By Stephen Bates Mosques UK council calls for ‘Correct guidance’ Muslim community leaders yesterday issued their strongest assertion of opposition to terrorism, calling on mosques to issue “correct Islamic guidance” to followers, in an attempt to head off criticisms that they have failed to condemn violence sufficiently firmly in the past. A two-page statement was sent out by the Muslim Council of Britain, representing 400 organisations, calling on imams to reinforce the message of peace at Friday’s prayer meetings at 1,000 mosques across the country.
From Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain To: Imams, Ulema, Chairs & Secretaries of Mosques, Islamic Organisations and Institutions Dear Respected Colleague As salaamu ‘alaikum wa rahmatullah The last few weeks and days have been fraught with tragedies and dangers. I am sure you are fully aware of the serious concerns expressed by the Prime Minister and the Police Authorities about the high probability of an imminent terrorist outrage in the UK. I have no doubt that as a leader in the community you are already discharging your Islamic duty in helping to preserve the peace of the nation as well as protecting the community against falling into any trap or provocation. Following the criminal terrorist attack on the Madrid trains, and despite our immediate, public and unequivocal condemnation of those atrocities some, however, continue to associate Islam with terrorism by using such misleading terms as ‘Islamic terrorist’. The words of the Qur’an are clear: “He who killed any person, unless it be a person guilty of manslaughter, or of spreading chaos in the land, should be looked upon as though he had slain all mankind, and he who saved one life should be regarded as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.”(5:32) We therefore urge you to take the following actions: To provide the correct Islamic guidance to the community, especially to our youth as to our obligation to maintain the peace and security of our country To observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity To liaise with the local Police and give them the fullest cooperation in dealing with any criminal activity including terrorist threat “Help one another to virtue and God-consciousness and do not help one other to sin and transgression.” (5:2) To proactively engage with the media in order to refute any misconception about Islam and the Muslim community To develop active contacts with other faith communities and civic organisations in order to help maintain social peace and good community relations. In the event of any tragic incident taking place, give the fullest cooperation to the Police and other concerned authorities. Lastly, but most importantly, seek Allah’s help and support and pray for His guidance and protection all the time. We also urge you to convey the above message in your Friday sermon and bring awareness to our community of our duties and obligations in combating any threat to peace and stability. By doing so, insha’Allah it will help to dispel the misrepresentation. There is no need however to be daunted or intimidated by any Islamophobic propaganda and we should continue with our daily lives – normally and in accordance with the tenets of Islam. All of us as Muslims will have been appalled to see some of the headlines in today’s newspapers (for example ‘Islamic Bomb Plot Foiled’ – Daily Telegraph; ‘The Truck Bombers of Suburbia’, The Times 2004). This kind of sensationalised reporting has done immense damage to British Muslims as well as to community relations and we assure you that the MCB’s Media Committee will be taking this matter up urgently with the editors concerned. You will no doubt recall that in November 2002 the police made high-profile arrests of six Muslims accused of plotting to release cyanide gas into London’s Underground system. Yet nearly 18 months later, none of the men have been charged with any crime, let alone being convicted of terrorist activity. There are other examples of incidents that have received prominent media attention only for the individuals to be subsequently released without any charges brought against them. The impact of such ordeals on the persons concerned and their families is unbearable. Therefore we urge against hasty pronouncements of guilt. The Muslim Council of Britain is planning to organise a number of events and meetings of which we shall keep you duly informed. “O believers, be patient and let your patience never be exhausted. Stand firm in your faith and fear Allah, so that you may triumph.” (3:200) May Allah protect and guide us. Yours sincerely, Iqbal AKM Sacranie Secretary General The Muslim Council of Britain
By Dominic Bailey Muslims in Spain are worried. Exactly who was behind the Madrid train bombings is still not certain but three of the five being questioned are Moroccan, one of whom is reported to be linked to attacks in Casablanca last year. There is a large Moroccan immigrant community in Spain and many fear reprisals against their families, businesses and places of worship. Islamic leaders in Spain were quick to denounce the 11 March Madrid attacks, even though the finger of blame was initially pointed at Basque separatists Eta. At least eight Muslims were among the 200 people killed and more than 40 among the hundreds of injured. But talk of al-Qaeda links has again muddied the perception of Islam and made ordinary Muslims feel insecure in the land they have happily made their home. Rumours of repercussions The white stone and marble Cultural Islamic Centre and mosque stands out against the backdrop of high-rise flats along the M-30 motorway out of Madrid. For a Muslim to kill a person unjustly is to kill everyone. There is no justification to kill Inside it is a cool oasis of serenity that echoes with the imam’s call to prayer. But the number of prayer times has been reduced and entrance to regular visitors is restricted. The centre’s secretary, Mohamad Saleh, says the safety precautions are necessary. “We are worried about the repercussions that there may be against Muslims,” he said. After 11 September eggs were thrown at the mosque and some Muslims were sacked from their jobs simply because of their religion. There are already reports of abuse on the street, Arab businesses having windows broken and rumours of demonstrations outside the mosque being planned. Moorish memories “We felt for the victims, the same as everyone, this sort of desperate terrorism affects all areas,” said Mr Saleh. “But people shouldn’t punish a religion or country because of who commits a crime. If a Christian kills, are all Christians blamed? Are the Basques blamed if ETA attack? Moroccans in Spain Moroccans are the largest immigrant group in Spain In 2003 there were 333,000, 20% of all legal immigrants The number of illegal immigrants is unknown Thousands cross the eight-mile Straits of Gibraltar every year on rafts or small boats In 2003 24,146 people were repatriated to Morocco Many work as cleaners, farm labourers or building workers Polls show that Moroccans are Spain’s least-liked immigrants “These people are terrorists and terrorists are criminals wherever they are from. “They cannot have real faith or know God. For a Muslim to kill a person unjustly is to kill everyone. There is no justification to kill.” A banner reading “No to terrorism. Solidarity and condolences to the victims and their families” hangs under the arch of the centre’s entrance. There are about 500,000 Muslims in Madrid and on Fridays between 1,500 and 2,000 faithful pray at the mosque. Most are from Morocco, Algeria and other Arab states. Spain has a long, if bloody, history with its Arab neighbours to the south. Many Arabic dishes, words and architecture survive in modern Spain, remnants from the Moorish conquest of the peninsula which ended in 1492. ‘Good people’ But now, many immigrants who have made the country their second home don’t feel safe. A 46-year-old Algerian, who would not give his name, said there had been threats and people were afraid. “Here in Madrid there is a mix of everyone, Jews, Muslims, Christians – it is like a big family and we all have our way of life.” “I feel one of the people here and feel for them but I don’t like the way they now look at us in the street,” he said. “A friend of my wife’s came home pale and frightened the other day after a group of kids threatened her, shouting ‘Dirty disgusting Moors’.” But he said the Spanish were genuinely good people and hopefully would move on with their lives. Moroccan immigrant Rabii, 26, playing draughts with bits of cardboard outside the mosque, said it still had to be proved that al-Qaeda was to blame. “The people coming over here are not here for jihad, they are coming here to find a better future. But now we can’t go to the mosque and they are stopping us praying.” A greater concern for him was that the difficult task of finding a job would be made harder after the attacks. After the pain, peace Businessman Ahmed Jbari, 53, from Tangiers, says the adverse reactions are down to ignorance. “Here in Madrid there is a mix of everyone, Jews, Muslims, Christians – it is like a big family and we all have our way of life. “But people who break the windows should be blamed, not others. Here 29 pay for what one has done.” Moroccan street-seller Abdellate Fechaaui, 30, was among the hundreds of Muslims who joined the march of millions against terrorism after the Madrid attacks. Abdellate and his colleagues had one message for the Spanish people and the bombers: “We are with the Spanish people and are feeling the same pain as everyone. We want peace.”