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MCB Statements Archive
On Wednesday 22nd May 2013, two men committed a gruesome murder in full public view of a soldier in uniform near the Woolwich Barracks in South London. The victim was Drummer Lee Rigby. Guardian reporters Sandra Laville, Shiv Malik and Ben Quinn provided a vivid account of events: "A meat cleaver is clasped in his blood-smeared left hand; the other – also stained red with human blood – waves manically as he shouts at the camera, ranting his justification for the atrocity on the streets of south-east London....the tall black man, dressed in the dark clothing and beanie hat of urban south London, spat his words to an eyewitness filming on his mobile phone.
Within hours of the incident the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement that helped in minimising the reprisals against Muslims: "The Muslim Council of Britain this evening spoke out, in the strongest possible terms, the news of a horrific murder that has taken place in Woolwich, London. Eye-witnesses suggest that the murderers made Islamic slogans during their heinous action and were thus motivated by their Islamic faith. This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family. We understand the victim is a serving member of the Armed Forces. Muslims have long served in this country’s Armed Forces, proudly and with honour. This attack on a member of the Armed Forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder...."
Statements from mainstream Muslim community organisations include:
"in London, supporters of the far-Right clashed with police and anti-fascists, shutting down streets around Parliament. As tensions mounted across the country:
Up to 1,000 EDL supporters chanted ‘no surrender’ and held pictures of a bloody meat cleaver as they marched past Downing Street;
For Hansard report click here
When young men born and bred in this country are radicalised and turned into killers, we must ask some tough questions about what is happening in our country. For some young people, it is as if there is a conveyor belt to radicalisation that has poisoned their minds with sick and perverted ideas.
We need to dismantle that process at every stage—in schools, colleges and universities, on the internet, in our prisons and wherever it takes place—so, this morning, I chaired the first meeting of the Government’s new taskforce on tackling extremism and radicalisation. I want the taskforce to ask serious questions on whether the rules on charities are too lax and whether they can allow extremists to prosper; whether we are doing enough to disrupt groups that incite hatred, violence or criminal damage; whether we are doing enough to deal with radicalisation on our university campuses, on the internet and in our prisons; whether we need to do more with informal education centres such as madrassahs to prevent radicalisation; and whether we do enough to help mosques to expel extremists and recruit imams who understand Britain. We will also look at new ways to support communities as they come together and take a united stand against all forms of extremism. Just as we will not stand for those who pervert Islam to preach extremism, neither will we stand for groups such as the English Defence League, which try to demonise Islam and stoke up anti-Muslim hatred by bringing disorder and violence to our towns and cities.
... Rather than have a formal panel of advisers, we are going to seek advice from different individuals and groups who can bring real expertise. This must not be just another opportunity to discuss Britishness or British identity; it must be a set of actions in our universities, schools and colleges and on the internet—as well as in our prisons; for heaven’s sake, we are supposed to be responsible for those people, yet they are still being radicalised under our very noses—to deal with these problems. Let us be clear: the responsibility for this horrific murder lies with those who committed it. However, we should do all we can to tackle the poisonous ideology that is perverting young minds. This is not just a job for the security services and the police; it is work for us all....
ll of us in the House condemn this poisonous narrative, condemn this perversion of Islam and condemn this extremist narrative, but are we doing enough to ensure that we snuff it out in our prisons, colleges or university campuses? Are we doing enough to confront it and defeat it, online and elsewhere? I think that the answer to that is no. I think that there is more work to be done, and that we should do it in good order....
It is not enough to target and go after violent extremists after they have become violent. We have to drain the swamp which they inhabit. That means looking at the process of radicalisation on our campuses. It means looking at Islamic centres that have been taken over by extremists and gone wrong. It means looking at those mosques that are struggling to throw out the extremists and helping them in the work that they are doing. It means going through all the elements of the conveyor belt to radicalisation and ensuring that we deal with them. That is what is important. That is the work that needs to be done.
On 26th May 2013 the Guardian reported David Cameron is launching a new terror task force to crack down on extremism in the wake of the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, Downing Street has confirmed. The cabinet-level group, which will also bring in intelligence and police chiefs when needed, will focus on radical preachers who target potential recruits in jails, schools, colleges and mosques. It will monitor trends in radicalisation and tackle "poisonous narratives", No 10 said. The group, which is expected to meet within weeks, will include the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, the home secretary, Theresa May, the chancellor, George Osborne, other key cabinet ministers, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5. It will be known as the tackling extremism and radicalisation task force (Terfor), according to the Mail on Sunday. Downing Street said the group would focus on practical measures rather than getting bogged down in theoretical debates about Britishness and cultural values. It will examine what powers can be used to clamp down on extremist activity, including how to tackle hate preachers.
A former soldier writes "I am a former soldier. I completed one tour of duty in Afghanistan, refused on legal and moral grounds to serve a second tour, and spent five months in a military prison as a result. When the news about the attack in Woolwich broke, by pure coincidence Ross Caputi was crashing on my sofa. Ross is a soft-spoken ex-US marine turned film-maker who served in Iraq and witnessed the pillaging and irradiation of Falluja. He is also a native of Boston, the scene of a recent homegrown terror attack. Together, we watched the news, and right away we were certain that what we were seeing was informed by the misguided military adventures in which we had taken part.
So at the very outset, and before the rising tide of prejudice and pseudo-patriotism fully encloses us, let us be clear: while nothing can justify the savage killing in Woolwich yesterday of a man since confirmed to have been a serving British soldier, it should not be hard to explain why the murder happened.
...But let's start by examining what emerged from the mouths of the assailants themselves. In an accent that was pure London, according to one of the courageous women who intervened at the scene, one alleged killer claimed he was "… fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan …". It is unclear whether it was the same man, or his alleged co-assailant, who said "… bring our [Note: our] troops home so we can all live in peace". It should by now be self-evident that by attacking Muslims overseas, you will occasionally spawn twisted and, as we saw yesterday, even murderous hatred at home. We need to recognise that, given the continued role our government has chosen to play in the US imperial project in the Middle East, we are lucky that these attacks are so few and far between."
A former soldier writes "...Thus it was inane yesterday for security pundits to seek to elevate a vaguely motivated religious killing by linking it to a "possible overseas al-Qaida network". It recalled the 1950s Kefauver mafia committee in Washington, desperate to justify its existence by pleading with a series of small-time hoods to claim membership of some high-powered international network. The hoods blinked in amazement..
...This week's killers certainly claimed a political message, attributing their deed to Britain's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said that murdering a soldier in London was tit-for-tat for British soldiers killing Muslims in Asia. This does not require them to be part of some international network, merely to have read online propaganda. Nor does it require them to receive the accolade of a Cobra-style pandemonium. By doing so we risk accepting their terms of engagement in this grim debate....British and American operators indeed use drone missiles to kill Muslim soldiers, and inevitably civilians, on the streets of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. They deploy horrific airborne violence against communities, including in non-combatant countries. Retaliation for these killings may not be "justifiable" in our terms. But jihadists have no access to drones and must rely on car bombs, nail bombs, machetes and cleavers. The result may appal Londoners, but there are no citizen journalists to witness the appalling impact of a drone attack on a Pashtun village...."
On 23rd May 2013 the UAF noted that it "... sends its condolences to the family and friends of the soldier murdered yesterday in Woolwich. There can be no justification for such a terrible attack on an individual. But we must recognise that fascist organisations such as the English Defence League and British National Party are trying to use the murder to whip up racism and direct hatred against all Muslims. EDL thugs attempted to start a race riot in Woolwich last night. Mosques have been attacked by racist thugs. These fascists and racists should be condemned and opposed. We must not give a quarter to those who would judge an entire religion, race or nationality by the actions of a few. We do not hold Norwegian Christians responsible for the actions of the fascist Anders Breivik, whose 2011 rampage left 77 dead. We do not hold white people collectively responsible for Timothy McVeigh, the US neo-Nazi whose 1995 Oklahoma City bomb killed 168 people, or for David Copeland, the former BNP member who planted bombs across London in 1999. Nor should anyone suggest that Britain’s Muslims are collectively responsible for yesterday’s attack...."
On 23rd May 2013 Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby noted in Leicester "... We have all been horrified by the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. All of our prayers and mine are with Lee's family, with his colleagues and comrades, and all those who witnessed this crime and all those in the community who have been so affected by it. It's very good to be here today with the Bishop of Leicester in whose diocese we are, with the Bishop of Woolwich, with the other Bishops of Pontefract and Bradford, and with Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, who is Co-Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum. I want to recognise the response of churches, mosques and other faith and civil society groups as well as those of brave individuals who have done so much to bring our communities together at this time. The strong response from the Muslim Council of Britain and many other organisations has rightly emphasised that these acts have no place in Islam."
On 26th May 2013 Afzal Amin, the prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Dudley North observed, "...We feel connected to this country, we belong to this country. There is no contradiction between being Muslim and British. We should be careful to avoid exaggerating to what extent this attack has anything to do with 3 million [British] people who are also Muslim." But does he think mainstream Muslim groups could have done more to offer a different narrative? "The vast majority of British Muslims are inoculated against that sort of extremism," says Mr Amin. "But clearly there is a serious issue regarding the education and attitudes of this very small fringe who act in this vile and abhorrent way." Referring to both the English Defence League and Al Muhajiroun, he adds: "Give less airtime to extremists, marginalise them and they will wither. Put them on TV and they thrive on the oxygen of publicity."
On 25th May 2013 Alan Shelbrooke, Conservative MP for for Elmet and Rothwell, West Yorkshire, said he had been bombarded with angry messages from constituents. ‘The implication is anybody who has not got a white face is implicated. If people have those views they must visit Auschwitz to understand where intolerance leads. 'People should draw the connection between what happened in the 1920 and 1930s in Germany, and the conversations people think are acceptable now. We live in a cohesive society.’ ...the fact that the attackers cited Allah to horrified onlookers should not mean the incident be classified as a ‘terrorist’ incident....‘I do not think this should be described as terror. ‘Just because you stand up and say “God is Great” to everybody, it does not mean it’s Islamic terror.’
Mehdi Hasan quotes the US security veteran stating "...Governments, by overreacting, may actually bring back the [original al Qaeda] movement". In recent days, senior figures from across the political spectrum have condemned attempts to link the attack in Woolwich to the the UK military's involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said on Monday that the problem of extremism couldn't be solved by entering into "some debate or discussion about British or American foreign policy".
... "If you listen to the video of that guy, Michael Adebolajo, he very much says it is because of the [Afghan] war. At what point are you going to start listening to the perpetrators who tell you why they're doing this? The same applies to the videos of the 7/7 bombers. At some point you have to be grounded in reality.".
Sageman advocates a combination of monitoring and surveillance, on the one hand, and political engagement, on the other. "You basically need to monitor these kids and make sure they move on with their lives." But at the same time, he says, "these kids have to be brought within the system. They need to feel like they're relevant."
Seamus Milne, in the Guardian on 29th May 2013 :writes "...But almost nobody in public life mentions the war. The reason cited by the alleged Woolwich killers – the role of British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror – has been mostly brushed aside as unseemly to discuss. Echoing his predecessors, the prime minister insisted the Woolwich killing was "an attack on the British way of life". London mayor Boris Johnson declared there could be "no question" of blaming British foreign policy or "what British troops do in operations abroad".
... Instead, the problem is once again said to be "Islamism", regardless of the string of democratic Islamist governments elected from Turkey to Tunisia. Or the focus is on the "mistakes" of MI5, as if any amount of spooking could detect the determination of an enraged takfiri killer to exact revenge with kitchen knives and meat cleavers. Whatever the focus, even to mention the western wars that drive these attacks is deemed to justify them. That is, of course, absurd. Targeting a soldier who fought in Afghanistan might not be terrorism in the sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians. But the random butchery of an unarmed man far from the conflict by disconnected individuals who have nonviolent political alternatives is clearly unjustifiable in any significant religious or political tradition.
The fact that the US declared the war on terror to be a war without national borders and routinely targets unarmed or unidentified victims has fatally blurred those boundaries. The grisly, intimate killing of Lee Rigby was the absolute antithesis of high technology drone attacks. But both embody the degradation of the human spirit.
...Given the bloodshed, torture, mass incarceration and destruction that US-British occupation has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilian slaughter inflicted in the drone war from Pakistan to Yemen, the only surprise is that there haven't been more terror attacks....
Russell Brand, writing in The Sun on 26th May 2013 notes "... I am not proposing we sit around trying to summon up cute analogies when Lee Rigby has lost his life in these horrific circumstances. I simply feel that it is important that our reaction is measured. There is something about the arbitrary brutality, humdrum High Street setting and the cool rhetoric of the blood-stained murderer that evokes a powerful and inherently irrational response.
When I heard the word “beheading” I felt the atavistic grumble that we all feel. This is inhumane, taboo, not a result of passion but of malice — ritualistic. “If this is happening to guiltless men on our streets it could happen to me,” I thought. Then I watched the mobile phone clip. In spite of his dispassionate intoning the subject is not rational. Of course he’s not rational, he’s just murdered a stranger in the street, he says, because of a book. In my view that man’s severely mentally ill and has found a convenient conduit for his insanity — in this case the Koran. In the case of another mentally ill and desperate man — Mark Chapman — it was The Catcher In The Rye. This was the nominated text for his rationalisation of the murder of John Lennon in 1980. I’ve read that book and I’ve read some of the Koran, and nothing in either of them has compelled me to do violence. ... What the English Defence League and other angry, confused people are doing and advocating now — violence against mosques, Muslims, proliferation of hateful rhetoric — is exactly what that poor, sick, murderous man, blood-soaked on a peaceful street, was hoping for in his desperate, muddled mind. The extremists on both sides have a shared agenda, cause division, distrust, anger and violence. Both sides have the same intention. We cannot allow them to distort our perception.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, in Huffington Post on 29th May 2013 writes "...What motivated the killers to carry out this shocking act? Were they deranged, online fantasists, hyper-radicalised, over-politicised; or were they inspired by the 'evil ideology of 'Islamism', as some vocal Islamophobes want us to believe? This needs deeper research and proper remedy. It is now clear that they were within the MI5 radar and were known to be radicalised by now-banned Al-Muhajiroun group run by Anjem Choudary, and created by Omar Bakri Mohammed; one of the killers was even offered a job by MI5! Worries will be expressed about MI5's role in dealing with Muslim extremists and also how these extremists slipped through their net.
... As citizens, we need tough conversation within our communities - and beyond - about the causes of extremism and the role of religious and educational institutions, as well as prisons, online and social media. The language, terminology and jargon have to be well-defined so that extremists from any quarter do not feel inflated with their criminal acts and ordinary people are not misinformed.
...A creative space is needed for us to discuss all the serious issues that our young people, particularly young Muslims, face. There is no shortcut to achieving our goal of protecting life and keeping ourselves safe..
Paul Stott, in the New Statesman on 6th June 2013 writes "...Somewhat curiously a visit to the Home Office’s list of proscribed terrorist organisations finds al-Muhajiroun listed, not as a domestic terrorist group, but an international one. Its supporters have allegedly been responsible for something like a fifth of Islamist terrorist plots in the UK, and many of its members were born within sound of Bow Bells. One of its best known, Anthony Small, is a former British Light Middleweight boxing champion. What is so international about it? When I challenged the Home Office about categorisation, via the Freedom of Information Act, I received a very woolly response that its focus was international because it campaigns for a caliphate. In this area at least, the government seems determined to have an international, rather than domestic focus.
...It is entirely possible to imagine a Britain with a non-interventionist, quietist foreign policy, and yet still wrestling with some of the difficult minority strands in British Islam. Is it because of foreign policy that earnest young men in Tower Hamlets proclaimed gay free zones earlier this year to try to enforce, even for a few hours, their version of sharia? How do we explain the practice of segregated meetings being held by some Muslims at universities, often in defiance of clear guidance to the contrary by the host institutions? ...
Maleiha Malik in the Guardian, 10th June 2013 writes "... tackling hate crimes in an age of austerity and cuts to police budgets will be challenging. Lynne Featherstone MP set out the coalition government's approach in the 2012 report Challenge it, Report it, Stop it: the Government's Plan to Tackle Hate Crime. Featherstone's approach shifted the lead for tackling hate crimes from national statutory agencies to the "local level with professionals, the voluntary sector and communities". This "deregulation" of hate crime initiatives, at the same time as cutting police budgets, will leave not only Muslims but all citizens vulnerable. It is tantamount to the government trying to extricate itself from the responsibility for recording and tackling extremist hate crime altogether: not only the acts of violent racists who target Muslims but also those jihadists who target white communities....
Owen Jones in the Independent, 16th June 2013 writes "... Others have suggested EDL critics such as myself are inconsistent: Blairite MP Tom Harris notes that, while I am on record for calling for Britons to stand united against the EDL, there was “no similar exhortation...to stand firm against Islamism”. So convinced is Harris of the left’s softness on Islamism that, on hearing initial reports of the massacre of mostly young socialists by far-right terrorist Anders Breivik in 2011, he presumed Islamists were responsible and tweeted: “Even after Oslo, we’ll still have the apologists for terrorism saying it was caused by ‘foreign policy’ or by ‘disrespect to the Prophet’.” Unfortunate, to say the least, that the attack was justified by an invented threat to Western civilisation posed by Muslims.
But the truth is that violent political Islamism – abhorrent though it certainly is – is a fringe view among Britain’s small Muslim minority, however much fury has been caused by disastrous foreign wars....
Mayor of London Boris Johnson writing in the Daily Telegraph on 28th May 2013 noted,
“The universities need to be much, much tougher in their monitoring of Islamic societies. “It is utterly wrong to have segregated meetings in a state-funded centre of learning. If visiting speakers start some Islamist schtick – and seek either to call for or justify violence – then the authorities need to summon the police.” Mr Johnson also said that politicians had to “make a hard and sharp distinction between that religion – and the virus of ‘Islamism’.” He said: “This is a sinister political agenda that promotes a sense of grievance and victimhood among a minority of Muslims. “The Islamists want universal Sharia law, and other mumbo jumbo. Above all, they want power over others: and so they prey on young men who feel in some way rejected by society, and they fill those young men with a horrible and deluded sense of self-importance. “They tell these people that they are not alone in suffering injustice; that they belong to a much wider group of victims – the Muslims – and that the only way to avenge these injustices is jihad. “These Islamist evangelists have no allegiance to the western society they live in and whose benefits systems they abuse: far from it – their avowed intent is to create a sexist and homophobic Muslim caliphate.” Mr Johnson continued: "We must not give the killers the thing they crave above all – the prize of dividing us. They say they want a “war”, or, as others have put it, a “clash of civilisations”. That idea is bunk, and we can show it. "To prevent any such temptation, we must be clear in our heads that there is no sense whatever in blaming Islam, a religion that gives consolation and enrichment to the lives of hundreds of millions of peaceful people."
FOSIS President Omar Ali has responded to Johnson's mumbo jumbo ,
...Boris Johnson today proposed to put a ban on societies who offer separate gender seating. This is akin to the aggressive laïcité French approach which infringes on the rights of freedom of religious expression, a right which we in Britain should value immensely. Separate seating which accommodates males and females (the use of segregation recalls unrelated and emotive images of apartheid South Africa) is a religious act which many democratically elected societies choose to implement in pursuit of upholding fundamental values and etiquettes. It is a spiritual practise that has been established for multiple millennia and is one that is still actively implemented today by many churches, synagogues, mosques, their religious organisations and communities and indeed, in a number of other religious establishments in various degrees and forms. To speak of this and of terrorism in the same conversation seems to be nothing short of a red-herring and this isn't the only example.
"Hindu Forum of Britain is at loss for words to condemn the horrendous incident that occured in Woolwich yesterday. This is an inhuman act, an expression of the unadulterated evil inspired by a heinous ideology. We express our sincere condolence to the bereaved family and to the nation for the loss of life of a brave soldier. Swaminathan Vaidyanathan, Acting Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain.
Neo-con Douglas Murray writing in the Spectator on 1st June 2013:
“...Since the slaughter in Woolwich, people keep asking the same question. Will it change things? On the basis of the last week I can say: ‘No, not at all.’ Some more members of the public will recognise the serious and malignant threat that Islamic fundamentalism poses. But among our politicians, there will be no change. Not only because across government and across all parties there are people who believe there is no problem — but because there are so many people and powers in place to stop this country doing what it needs to do.
It is not hard. Deport illegals, lock up radicals, tell the sympathisers the game is up, and fight not for a draw but for victory against this enemy. There are those who would like to do this. But they have been magnificently trussed up. The people dancing around them are the same people dancing mockingly around all of us."
Glen Owen quoting ex-PM Blair in the Mail on Sunday on 1st June 2013:
“...Mr Blair urges governments to ‘be honest’ and admit that the problem is more widespread. ‘There is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam,’ he writes. ‘We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.’ He adds: ‘At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it.’
Quilliam Policy Document released 4th June 2013:
“...Quilliam believes that the urgency of the challenge ahead necessitates that any such strategy now devised should be directly coordinated by Downing Street itself, and led by an appointed expert on a non-partisan basis. The UK possesses a number of such experts who have previously served in official senior government capacities, and who would be well suited to filling this role, having the maturity and experience to coordinate issues arising from the Prime Minister’s Task Force.."
Gilligan writing in the Daily Telegraph on 1st June 2013:
“...For Islamists such as the Cordoba Foundation, the narrative of British Muslims under attack, increasingly hated and feared by their fellow citizens, is essential for recruitment, and for furthering their central lie that different races and faiths cannot coexist. “Islamophobic” is also a handy charge to throw at anyone who questions Islamist ideology."
Charles Moore writing in the Daily Telegraph on 14th June 2013:
“...A trap is set here, inviting those of us who reject such statements, to defend the EDL. I do not. While not, in its stated ideology, a racist organisation like the BNP, the EDL has an air of menace. It must feel particularly unpleasant for Muslims when its supporters hit the streets. But the EDL is merely reactive. It does not – officially at least – support violence. It is the instinctive reaction of elements of an indigenous working class which rightly perceives itself marginalised by authority, whereas Muslim groups are subsidised and excused by it. Four days ago, six Muslim men were sentenced at the Old Bailey for a plot to blow up an EDL rally. The news was received quietly, though it was a horrifying enterprise. No one spoke of “white-phobia”. Imagine the hugely greater coverage if the story had been the other way round."
Yasmin Rahman writing in Open Democracy on 12th June 2013:
“The day after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, I was at a meeting with the Prime Minister. I was there because I am Chief Executive of the Greenwich Inclusion Project, a strategic race equalities and hate crime organisation based in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which includes Woolwich...Unfortunately, our national pattern of response to Islamist terrorism does not appear to have changed since 2005. There is a roll call of condemnation of the attack by Muslim organisations; extremists are given a media platform to air their views; questions are asked about what makes young Britons turn to violence; and the government signals robust measures to tackle extremist terrorism and sets up yet another task force. Worse, this new task force brings in no new players or sources of expertise; it is Tony Blair’s failed Prevent strategy all over again.
...The government’s tendency to see terrorist crimes of violence in terms of racial, religious or class stereotypes and to address them from a “faith-based” platform is part of the problem...We should also note the similarities between extremist groups and gang culture. Both attract disaffected, marginalised and confused young people searching for a sense of identity and belonging. Like gangs, extremist organisations offer such individuals an alternative family and status. Senior members of the organisation ‘mentor’ young recruits, potentially criminalising or radicalising them. Why is the expertise gained in the study of gang culture and behaviour so completely absent from our counter-terrorism approach?
...ut we are all too likely to see a recurrence of this problem unless the Government begins to scrutinize self-appointed Muslim religious leaders. How does the Government distinguish between radical and moderate religious leaders to ensure that those who are acting as community representatives are not linked to the very groups responsible for radicalising young people in the UK? Following the recent Bangladeshi indictment for crimes against humanity of Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, one of the government’s favourite “moderate religious leaders’, a founder of the Muslim Council of Britain, former Chairman of Muslim Aid, and director of Muslim Spiritual Care for the National Health Service, it is high time to ask exactly what the government means by ‘moderate’."
Ladies and Gentleman,
As salamu alaykum, peace
My name is Farooq Murad and I am the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.
We have decided to convene this press conference to express once again our outrage and horror at what took place in Woolwich yesterday.
I state, first and foremost that our thoughts are with the victim and his family.
There have been reports that the perpetrators of this murder shouted AllahuAkbar, God is Great, while they carried out their repugnant act. This is a sacred statement, an affirmation of a Muslims commitment to God. If these reports are true, than these people have de-sanctified this sacred statement. They have insulted Allah and they have dishonoured our faith..
This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly.
We understand the victim is a serving member of the Armed Forces.
Muslims have long served in this country’s Armed Forces, proudly and with honour.
This attack on a member of the Armed Forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.
There will no doubt be a lot of soul searching about why these individuals do what they do. We will hear that Muslims are not doing enough to stop the tide of extremism.
Well, we are here to tell you that these voices of extremism have no place in our mosques or societies. They operate in the margins, and they thrive on getting maximum attention.
The best way to challenge such sentiments, in my humble opinion is to have robust discussion within our communities. And for our most vulnerable, we need to illustrate the point that integration, civic participation and political engagement with fellow Britons is the only ISLAMIC way to affect change.
People may suggest this is about foreign policy. That may be, but let me state here and now that nothing, nothing at all justifies this action. We at the MCB have for example, have highlighted how British Muslims happily support our Armed Forces while opposing the conflicts our politicians send them to.
This action will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom. Already, there were reports last night of mosques being attacked in Essex and Kent. And the English Defence League, went to stoke hatred in Woolwich last night. They tell us they say because a British soldier was attacked, but as the pictures show, they ended up attacking the police.
We have been heartened by the messages of understanding and reconciliation sent to the MCB by faith leaders. We also welcome the wise statement made by the Prime Minister earlier today. We urge Muslim communities to reach out to fellow Britons and testify the true reality of our faith. We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail.
It is important we allow our police authorities to do their job without speculation.
We also urge the utmost vigilance and ask the police authorities to calm tensions, as they have been doing so admirably this far.
I have just returned from Muswell Hill in London where I saw the smouldering remains of the Bravanee Centre and Al-Rahma Islamic School. The building served as a hub and place of worship for local British Muslim Somalis. Police say the centre was set on fire and the words "EDL" - the acronym for the anti-Islam group English Defence League - was found daubed on what was left of the building.
The incident is the latest in a series of attacks that has taken place against British Muslim institutions since the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, a soldier, on May 22. A sense of unease and anxiety has descended on Muslims in Britain. Immediately after the murder of Rigby, one of the assailants reportedly chanted "Allahu Akbar" - making religion the conduit for his inner rage and demons. Caught on camera, the result provoked an unprecedented wave of Islamophobic incidents that are still continuing, including 12 attacks on mosques.
Despite these attacks, British Muslims came out strongly in universal condemnation of Drummer Lee Rigby's murder. Immediately after the breaking news of the Woolwich incident, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) responded as it did with all tragedies we face: in solidarity and condemnation.
Whether it was the 9/11 crises, 7/7 and now Woolwich, the MCB has learned the importance of responding promptly and effectively so that the wider public understands the mainstream Muslim position, which has no truck with criminal actions and hate towards others.
In a press conference the following day, the message again from Muslims was to provide a balanced voice of reason. Two days after the incident, I led a delegation of community activists to the site of the attack in Woolwich to lay wreaths and pay respects and show solidarity with the deceased's family and friends.
After this latest arson attack in north London, as in the murder in Woolwich, the response from Britons of all walks of life to these has been heartening and assuring. In Muswell Hill, I took part in a vigil where local Christians and Jews showed extraordinary solidarity by coming to the aid of local Muslims, declaring that this attack was not in their name either.
After Woolwich, the Archbishop of Canterbury, standing alongside MCB Assistant General Secretary Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, acknowledged that the "strong response from the Muslim Council of Britain and many other organisations has rightly emphasised that these acts have no place in Islam".
There have now been about a dozen attacks on mosques including at Finsbury Park, Rhyl, Grimsby, Cardiff, Maidenhead, Milton Keynes, Braintree, Gillingham and now most seriously, the arson at the al-Rahma Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill. Yet there have been many more acts of solidarity and support for Muslims by fellow Britons disgusted at these incidents. Nevertheless, there is no denying that the virulence, hatred and Islamophobia unleashed in the aftermath of Woolwich exceeds 9/11 and 7/7. The level of obscene hate emails received by the MCB is worse than in the past.
Why is this? First, there is the need for a responsible public discourse: too often public figures resort to clumsy actions and phrases that lead to a hike in Islamophobic incidents. Our politicians, perhaps under pressure to "do something", start talking about the problem within Islam, or of Muslims themselves, of mosques, madrasahs or Muslims on university campus.
There is no evidence base to discuss whether extremism is found here, just shrill headlines. And now with Prime Minister David Cameron asking his Task Force to focus on "extremist mosques and preachers", there is the real danger that the British public will leave out the first word of that phrase.
We think extremism is a problem too. And we have been here before. But a muddled conversation about what constitutes extremism over social conservatism, or disagreement on foreign policy, will not assist us in our end goal: the prevention of future attacks. British Muslims themselves are standing up and being counted in their opposition to what we saw in Woolwich. They have done so in solidarity with fellow Britons, of all faiths and none. Bottom-up approaches to countering extremism are taking place already. They need our support.
Second, there is the drip feed of stories in the media demonising Muslims in recent months. It is not infrequent to see a news items on criminal activity - for example those caught for grooming - to be juxtaposed against a picture of a mosque or a Muslim woman in niqab.
Some journalists have pooh-poohed the idea that there is a such thing as Islamphobia at all, and attribute it to Muslims' victim complex! What more evidence do they need than what is happening now on a daily basis in the cities of Britain?
The law should be applied to the clowns who make provocative statements and throw oil on the fire. The strategy of using them as honeypots so that the security authorities can identify their supporters is no longer tenable.
It is time for serious action against such crimes. We had fine and decisive words from our leaders condemning the actions of the English Defence League. Now we need a proper response from our police authorities, starting with a national response to this problem, just as it is already happening on a local level.