York Muslims Greet Protestors with Tea

27 May 2013

 

A potentially volatile situation was defused early last week when York Muslims met English Defence League (EDL) protestors with tea and custard creams, leading to a constructive dialogue on the basis of mutual rejection of violent extremism. The Muslim Council of Britain, one of the country’s largest Muslim groups, has since come out in support of the strategy.

 

Mohammed el-Gomati, a lecturer at the University of York, said of the dialogue: “Even the EDL who were having a shouting match started talking and we found out that we share and are prepared to agree that violent extremism is wrong.”

 

Though the EDL protest outside the York mosque was comparatively small, only about 6 people, the non-violent resolution of the situation, constituted on the basis of shared cultural preferences (tea and sweets) and a common rejection of extremism, is being heralded as a model for future efforts to engage in dialogue with local communities by the Muslim Council of Britain. A statement on the group’s website encourages Muslims to seek common ground with fellow Britons and to open mosque doors to the public in a spirit of openness.

 

The events in York came as the EDL launched a number of protests across the country in response to the Woolwich attack on Drummer Lee Rigby, which the EDL has blamed on Islam. Many Muslim leaders have condemned the actions of the Woolwich attackers as un-Islamic, including Ismail Miah, leader of the York mosque, who said: “What they’ve done in London is for their own reasons but there’s no reasoning behind it from an Islamic point of view.”

 

Reactions to the Woolwich murder

v23-web-adebowaleTwo men attacked and killed Drummer Lee Rigby, of 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, before they were shot by armed police and taken to hospital where they are still receiving treatment.

The attack in Woolwich, south-east London, has led to a renewed focus on terrorism and Islamist extremism in the UK as well as an increase in tension and attacks on Muslims in Britain. Two men have been charged with separate attacks on mosques, in Kent and Essex, after the death of the soldier. With far-right groups seeking to translate public disgust at the killing into general anti-Muslim and are reacting just as the murderers had hoped they would. There are reports of mosque attacks similar to incidents that occurred after the Tube and bus bombings of 7 July 2005.Vaguely disguised acts of racism quite at odds with the general public mood. The military charity Help for Heroes said since the attack people had been “spontaneously showing support for the armed forces”. The following leading figures and institutions have spoken out about the attack and what it means to the various communities as well as British society as a whole.

The Muslim Council of Britain

This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family. We understand the victim is a serving member of the armed forces. Muslims have long served in this country’s armed forces, proudly and with honour. This attack on a member of the armed forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.

This action will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom. We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail. It is important we allow our police authorities to do their job without speculation. We also urge the utmost vigilance and ask the police authorities to calm tensions.

Julie Siddiqi, Islamic Society of Britain

We need to remain calm and people need to remain vigilant.

We need to make sure we don’t allow extremists to divide the country. We need to remain calm and measured and get the message out there that we will not allow this to divide us.

It was an attack on all of us, on our country, all of us.

It’s very hard for the good people of this country to understand what’s going on. How can you say your religion is a religion of peace and then you have a guy literally with blood on his hands and a knife in his hand doing something completely the opposite?

I don’t think it matters what is happening in another country in any way whatsoever. This should never have happened. There is no justification.

Col Mike Dewar, security and defence analyst

Everyone says it’s a terrorist attack but personally I think it depends on what your definition of terror is. These two appeared to be two individuals, deluded, with extremist ideas, Islamist or not.

The main point is its most unlikely to be a terrorist incident: the formula for that is that it needs to be done by a recognised organisation, the maximum number of people need to be killed and then the terrorists need to escape, to possibly kill other people.

The man killed might have been a soldier or he was certainly sympathetic to soldiers, making him an obvious target. But then the men discussed their reasoning with bystanders: this is nutter territory.

Too early to tell if it’s more than deluded individuals. They may have been groomed but it doesn’t make them terrorists. Just heinous murder.

Jahan Mahmood, a community leader from Birmingham

There needs to be better collaboration between the authorities and the communities.

In many instances the government hasn’t really listened and there is a lot of talk about doing the work that they claim to carry out and the same can go for a number of senior Muslim organisations

These attackers are two isolated individuals who appear to be brainwashed and indoctrinated.

One of them appeared to quote from the bible. An extreme jihadist Muslim would not quote from the bible.

We are sickened by these types of events and we are deeply disturbed by their misguided interpretations of the faith

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee

We need to look at who carried out this barbaric crime and follow it up swiftly.

People need to stay calm – I think some of the stories that we’ve heard this morning of demonstrations in certain areas… this is not helpful to the police. The police should not be distracted from the very important work that they have to do.

The crucial focus in the next 24 hours is to let Bernard Hogan-Howe [Metropolitan Police commissioner] and his team look and see what happened.

Usama Hasan, a senior researcher at Quilliam, a think tank specialising in counter-extremism

The real problem here is the decisive hatred preached by a very small minority of clerics in this country in a small number of our mosques and universities.

They know who they are and there are Muslim groups and other groups, left-wing groups, may I say, who defend that kind of grievance and victim-hood mentality. That’s what must change and has to stop. A very small number of people but unfortunately their influence is too high.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

It is completely wrong to blame this killing on the religion of Islam but it is also equally wrong to try to draw any links between this murder and the foreign policy or the action of British forces who are risking their lives abroad for the sake of freedom.

The fault lies wholly and exclusively in the warped and deluded mind-set of the people who did it.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO Secretary General

I strongly condemn this shocking and barbaric crime. Such attacks can never be justified. Our thoughts at this terrible time are with the victim’s family and friends. We stand in solidarity with the British government and the people of Britain.

Ajmal Masroor, an Imam and broadcaster in London

If it does it’ll be a tragedy because we would have allowed the terrorists and the thugs to win the battle, or the narrative. We don’t want to go down that route.

I would like to call upon every community member listening that there are racist thugs in our country, there are criminals, there are murderers, there are paedophiles – we don’t all become vigilantes and we don’t go around attacking one another.

At this moment in time when things are very difficult we would all make a distinction. These idiots have done this, there is no God in what they’ve done, it is not done in the name of Islam. It is not done for Muslims; it is just their thuggish low-life scum mind-set.

Dr Brooke Roger, senior lecturer in risk and terror at King’s College London

One of the problems in preventing violent radicalisation is the slight disconnect between the role of the security services tasked with monitoring and protecting us and some of the more local authorities and community-based groups.

Local authorities go in with long-term strategies and long-term goals. When something like this occurs we start bringing in the security services who have a long-term role but also have to act in the moment.

We need to make sure these groups are working together and they’re not undoing some of the relationships and trust that’s been built up.

I do think the websites are a significant problem. People can find the information if they want it and I think that is a problem.

We very much need to keep a balance between freedom to access information and understand the nature of individuals and the psychological process that occurs when they see this information.

Jim Murphy MP, shadow defence secretary

This horrendous and horrific act against our armed forces has shocked us all. In our moments of anger we should be strengthened in our national resolve to tackle hatred and terrorism wherever they exist.

The government and security services have our full support in establishing the facts and preventing any future such crimes.

As a country we should respond with a reassertion of the values of tolerance and justice, the values that these extremists hate so much about our country.

We should all help to ensure our armed forces never feel fearful in public. They protect us, and today each of us can send a loud message of support, solidarity and gratitude to all service personnel serving in our towns and cities at home and overseas.

 

Barack Obama, US President

Barack Obama says his country “stands resolute with the United Kingdom, our ally and friend, against violent extremism and terror”.

Advisory for Mosques and British Muslims

With tensions very high as a result of the murder that took place in Woolwich on Wednesday 22 May, the Muslim Council of Britain issues the following advice to mosques, associations and British Muslims. We hope these messages are imparted throughout the country:

Advice for mosques and associations

 

1.   You are not alone

Reach out to police authorities for liaison, and to other faith communities and civil society organisations for solidarity. Open up your mosques, and invite neighbours and the wider community to your mosque and events. Show the true message of Islam.

 

2.   Do a risk assessment

See what the risk is to your buildings, communities and neighbours. Invite the police and local authority to your mosque to see what can be done to enhance protection.

 

3.   Secure your buildings

Make sure your mosques and buildings are equipped with alarms and camera systems, ideally connected to the local police and emergency services. In making your mosques welcoming, make sure the area outside is cleared of rubbish, which also enhances security.

 

4.    Report threats early

Keep a record of and report threats straight away to the police. Do not be tempted to touch suspicious items or confront threatening behaviour. Keep a record of any threatening emails or calls, and encourage communities to report this.

Woolwich shows that Muslim leaders have learned how to respond to terrorism

The Muslim response to Woolwich has been a quick and unstinting condemnation of the atrocity perpetrated by two Muslim youths.

The Muslim Council of Britain, within hours of the attack, said: “This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family.” They went on to point out that British Muslims have long served in the Armed forces and that “this attack on a member of the Armed Forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.”

The significance of these words cannot be overestimated: they prove that Muslim spokesmen are not tacitly supporting jihadists in our midst; and that the Council has learned from its past mistakes.

Contrast this heartfelt condemnation with the extraordinary statement released by the Muslim Council of Britain, following the 7 July bombings in London.

“We do naturally feel deeply for the sufferings, injustices and oppression the world over. Yet we also remind ourselves of the verse of the Qur’an, “O you who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity and let not abhorrence of any people make you swerve from justice. Deal justly, that is nearer to God-fearing. Fear Allah. Allah is aware of what you do.” (Al Maidah, 5:8) We also call on the international community to work towards just and lasting peace settlements in the world’s areas of conflict and help eliminate the grievances that seem to nurture a spiral of violence.”

 

What a difference from that response to the post-Woolwich one. Muslims have had to embark on this learning curve without any help from the media. In fact, if anything, the broadcasters have been keen to keep the Islamist swivel-eyed loons at the forefront of the agenda – as a furious Baroness Warsi has quite rightly pointed out.

Reactions to the Woolwich Attack

24 May 2013

 

Visiting the site of the horrific attack in Woolwich recently, Dr Shuja Shafi, the Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, led a delegation of community leaders including Tariq Usmani, Chair of Greenwich Islamic Centre, Julie Siddiqui, Vice president, Islamic Society of Britain and Saeed Ahmed, Greenwich Independent Police Advisory Group, all laid flowers and paid respects to Drummer Lee Rigby.

 

On the occasion, speaking to the BBC, Dr Shafi spoke about the importance of ‘showing solidarity’ and said he “mourns the loss of a bright young man, a father, a husband and a brother”.

 

He also addressed the nature of the attack, which appeared without any warning as a “matter for concern. We need to really, deeply think about what can be done.”

 

As tensions rise as a result of the barbaric murder in Woolwich on Wednesday, the Muslim Council of Britain convened a meeting with a diverse range of faith leaders to speak out against the attack and to call for calm.

 

Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB said at the meeting: “This action will no doubt heighten tensions on the streets of the United Kingdom. Already, there were reports last night of mosques being attacked in Essex and Kent. And the English Defence League, went to stoke hatred in Woolwich last night. They tell us they say because a British soldier was attacked, but as the pictures show, they ended up attacking the police.”

 

The Muslim Council of Britain has also communicated with its affiliate network and mosques to alert them to the threat of reprisals from the extreme right and convey united sympathy for the victim’s family. Mosques have been urged to take positive steps and stretch a hand of friendship to fellow Britons.

 

Also speaking at the MCB conference Mr Saeed Ahmed, a community organiser from Greenwich conveyed his condolences to the family of the victim and also commended the work of the local Police in assuring communities and calling for calm.

 

The MCB is heartened by the messages of understanding and reconciliation sent to the MCB by faith leaders. We urge Muslim communities to reach out to fellow Britons and testify the true reality of our faith. We call on all our communities, Muslim and non-Muslim, to come together in solidarity to ensure the forces of hatred do not prevail.

Imams to preach against grooming of girls for sex

Imams across Britain will give simultaneous sermons condemning sexual grooming next month, as part of a grass-roots Muslim campaign to tackle the problem of abuse. The co-ordinated event on 28 June will follow a conference organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to discuss ways of preventing further cases of abuse after seven men – all Muslim – were convicted this week for the grooming and sex trafficking of girls as young as 11 in Oxford. The case is one of several in recent years in which gangs of men, predominantly from a Pakistani Muslim background, have groomed young girls for sex. Julie Siddiqi, executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain, was one of the first Muslim figures to speak out on the issue. She said that although children were exploited in all communities, “the number of street-grooming convictions in the past few years involving Omars, Ahmeds and Faisals means the time has come for action. But if there are patterns emerging – and I think there are – of people from a certain background engaging in this type of activity, then that can’t be ignored either. I’m not saying all Pakistani men are prone to this, or Islam says that; of course that’s nonsense. But if we ignore these patterns we’re going to do an injustice against the victims.” A separate MCB conference, on 20 June, will include speakers from child protection and the police. It will be attended by senior Muslim clerics from around the country. A spokeswoman for the MCB said: “All communities should be tackling this and we’re doing our part to address this.”

Radstock Town Council Deems St George’s Cross Offensive to Muslims

15 May 2013

 

The town council in Radstock, Somerset, voted not to fly St George’s flag on the town’s civic flag pole because the flag’s association with the crusades and the “hijacking” of the cross of St George by far right organizations may make it an offensive symbol to local Muslims. Instead, the council decided to purchase a Union Jack and to design a flag specifically for Radstock. Eleanor Jackson, a Labour councilor, has called for dropping the flag for 20 years.

 

Many, including Nasima Begum, spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain, disagree with the decision made by the council. Said Ms. Begum, “St George needs to take his rightful place as a national symbol of inclusivity rather than a symbol of hatred.” Similarly, the vice-president of the Royal Society of St George labeled the decision “nonsense.”

 

In April, a multi-faith coalition issued a call to “reclaim” St George from far right organizations, arguing that St George has no place in extremist right wing politics. In acknowledging the association of St George’s Flag with right wing extremist groups, the Radstock town council has angered many who argue that St George, having lived before the advent of Islam, should not be associated at all with anti-Muslim politics.

 

Multi-Faith Coalition Issues Call to Reclaim St George

22 April 2013

 

A coalition of a number of religious organizations issued a statement on Monday calling for the reclamation of the patron saint of England and “demanding he becomes a representative of all English peoples.” The statement was signed by, among others, the Christian Muslim Forum, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and the Muslim Council of Britain.

 

Of particular issue for the coalition is the employment of St George as a rallying symbol for many right wing extremist groups in the U.K. The association of the Cross of St George with the Crusades has, according to the statement, led some to inappropriately use St George to legitimize ethnic and religious discrimination, particularly against the Muslim community. To counter this narrative, the coalition asks that St George be held up as a symbol of inclusivity and endeavors to “promote a new, relaxed and confident, English national identity. A place where a hijab is as welcome as bangers and mash, and no-one is attacked for their race, religion (or lack thereof) or any other belief.”

 

Some, like Fiyaz Mughal, head of Faith Matters, point out the inappropriateness of using St George as a symbol for right wing hatred. Said Mughal, “The Far Right do not realize that St George was part Greek and his mother came from the city of Lydda in Palestine.” Similarly, the statement issued by the multi-faith coalition points out that St George lived before the birth of Islam and therefore should not be employed as a symbol justifying intolerance toward Muslims.

 

St. George’s Day is celebrated in England on the 23rd of April.

Muslim Council attacks Gove’s proposed history curriculum

13 April 2013

 

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) one of the UK’s leading Islamic organisations has warned that plans to revise the school history curriculum risks ignoring the Muslim contribution to western civilisation – an omission that will only foster alienation.

 

The MCB says the plans ignore the contribution of Indian Muslim, Hindu and Sikh soldiers to two world wars, particularly on the western front in the First World War. They also, it adds, fail to acknowledge “the preservation and enhancement of ancient Greek and Roman learning by classical Muslim civilisation, which percolated into Europe via Spain and Italy, leading to the European Renaissance”.

 

It is not the first body to criticise the proposals. In a joint statement the Historical Association and the Royal Historical Society claim the curriculum has been drafted “without any systematic consultation”.

Muslim Council vows action to stop children being groomed for sex

The Muslim Council of Britain has said it will take action to prevent girls being “groomed” for sex. Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the council said people were sometimes reluctant to speak out – but they have a “religious duty” to do so. He said the council was working with groups including the NSPCC, police and Muslim organisations to educate people. The action comes after high-profile sex abuse cases involving Muslim men in Rochdale and Derby. “This is an appalling and abhorrent kind of behaviour which is totally unacceptable regardless of race or religion,” said Sheikh Mogra, the MCB’s Assistant Secretary General, on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme.