Former MI5 chief: Trump’s demonisation of Muslims ‘makes us all less safe’

Then-director general of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller addresses delegates during the CBI conference in Birmingham, central England, November 8, 2004.
Reuters / Darren Staples

NEWPORT, WALES – The former head of Britain’s domestic security service said US President Donald Trump’s “demonisation of Muslims … makes us all less safe.”

Eliza Manningham-Buller, director general of MI5 between October 2002 and April 2007, made the statement at property conference ResiConf.

She told the audience: “One of my particular antagonisms with the current president of the United States and his demonisation of Muslims … is that it makes us all less safe.”

Responding to a question from Business Insider, she said: “Most victims of Islamist terrorism [globally] are Muslims.

“In order to understand and detect in advance what’s happening you need Muslim sources of information who are in the centre of these groups, in the same way as we had agents and sources in groups like the Provisional IRA.”

“It’s your professional job to find these people, recruit them, and look after them for the rest of their lives.”

She said that a BBC Radio 4 Today programme which she guest-edited in 2011 featured a Muslim intelligence agent who was working for MI5.

“He explained why he was [working for MI5]. He said, to paraphrase: ‘I believe that what has been done in the name of Allah is wicked and wrong. I can look myself in the mirror and know that I am helping to reduce that threat, providing intelligence that may save lives.'”

“As an intelligence security agency – and America is the same – you are aiming to expand that circle of agents so your chances of detecting things in advance is as good as it can be.

“If you ban that particular ethnicity and religion wholesale – which he hasn’t quite done, but he’s more or less done – why would you as an American Muslim, or a Muslim somewhere else in the world, offer to an American government with that [President] at the head, intelligence that might be life-saving?”

An executive order introduced by Trump in January is currently banning of refugees from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the United States.

Efforts to expand the travel ban to more people from those countries have run into legal trouble. On Friday Trump used the terror attack in Parsons Green, London, to call for a more comprehensive ban in the US.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”

Manningham-Buller also re-stated her warning that leaving the EU could jeopardise Britain’s security and said Britain’s foreign interventions in the Middle East had heightened the risk of domestic terrorism.