Tuesday, August 15, 2006

SHAHID MALIK - RISING UP AGAINST EXTREMISM

An interesting column in today's Times from Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury - Why Muslims must rise up now and join the battle against extremism:
While being tough on terrorists, however, the Government should be flexible enough to listen to those who have genuine policy concerns. Today I, along with other Muslim MPs, will discuss with John Prescott some of the challenges ahead. The Prime Minister has also indicated that he is willing to meet those with concerns.

This is the way forward. Any British Muslims who are in disagreement with foreign policy must follow the path of others by exercising their right as citizens to influence policy through the established route: that is, by engaging in the political process.

In this world of indiscriminate terrorist bombings, where Muslims are just as likely to be victims of terrorism as other British and US citizens, we have an equal stake in fighting extremism. But more importantly, given that these acts are carried out in our name (Islam), we have a greater responsibility, not merely to condemn but to confront. As an MP for the constituency with the country’s highest BNP vote, I strongly believe that the BNP will only be defeated by white people taking leadership. Likewise, Muslims themselves must take the lead if we are to defeat the extremism within.

With the exception of a very few, mosques in Britain are extremely vigilant about who and what they allow on to their platforms. The greater danger is now posed in the virtual world, by the preachers of hatred accessible on the internet and based virtually anywhere, ever ready to prey on the angry and frustrated.

As I said to some 500 Muslims in a hall in Leeds on Saturday, a whole year on from the heinous acts of 7/7, the Muslim community has not yet risen to the challenge presented by extremism in its ranks. This was depressingly laid bare by a recent Times poll that stated that 13 per cent of British Muslims believed that the 7/7 attackers were martyrs.
What the man said.

Malik is spot on when he identifies the difficulties facing non-Muslims attempting to tackle the problem of extremism within Islam. This is a job that if, it is to be effective, has to be undertaken by British Muslims.

Of course, the support of non-Muslims is vital - without it moderates are stuck between a rock and a hard place - vilified by the extremists within their ranks and snubbed as potential terrorists by the rest of us.

It certainly doesn't help when supposed representatives of British Muslims write open letters to Tony Blair stating that if only our foreign policy were different we would not have the problem of extreme Islamists blowing up civilians. Islamist terrorism did not start with the Iraq War. Or the war in Afghanistan. The letter smacked of 37 heads in the sand and but one idea about how to tackle extremism amongst British Muslims. Thankfully, the signatories were told where to go rather swiftly.

It's not only Muslim representatives who are in denial. Malik highlights how rife conspiracy-mongering is within the British Muslim community. In addition, writing in yesterday's Times, Mary Ann Sieghart took a broad swipe at others she saw as in denial over terrorism, from journalists and their readers to Tony Blair himself.

And finally. Perhaps we're seeing a shift in focus, perhaps the regular editor was away, who knows. In all its entirety, here's the Observer's leader from last Sunday - These ludicrous lies about the West and Islam:
The first Islamist terrorist plot against New York's World Trade Centre was carried out on 26 February 1993 with a car bomb under one of the twin towers. It killed six people but failed in its aim of bringing the whole building down. To achieve that, another plot was hatched.

Meanwhile, British and American foreign policy was focused not on the Islamic world, but on the unstable transition of former communist countries to democracy. Twice during the Nineties, Nato launched military interventions in the Balkans, both aimed at protecting Muslim populations in Bosnia and Kosovo. What Middle East policy there was focused on diplomatic efforts, led by President Clinton, to negotiate lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

This was hardly a Western war against Islam. Britain and America spent much of the Nineties trying to prevent conflicts or to resolve them. At worst, as shamefully in Rwanda, they simply ignored them. They were transparently not running a conspiracy to trample the Muslim faithful underfoot. The people who depicted it that way were a tiny minority telling lies to justify murder.

But things have changed. The argument that terrorism is, in fact, a response to Western actions overseas has gained currency. It was voiced most recently on Saturday in an open letter by a number of influential British Muslim leaders to Tony Blair. The Prime Minister's policy in the Middle East, they said, puts British lives at risk. The implication is that the young Britons who last week were accused of plotting to blow up passenger planes in mid-air would have been less susceptible to al-Qaeda recruitment had Britain not fought wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Policy should be changed, they said, to avoid giving ideological 'ammunition to extremists'.

There is indeed a plausible argument that military action in recent years has made Britain less, not more, secure. In particular, the conduct of the war in Iraq, regardless of the virtues of removing Saddam Hussein from office, has been riddled with error. The absence of weapons of mass destruction, removal of which was the premise for war, has undermined trust in the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, engagement in Iraq has made it harder to secure victory in Afghanistan, where the anti-terror justification for war was rock solid.

But even within the bleakest possible analysis of Mr Blair's foreign policy, it is still simply not true that the West is waging war on Islam. Just as it is not true that the CIA was really behind the 11 September attacks or any other arrant conspiratorial nonsense that enjoys widespread credence in the Middle East and beyond. It is also a logical and moral absurdity to imply, as some critics of British policy have done, that mass murder is somehow less atrocious when it is motivated by an elaborate narrative of political grievance.

If young British Muslims are alienated, that is sad and their anger should be addressed. But anyone whose alienation leads them to want to kill indiscriminately has crossed a line into psychopathic criminality. Policy cannot be dictated by the need to placate such people.

British Muslim leaders are entitled, along with everybody else, to raise questions about the conduct and consequences of Mr Blair's foreign policy. But they have a more immediate responsibility to promote the truth: that Britain is not the aggressor in a war against Islam; that no such war exists; that there is no glory in murder dressed as martyrdom and that terrorism is never excused by bogus accounts of historical victimisation.
Hear hear.

And if it's denial you're after, a hop skip and a jump through the Comments section of that article ought to provide more than plenty.

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