The London Blasts: Media
NINE: 16 July 2005
to Part 2
Part 3 ISLAM
ISLAM - THE PAKISTANI
Another day, another madrassa.
Foster visits the Markaz-e-Dawa madrassa, where Shehzad
Tanweer, the Aldgate bomber, is said to have stayed earlier
this year, 20 miles north of Lahore:
It is run by Dawa-ul-Arshad, the political
front for the banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba which
was set up in 1987 to prosecute a holy war against Indian
forces in Kashmir.
After prayers, over a glass of "Mecca"
brand cola, Prof Zafar Iqbal, the madrassa's director of
education, did not hesitate to condemn the London bombings.
"This was not the work
of a true mujahideen who can legitimately kill only those
who are killing Muslims - as in Kashmir or Iraq.
victims in London were innocent and pure. It was wrong.
We do not teach any terrorism in this place. Only the holy
Koran and other kinds of education, including English and
computers. Tell the world there are no terrorists here."
It appears that Shehzad
Tanweer visited for 'at least four or five days', rather
than actually studying at the Islamic school.
FLUFFY DENIAL: VALLELY
FAILS TO 'ATTEND TO' MUSLIM CONCERNS
Paul Vallely in the Independent
tries to put a purely cultural and psychological interpretation
on the causes of the London bombing (page 9 or paid-for
turns lads from Leeds into suicide bombers?" The answers
given have been partial and unsatisfactory, as have been
the responses about what should be done now... Alienation
is a cultural rather than an economic business.'
Vallely cites examples of real or perceived
Islamophobia, including protests against halal slaughter,
and against the proposed incitement to religious hatred
law. 'Whatever the individual
rights or wrongs of all that, cumulatively it constitutes
what Muslims see as a culture of disdain for them and their
Four young men blew up fifty people
because they felt themselves and their faith 'disdained'?
Despite this bizarre framework, there
are a few glimpses at reality:
'The Koranic term the ummah
refers to a community of faith, feeling, brotherhood and
destiny... That is why we hear Muslims from Leeds insisting,
in broad Yorkshire accents, "I'm as British as you
are." And then, in the next breath, they talk about
"Our brothers in Iraq,"
or Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnya - and Kashmir,
an issue that is generally off the Western radar but looms
large among British Muslims. The ummah
translates the feeling of being persecuted into a transnational
The only (!) Muslim commentator quoted
in the piece injects a note of reality, which is smothered
in Vallely's 'cultural alienation' framework:
religion would not have much purchase were it not for the
sense of disenfranchisement which so many young British
Muslims feel. As one Islamic commentator, Salma Yacoob,
put it yesterday "Shoddy
theology does not exist without a shoddy foreign policy".
Not to mention a culture of social alienation.'
The final glimpse at some of the realities
of the situation comes in the penultimate paragraph. Vallely
writes that moderate Muslims must be made to feel more confident
'That means they must be attended to
when they talk of the injustices they perceive. They must
not be dismissed or shouted down. For if they are not taken
seriously, a gap will open up between the leaders and those
they represent. And that increases the likelihood of dangerous
routes being adopted by the disillusioned.'
Muslims (the moderate ones only) must
not be dismissed or shouted down. Instead they must be patronized
and listened to - 'seriously' - by non-Muslims... for entirely
Muslims must not be dismissed, but
articles can be written urging people to 'attend to' what
they are saying - without actually quoting what Muslims
are saying. With one exception, in which a Muslim woman's
analysis is effectively contradicted by the framework within
which it is placed.
This comes from the liberal end of
the spectrum of the non-Muslim response to the London atrocities.
Elsewhere in the Independent
(page 31), Rajnaara
C Akhtar, acting chair of the Assembly for the Protection
of Hijab, writes,
are having to say, don't tell
me what I think, ask
me and I
will tell you.'
(Emphasis in original, on paper but
ISLAM - WHAT MUSLIMS SAY
Despite the despicable
commentary in the Telegraph (see
below), it has some of the best reporting of the Muslim
On the streets of Beeston
In Leeds, Jamil Ali, 17, said:
"If they kill
one in Afghanistan you feel like you want to kill 100. You
don't do it because you don't want to leave your family,
but it is like your
brothers and sisters dying.
That is what people need to understand."
A 23-year-old man, who gave his name
as Asif, said the elders in the community were happy to
turn a blind eye to atrocities elsewhere in the world, while
young men were not.
He said: "A lot of them came over
when they were young and are just happy to keep their heads
down. We were born in Britain and raised in a different
political climate. We know
what's been going on in Bosnia, in Afghanistan and as Muslims
it hurts us."
An accompanying article
quotes another young Muslim:
'Myfit Lleshi, 23, who
fled Albania eight years ago after losing his family, said
he condemned suicide bombers but understood why they did
it after watching television
images of dead civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.'
think there will be 100 more suicide bombings in this country,"
he warned. "In Islam there is no nationality. I am
first a Muslim.'
' "Muslims are one body. If one
part of the body hurts the whole body suffers." '
The Telegraph also put
the older generation's point of view:
'Some blame the failure
of the mosques for not being more vigilant about the radical
clerics preaching on the pavements or recruiting in the
'Others insist Britain's foreign
entanglements in Iraq and Afghanistan are to blame.'
In the Guardian,
the clash of the generations was summed up in these
two views from Qurban Hussain, deputy leader of the
borough council in Luton, and an eighteen-year-old Muslim
Mr Hussain said: 'This
is another tragedy: the generation gap between young and
old in the ethnic minorities is much greater than in the
indigenous population. Our elder generation were law-abiding
and hardworking. Where they failed was they put all their
God-given hours into work and didn't spend time with their
children. When these people are brainwashed, they are brainwashed
to an extent that they don't talk to their parents.'
In Leeds, Hashim Talbot, saw the problem
in a totally different light: he 'has
an acute sense of the difference between old and young Muslims:
elders are theologically
aware but politically passive;
younger people are theologically
dumb but politically active.'
people like myself are more politically aware. It's
not only Iraq. A lot of
people have sympathy for the
Palestinians, who we see as brothers.'
Muslims are not as educated in their religion so they go
for radical ideas because with these they can see change
happen quickly. Moderate
Muslims are too slow for young people. Any
young person is vulnerable to any form of extremism. You
have to open the doors a bit. Lack of information breeds
less we are told, the less we feel this is our country.'
With the proposed new law on 'indirect
incitement to violence', which goes some way to criminalizing
the speech of radical young Muslims, will they feel more
or less that this is their country?
ISLAM - MULTICULTURALISM AND WOMEN
Incidentally, the intellectual backlash
against the bombings is taking various forms, including
a substantial attack on what is called 'multiculturalism'.
Burchill contributes one attack in The
'We the host community have accepted
multiculturalism; the issue now is whether hardline - and
I stress hardline - Muslims can do the same. To my eyes
at least, "live and let live" seems to be a concept
they have a problem with; until they can grasp it, as the
Sikhs and Hindus have (who have at least as strong and rich
a culture, but feel no need to burn books, form parliaments,
set up separatist schools and kill their fellow Britons
to demonstrate this), the jury is still out on whether hardline
Muslims can truly live happily in non-Muslim countries.'
The jury may also be out on whether
hardline (and we stress hardline) Christians can truly live
happily in secular countries, given their inclination (in
this country, at least) to try to ban television shows,
secure seats in the upper house of Parliament exclusively
for their own religion, to set up separatist schools, and
to kill their fellow Britons (sometimes preceding the killing
of 'Taliban') in order to demonstrate the strength and
richness of their culture. This is of course to leave aside
their foreign adventures.
Malik thinks that 'radical Islam' has found a hearing
recently 'partly because the idea
that we should aspire to a common identity and a set of
values has been eroded in the name of multiculturalism...
Multiculturalism as a political ideology has helped create
a tribal Britain with no political or moral centre.... there
no longer seems much that is compelling about being British....
Britishness has come to be defined simply as a toleration
of difference. The politics of ideology has given way to
the politics of identity, creating a more fragmented Britain,
and one where many groups assert their identity through
a sense of victimhood and grievance.'
This is quite extraordinary, just weeks
after Live 8, the culmination of the Make Poverty History
campaign, and the anti-G8 protests, which, for all their
faults demonstrated some kind of national unity and a 'political
and moral centre' to British society.
Let us turn to the Young
Muslims and Extremism report drawn up by the Home Office
and the Foreign Office last year, precisely to inquire into
why what Malik calls "radical Islam" has found
a hearing recently. We find that the primary reason is British
foreign policy, particularly the invasion of Iraq and the
"war on terror". The only reference to multiculturalism
comes here: 'Perceived Islamophobia
(particularly post-9/11) in society and the media may cause
some British Muslims including young Muslims to feel isolated
and alienated and in a few cases to reject democratic and
In other words, it is the prejudice
and disrespect that young Muslims encounter that makes them
feel isolated and alienated. Multiculturalism (in the sense
Malik is using the term) means mutual respect between cultural
and religious traditions. The Government's own analysis
is that it is because we have too little 'multiculturalism'
that we are getting more 'extremism', not because we have
Of course, this mutual respect must
be within the framework of universal human rights and agreed
laws. But sometimes this framework is interpreted in order
to attack 'Islam' (as though the many streams of Islam were
one monolithic entity).
Guha writes in the FT,
'Most liberal values are process
values: people of faith can look to change society through
politics. Yet some things are sacrosanct, including equal
rights for women. Those who cannot accept this should exercise
their right to exit western society.'
This is, in the context, a dig at Muslims,
and a call for them to exile themselves (with a scarcely
veiled threat behind it).
If implemented, this authoritarian
expulsion policy is going to have unfortunate consequences
for Catholics and Anglicans who refuse to accept that women
have equal rights to serve at all levels of their churches;
for those women and men who refuse to accept that women
who are mothers have equal rights to engage in life-threatening
occupations or leisure pursuits as men who are fathers;
and many others.
Western society is going to be pretty
But that could help with greenhouse
MUSLIM LEADERSHIP - MORE MALIK AND
In a new twist, Kenan
Malik in The Times
blames Muslim leaders
for creating the conditions in which the bombers developed
leaders have nurtured an exaggerated sense of victimhood
for their own political purposes. The result has been to
stoke up anger and resentment, creating a siege mentality
that makes Muslim communities more inward looking and more
open to religious extremism - and that has helped to transform
a small number of young men into savage terrorists.'
In this train, the Telegraph's
former editor Charles Moore has followed his first
scandalous attack on Islam with a new calumny. He focuses
on the Leeds Grand Mosque, which translates its sermons
into English. Moore complains that while the leaders of
the Mosque have readily joined in the condemnation of the
London attacks, their Friday sermons are filled with 'a
constant streak of paranoia', of 'threats and conspiracies
which are devised against Islam'.
His only evidence is a sermon on 'youth'.
Moore writes: that the sermon, addressed to 'young
men like the three down the road who planted the bombs,
tells the teenagers at which it aims how marvellous were
the military conquests carried out by the young followers
of the Prophet and how today "Your Islam, your religion,
is being targeted".'
Moore thunders: 'No,
sermons like this do not say that the hearers should go
out and kill people, and no doubt the preachers do not believe
that they should, but they do not say that they should not
kill, and they stoke up anger. How much can you incite anger,
and then throw up your hands in horror when young men take
their rage to a bloody conclusion?'
When we turn to the
sermon itself, we find that, there is indeed a reference
to the military success of the young followers of the Prophet.
It is used to exhort young Muslims to follow their example
in these respects:
1st: They adhered to the religion,
in belief and thought, saying and action, implementing and
2nd: They carried the message of Islam
to the world with great effort and sacrifice, and the strength
of their patience, such that Allah says: “Among the
believers are men who have been true to their covenant with
Allah. Some of them have died, and some still wait, but
their determination never changed in the least.” (33:23)
The central message of
the sermon follows:
Oh youth, know that if
you are not preoccupied with Truth then you are preoccupied
with falsehood. This is a maxim in the science of education.
If you do not fill your
time with seeking knowledge or effort or work, for the sake
of a livelihood, then you allow your time to be filled
with that which has no benefit, and
you will pull yourself and lead yourself with passions and
whims, following Shaitan in disobedience to Allah.
Study and work hard. That's
Moore's 'incitement to anger'.
In fact, education is
the main theme of the whole sermon. In an earlier section,
the sermon addresses parents:
'everything that our youth
face, our sons and daughters, everything that they see and
witness, everything that they hear each day, contradicts
and opposes their belief, their religion, and the manners
and morals of Islam... How do we confront all of this? How
do we protect our youth?'
'... The secret is found in one
Moore's libel on the Mosque
deserves scathing correction. The
Telegraph letters page awaits.
JNV welcomes feedback.
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This page last updated 17 July 2005