A war of ideas

THE July 7 attacks in London have led to the media turning its spotlight on the Muslim community in Britain. Since 7/7, there has been a deluge of ‘investigative’ reports both in mainstream broadsheets and shrilly tabloids putting the whole community and its various organisations, mosques and community centres under their scanner.

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Published: Tue 23 Aug 2005, 10:06 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 6:34 PM

While this can be explained as a natural reaction to the 7/7 events — suspected to have been carried out by British Muslims — there have been unfortunately few sincere attempts to study the community and the causes that could have forced the four Britons, in their teens and early 20s, to target their own society.

Even a newspaper like the Observer, which initially carried some good opinion pieces and reports sensitively examining the community and the alienation and ghettoisation of some of its young men, decided to go with the flow when it carried a report earlier this month damning the Muslim Council of Britain. This has been followed up by the BBC’s Panorama programme on Sunday, which demonised the MCB accusing it of turning a blind eye to extremism in the community.

This is most disconcerting. The MCB is an umbrella body of 400 organisations and groups representing all ideological denominations of Muslims, the second largest religious community in the country. Condemning the MCB as being soft on the extremists and being ‘in denial’ therefore amounts to linking the whole community to the acts of terror last month. This is not fair on an organisation that has had a long record of close cooperation with the British government and Home Office. Even after 7/7 attacks, the MCB team visited community centres, mosques and homes throughout the country urging the community to cooperate with the authorities in investigating the attacks and fighting extremism.

At this point, when Britain is facing an unprecedented challenge of extremism in its midst, the government, Muslim community and media need to work closely and join hands to defeat extremists. Vilifying and alienating a peaceful organisation that represents the entire Muslims community is not the best way to fight this war of ideas. There should be no doubts in anyone’s mind that the British Muslims, in fact, Muslims everywhere are behind Britain’s battle on extremism. Not only because the majority of Muslims are peace-loving and law abiding people, but also because the extremist fringe is distorting the real teachings and principles of Islam. This is why it is critically important that the authorities, Muslim community and rest of the British society are united and together in this crucial mission.

Meanwhile the Muslims must make greater efforts to integrate with the British society. Remaining isolated and aloof in their own ghettos can only create an extremist fringe.

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