Let’s stop pretending Muslim hardliners are a tiny minority
By Leo McKinstry
Daily Express, 15 August 2005
Since the July bombings in London, there has been a remorseless barrage of official propaganda telling us we have nothing to fear from Islam. It is a religion of peace, we are told, compatible with the western values of democracy, freedom and equality. Politicians, police chiefs, broadcasters and church leaders have queued up to warn against judging the overwhelming majority of moderate Muslims by the actions of a few criminals.
Typical of this attitude was the claim of Brian Paddick, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner, that “Islam and terrorism are two words that do not go together”.
But it is increasingly difficult to sustain this pretence in the face of all the evidence of dangerous Islamic fundamentalism in our midst. Far from existing only on the lunatic fringes, the hardliners are part of the Muslim mainstream. An investigation by BBC’s Panorama, to be aired next Sunday, has highlighted the extremism at the heart of the Muslim Council of Britain, the most important Islamic organisation in the country.
Panorama shows that the Muslim Council is not the moderate body it is so often portrayed as. Its secretary general Sir Iqbal Sacranie – knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June – has links to the radical Islamic movement in Pakistan. He is an admirer of the late Pakistani ideologue Maulana Maududi, a passionate anti-feminist who believed Islamic society should remove all western influence.
Several Muslim Council affiliates adhere to a strict anti-western ideology – the Jamiat Ahl-i-Hadith group demands separation from non-Islamic society and condemns nonbelievers as having “sick and deviant views”.
The response of the Muslim Council to the Panorama investigation is revealing. Instead of disputing the facts, it accuses the BBC of promoting a “pro-Israel agenda” and warns that the programme could “inflame mistrust” towards Muslim communities.
Such hysteria has been characteristic of Muslim leaders since 9/11. Rather than challenging their co-religionist zealots, they turn on western societies, moaning about Islamaphobia and sliding into anti-semitic rhetoric dressed up as criticism of Israel. The BBC, for far too long a cheerleader for Islamic criticism of British society, should be congratulated for its courage in analysing the darker side of so-called moderates.
But we should not be surprised at the exposure of Sir Iqbal Sacranie as a hardliner.
The mantle of the establishment cannot hide his sinister past. This is the man who, shamefully, loudly supported the fatwa against the writer Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses had dared to satirise certain aspects of Islam. Disregarding all western traditions of freedom of speech, he even said that for Rushdie, “death would be too easy; his mind must be tormented for the rest of his life”.
As Rushdie himself said last week: “If Sir Iqbal Sacranie is the best Tony Blair can offer in the way of a good Muslim, then we have a problem.” In truth, Sir Iqbal is part of a much wider pattern, with the concept of Muslim moderation being exposed as a sham. A few weeks ago West Midlands police wheeled out Mohammad Naseem from the Birmingham Central Mosque as the reassuring face of local Islam. But instead of playing his allotted role in this PR pantomime, he uttered his real views, denouncing Blair as a “liar”, denying the existence of Al Qaeda and arguing that the Government and security services were “not to be relied upon”.
For a recent edition of Question Time, the BBC packed the audience with a disproportionate number of Muslims who hysterically attacked the Government over Iraq and laid into the Metropolitan Police, showing no compassion for the victims of the London bombings.
The sorry fact is that the extremists are not a tiny minority but a sizeable section of Muslim opinion. According to an ICM poll, 13 per cent of Muslims in this country actually support terrorism. Given that estimates put the Muslim population in Britain at 1.6 million, that is a terrifying figure. And it is reflected in the fact that more than 3,000 men from this country are thought to have volunteered to fight for the Taliban in the war in Afghanistan.
Officialdom remains in denial about this problem at the core of our divided society, clinging to the empty rhetoric about Islam meaning peace and indulging in desperate political gestures to promote a hollow image of unity. In a characteristically enfeebled gesture, Steve Green, the chief constable of Nottinghamshire, ordered his officers to wear green ribbons in a “demonstration of solidarity with the Muslim community”.
In the same way, there is a terrifying reluctance to confront the endemic racism of Islam. In 2003 the EU commissioned a major report into the prevalence of violent antisemitism across Europe. When researchers found, to their horror, that most of the perpetrators were Islamic rather than neofascists, the report was suppressed.
This double standard extends to parts of the media. In May a wooden cross was burnt by 300 Muslims outside the US embassy in London, an incident barely reported. But at the same time a story about a US guard in Guantanamo Bay mishandling a Koran – which ultimately turned out to be untrue – was given acres of coverage and led to hysteria and rioting across the Muslim world.
Terrified of accusations of racism, the British state constantly tries to appease virulent Islam. So a Bill outlawing religious discrimination is introduced, purely to satisfy the demands of Muslim zealots who quiver with outrage when anyone dares to question their ideology.
And we now have Muslim state schools, segregated housing and Sharia compliant banking. In Bradford, such is the segregation that Muslims even have their own cricket league, while in inner cities politicians openly try to court the Muslim vote by making the right noises about Iraq or Palestine.
This is a recipe for disaster. It is no wonder that extremism and division are flourishing when our public authorities are terrified of promoting any unified sense of Britishness, a national spirit of belonging.
The nature of Islam means that its followers will always have a higher allegiance to their religion. The only way to accommodate that in our society is to compel Muslims to develop, alongside their faith, a genuine British identity.
But wearing green ribbons, spreading disinformation and allowing ideologues to pose as moderates is no way to achieve that.