC radio.
"I know it is difficult for some parts of the Muslim community because only a very small part are involved in extremism. But we cannot ignore it otherwise what we saw in Sweden will be on our home shores soon."
Security Minister Pauline Neville-Jones acknowledged the authorities efforts were insufficient.
But she added that, unlike theft or dealing drugs, preaching extremism was not in itself illegal and persuading communities to inform authorities on radicals was therefore a tougher task.
"What we are dealing with here is something much subtler and harder to get at," she told BBC radio. "It's a pre-lawbreaking and pre-criminalization period in somebody's life that we need to try and get at."
Previous attempts by authorities to tackle militancy have met suspicion from Muslim communities, who have equated the program with spying and evidence of anti-Muslim
stigmatization, Muslim community workers and academics say.
Britain has about 1.8 million Muslims, mainly of Pakistani descent, and the security services say that nearly all major terrorism plots since 2001, including the 2005 London bombings which killed 52 people, were linked to Pakistan.
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