“Last month’s bombings seem to have changed so many attitudes – and yet still, it would seem, some of the most mainstream Muslim leaders refuse to face up to extremism. Last night’s Panorama documentary on the leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain and the views of leading British Muslims gave some indication of the distance the Muslim establishment still has to go.”
The Evening Standard takes up John Ware’s attack on the MCB.
Editorial, Evening Standard, 22 August 2005
Last month’s bombings seem to have changed so many attitudes – and yet still, it would seem, some of the most mainstream Muslim leaders refuse to face up to extremism.
Last night’s Panorama documentary on the leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain and the views of leading British Muslims gave some indication of the distance the Muslim establishment still has to go. The programme highlighted the MCB’s unwillingness to criticise anti-Western imams and hard-line interpretations of Islam emerging from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It also made clear that the MCB’s highly political view of Islam, illustrated by the posturing of its Secretary General, Iqbal Sacranie, on Hamas and his boycott of Holocaust memorial day this year, are unrepresentative of many British Muslims.
The MCB’s response has been wild accusations that the BBC has a “pro-Israeli” bias – nothing at all to do with the issues at hand. Until Muslim leaders accept that Islamic terrorism now presents an immediate threat to the UK, including to British Muslims, and that extremism has been allowed to grow largely unchecked, their credibility will not be improved. Nor will Muslims be helped by dismissing the rest of British society as inferior unbelievers, as some imams do.
This kind of stance is all the more disappointing because despite an increase in hate crimes committed against Muslims since the bombings, most signs are that the great majority of Britons are remarkably tolerant towards the Muslim community. The Government’s response, too, has been generous by any measure, consulting extensively with Muslim leaders.
That sort of consultation process has rightly been combined, as the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke emphasises elsewhere on this page, with a new determination to deal with extremist agitators and supporters of terrorism. The leadership of the MCB and other community leaders should now accept that it is in their community’s interests to co-operate with the Government and the police in such efforts – and that posturing on the Middle East and Kashmir is at best irrelevant to the everyday lives of most British-born Muslims.
Britain boasts a remarkably free and tolerant society. But that freedom depends on every community embracing such tolerance and the rule of law.