more I listen to British Muslim leaders, the more
obvious it seems that the single biggest problem
facing the Muslim community in Britain - and, by
extension, the rest of us as well - is a lack of
responsible and courageous leadership.
appears to be no one within that community prepared
to confront their own people with hard and uncomfortable
truths. You will wait in vain to hear any Muslim
leader challenge head-on the ludicrous but now widespread
belief among British Muslims that they are living
in a country which actively discriminates against
them because of their religion.
than risk confrontation, influential Muslims invariably
play along with - and add weight to - this fundamentalist-inspired
gripe. British society is, by any measure, one of
the most open and tolerant in the world. Yet, listening
to Muslim leaders, it sounds, at least as far as
Islam is concerned, like one of the most oppressive
Muslims will happily talk all day on television
or radio of rampant "Islamophobia", police
prejudice and the subsequent alienation of their
young people. Yet never are they able to publicly
concede that an unfortunate but inevitable consequence
of terrorists being rooted exclusively within one
religious community is that a great deal of police
attention must be focused there as well.
is little more than a year since 52 people were
murdered and more than 700 injured by suicide-bombers
in London. A few days after that, a similar bombing
attempt was thwarted.
there is no acknowledgment by influential Muslims
of any need for special security measures and little
apparent recognition of the deep hurt caused to,
and commendable tolerance of, the wider British
MPs and peers seem no more willing to challenge
the myth of Muslim victimhood than the innumerable
religious and community leaders who regularly stalk
six members of the British parliament joined 38
community groups to sign a letter calling on Tony
Blair to change British foreign policy because it
". . . risks putting civilians at increased
risk both in the UK and abroad". One might
have expected parliamentarians, at least, to stand
firm on the principle that no democratic government
can afford to bend to a threat of violence or, as
in this case, allow itself to be held hostage by
a tiny minority of its citizens. Instead, they meekly
went along with their co-religionists.
there is no chance of their leaders spelling it
out, British Muslims need to realise that their
outrage, whatever its stimulus, is no more nor less
legitimate than that of other sections of society.
In line with the rest of us, neither are they entitled
to express their anger by any means other than peaceful
protest, lobbying and the ballot-box.
obligation on every citizen to abide by the law
and express anger and frustration only in a peaceful
manner is a small price to pay for the benefits
of living in a liberal democratic society. It takes
little imagination to picture the chaos that would
ensue if extreme members of every special interest
group felt they had a perfect right to resort to
terror tactics, or the threat of such, every time
they were angered by events at home or abroad.
the London suicide-bombings of July 2005, senior
British Muslims have been eager to lay blame for
the radicalisation of some within their community
at many different doors. Yet, despite their efforts,
the unavoidable truth is that they themselves must
shoulder much of the blame. For years, they failed
to challenge a succession of fundamentalist imams
who were quite obviously engaged in a process of
radicalising the British Muslim community.
stood by in cowardly acquiescence and said nothing
while week after week Muslim communities were treated
to hate-filled anti-western sermons and the heaping
of praise on martyrdom and suicide-bombers, decapitators
wonder then, with no one prepared to counter their
views, that the extremists managed to bring swathes
of young people and others under their spell.
for example, the unequivocal position of our own
leading Northern Ireland Muslim, Abdul Al Jibouri,
with the lack of leadership shown by Britain-based
Sunday, speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Mr Al Jibouri
said: "Islam does not encourage people to go
and blow people up - this is based on fundamentalists
and the way they interpret the Koran . . . Terrorism
and active terrorism is totally against Islam and
I would be the first person to condemn it."
the positive attitude of Nuara Bazama, of the Federation
of Students' Islamic Societies, quoted in this newspaper
on Wednesday: "Ireland has been very good to
the Muslim youth and we've been very good, in turn,
to Ireland . . . "
British Muslim leaders who, to date, have abdicated
their own responsibilities in this regard can hardly
now feign surprise that so many young British Muslims
hold extremist views. Instead of trying to shift
the blame on to others, it is time that they lived
up to their job description and provided real leadership
by starting to challenge and undo the work of the
with permission from the author.