Us Muslims Fear The Enemy Within After London Attacks

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Muslim leaders watched with foreboding as their worst nightmare played out in Britain, where home-grown suicide bombers were blamed for London’s worst attacks since World War II. Now they are hoping their community is not next in line to face the chilling scenario of one of its own turning against the country of his birth. “The fact that these young men were British-born Muslims creates a degree of a different kind of anxiety within the community,” said Edina Lekovic of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a group that presses for American Muslims’ civil rights and for the peaceful integration of Islam into US society. “If this could happen in the UK, it is our worst nightmare that it could happen here.” British police said four young British Muslims possibly operating under a foreign “mastermind” carried out attacks on three Underground trains and one bus in London on July 7 which killed 54 people. Their actions shocked the Muslim community in Britain, as they all appeared well integrated into society, several came from middle-class families and they had shown little history of radicalism. US Muslim leaders acted swiftly after the attacks, issuing condemnations and asking imams in America’s mosques to highlight the horror of terrorism in Friday prayers. Now they are hoping that special characteristics of the Muslim population in the US demographic “melting pot” will head off London-style attacks on the US mainland. America’s Muslims, community leaders say, are typically more integrated, socially and politically, than their counterparts in Britain and other European nations. “What we understand of the European Muslim community and even in the UK, there is a greater degree of Muslims living in enclaves,” Lekovic said. “Muslims (in the United States) are living alongside their Christian and Jewish neighbours.” Some 35 percent to 40 percent of US Muslims are African Americans, 25 percent are South Asians and 15 percent are Arabs, according to MPAC, which notes that most British Muslims live in South Asian enclaves. Even so, some Islamic leaders say, there is no guarantee that a few disgruntled members of the community will not taint the vast majority of peaceful Muslims. “The problem is that one or two criminals can create an impression that an entire community is to be blamed, and so you are always subject to those one or two people,” said Ibrahim Hooper, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “If you know the reality, you can see these handful of people as the aberration that they are — the same way that we didn’t say Catholicism was bad when the IRA was blowing up things in London.” Debate intensified over militancy within the US Muslim community on Wednesday, when an Islamic studies professor was jailed for life, for attempting to recruit for the Taliban. Ali al-Timimi, a teacher in his 40s from the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, was accused of encouraging at least five men to support the militia, and urging them to wage war against the United States. Timimi’s family and friends denied that he was guilty. The exact number of Muslims living in the United States has been a matter of dispute, since the US Census Bureau does not sort people by religion. Estimates have ranged as high as seven million by CAIR, and as low as just over one million within the past five years. The US Muslim community came under scrutiny as never before after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when Islam faced heavy criticism and President George W. Bush launched his global anti-terror campaign. Some American Muslim leaders complained this week that their frequent denunciations of terrorism had not filtered through to the US public. CAIR responded by issuing a public service announcement to local television stations across the country, featuring Muslims speaking directly to the camera. “We will not allow our faith to be hijacked by criminals,” said one of the speakers.