Leading militant in split with Islamists

By Peter Beaumont Rethink leads Briton to break with group Blair wanted to ban after 7 July One of the most senior members of the controversial Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, the group which Tony Blair pledged to ban after the 7 July bombings, has dramatically defected. Maajid Nawaz, a Briton who was jailed in Egypt for four years in 2002 and allegedly tortured after being accused of reviving a banned political group and plotting to overthrow the government, says that he no longer agrees with the movement’s attempts to transform Islam into a narrow political ideology.

Imams are not the solution to terrorism’

By Jessica Shepherd {Muslim spiritual leaders say Blair’s call for training in UK universities is misguided} University imams have reacted angrily to comments made by Tony Blair last week about their education. The prime minister said imams should be trained in UK universities. Too many, he told a conference of Islamic religious leaders, entered Britain with poor English and an insufficient grasp of the country’s traditions. University imams and prominent Muslims on campus say they believe the prime minister’s words were really about reducing extremism, and not about imams’ standards of English or their understanding of British culture. “We are aware we need UK-trained imams who can speak English and know what is happening on our streets,” says Ibrahim Mogra, an imam at De Montfort, Leicester and Loughborough universities and chairman of the Interfaith Relations Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain. But in any case Mogra and others question what they see as an underlying assumption by the government that the solution to extremism lies with imams from overseas, university training for imams, or even imams at all. Blair is misguided and misinformed, they say.

Blair unveils plan to train more imams in Britain

Tony Blair has unveiled plans for a new generation of Muslim imams, trained in the UK, to help counter extremism. In an attempt to reduce the number of overseas clerics teaching in British mosques, Mr Blair announced funding would be available for those studying in the UK. Overseas clerics have been accused of fuelling radicalism and failing to understand modern multicultural Britain. Some speak poor English and struggle to engage effectively with young people born and brought up here.

Poll: One of four UK Muslims say 7/7 bombs staged

A quarter of Britain’s two million Muslims believe UK Government agents staged the July 7 suicide bombings, a new survey has found. They think the four men named as the killers of 52 passengers on the London transport system were not responsible for the attacks. The poll, for the commercial TV station “Channel 4”, late last night, discovered that conspiracy theories about July 7 are rife among Muslims, similar to those about the 9/11 attacks in the United States. This came on the day British Prime Minister Tony Blair attended a conference on Islam and insisted Muslims “overwhelmingly” wanted to be “loyal citizens”, despite the “disproportionate” public attention given to “small, groups” of radicals. However according to last night’s poll, a significant proportion, six-out-of-ten British Muslims, say the Government has not told the whole truth about the 2005 bombings. More than half of the 500 Muslims polled also felt the security services had made up evidence to convict terror suspects.

Blair in moderate Muslims appeal

Tony Blair says he wants the “voice of moderation” among Muslims to be heard, as $1m funding was announced to boost Islamic studies at UK universities. Ministers hope the money, announced as a report criticised teaching quality, will help train more imams in the UK. At a conference on Islam, Mr Blair also called for closer links between Islamic schools and mainstream state schools. Critics said the London conference had excluded Muslim groups opposed to government policies. In a speech at the conference, hosted by Cambridge University, Mr Blair said British politicians must listen harder to the “calm voice of moderation and reason” of the majority of the country’s Muslims.

Blair Praises the “Authentic Voices” of Islam

By Jane Perlez LONDON: As part of his series of farewells, Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday addressed a government-organized conference on Islam and declared that the “authentic voices” of the religion should be given a stage over the voices of extremism. Blair, who has said he will take a special interest in interfaith affairs when he leaves office at the end of the month, said that the true meaning of Islam had been hijacked by extremists. “The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use, in times gone by, of torture – to force conversion to Christianity – represents the true teaching of Christ,” he said. Muslim leaders from Egypt, Indonesia, Bosnia, Western Europe and the United States joined a carefully selected group of British Muslims at Lancaster House in London for a two-day program that was organized by the government in conjunction with Cambridge University.

Blair, Pakistan PM to open conference on Islam

An international conference on Islam is being held in London next week but without the participation of such mainstream organizations as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Last year, the British government altered its strategy of bringing into dialogue, such organizations as the MCB, while promoting new groups that it was more prepared to cooperate with. The two-day program, entitled Islam and Muslims in the World Today, opens Monday by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Pakistan counterpart Shaukat Aziz. Speakers also include the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Ceric and Britain’s Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly. The concluding session is also being addressed by the UK’s opposition Conservative leader David Cameron.

Tariq Ramadan Speaks Sunday in Rome

Tariq Ramadan will speak opposite playwright and producer British-Pakistani secular Hanif Kureishi in the final day of the Festival of the Philosophy. Critics see Ramadan’s presence at the conference as support for what they consider a radical position. Daniela Santanch_ (An) accused the Mayor Veltroni of Rome of having invited “a declared fundamentalist, a bandit from the university, and an accomplice to terrorism. Gabriella Carlucci (Fi), argued, “Tariq Ramadan cannot be granted a public forum to sow the seeds of his \wicked theories, and whoever does is his accomplice. Isabella Bertolini, accused Ramadan of anti-Semitism and called him an enemy of western civilization. Angelo Bonelli, President of the Federazione dei Verdi accuses the CDL of being blinded by Islamophobia and believes cross-cultural dialogue to be critical. Ramadan is a consultant of the English government, appointed by Tony Blair to help combating extremism and terrorism; in France he is involved with the Commission on Islam.

Bonelli of the Green Party accuses the CDL of Islamophobia

According to Angelo Bonelli of the Green Party, critics of Rome Mayor Veltroni’s decision to invite Tariq Ramadan to a recent conference in Rome on Islam have lost all sense of reason. Bonelli particularly condemned members of the center-right Casa delle Libert_ (CDL). “The CDL, he argued, is now blinded from a sort of Islamophobia and is critical of initiatives for dialogue. Bonelli defended the presence of Ramadan, who is a consultant for English Prime Minister Tony Blair and works officially with the Commission on Islam in France.

Muslims Gather For Terror Raid Protest

LONDON – More than 1000 Muslim protesters have gathered in east London to demonstrate against an anti-terror raid in which a man was shot. Demonstrators waved placards emblazoned with a variety of anti-government and anti-police slogans, including: “Tony Blair terrorist”, “Stop police brutality”, and “Blair: shoot first ask questions later”. But the family of the two brothers arrested during last Friday’s raid in Lansdown Road expressed their opposition to the demonstration today, urging the local community not to give it their support. Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman said it is not the time for “conflict and anger” and urged all communities to “pull together”. His words came after he apologised directly for the “disruption and inconvenience” when a house was raided in the hunt for a suspected chemical bomb last Friday. Mohammed Abdul Kahar was shot in the struggle with armed police. Police have yet to disclose what their intelligence suggested they would discover in the house – believed to be a chemical-based explosive device. But Mr Hayman said the investigation was ongoing and if police did not find it there, the search could continue elsewhere to prove or disprove the intelligence. This could mean more raids linked to the investigation. The Assistant Commissioner insisted the raid in Lansdown Road, which involved close to 250 officers – some wearing chemical protection suits – and led to a suspect being shot in the shoulder, was “necessary and proportionate”. He accepted that there had been concerns about the “visual impact” of the Forest Gate operation, saying that had led police “to reflect as to whether or not we can do it differently”. Police now have until Saturday to question Kahar and Abul Koyair, who are being held at London’s high security Paddington Green Police Station.