We understand that the government has announced a Task Force
on Extremism. Farooq Murad, the Muslim Council of Britain’s Secretary General,
issued the following statement in response:
"This has been a challenging week for all of us. The
killers of Drummer Lee Rigby attempted to sow division amongst Britons through
the propaganda of their deed. Yet in large numbers, British Muslims stood up
and declared loudly and clearly that this murder was not in our name.
It was natural for the Muslim Council of Britain to reflect
that sentiment. It has always condemned terrorism and extremism in the
strongest possible terms, and it will continue to do so.
Extremism is fostered on the margins of our society. All of
us – government, civil society and religious institutions – have tried to stand
firm against this.
Earlier this month, the Muslim Council of Britain spoke out
against Anjem Choudhury responsible for stoking sectarian tension on the
streets of Britain.
In a subsequent community forum with the Metropolitan police
co-organised by the MCB, many participants expressed exasperation that such an
individual and his extremism is given a platform and airtime. This is extremism
that is tolerated and given airtime.
After Woolwich, we understand the Prime Minister needs an
effective strategy in the face of such a horrific instance of extremism. In
doing so, we hope wisdom prevails as we reflect on the response of these past
few days and the missed opportunities of previous years.
We must be vigilant and ensure we do not inadvertently give
into the demands of all extremists: making our society less free, divided and
suspicious of each other. Lessons from the past indicate that policies and
measures taken in haste can exacerbate extremism.
We acknowledge that there is a difficult conversation to be
had about extremism and the role of our mosques and religious institutions. We
have been here before. But a muddled discussion about what constitutes
extremism over, say, social conservatism, or disagreement of foreign policy,
will not assist us in our end goal: the prevention of future attacks.
This will be a thorny issue in a country that possesses one
of the most diverse Muslim communities in the Western world. As a democratic,
cross-sectarian umbrella body, that challenge is not lost on us. We call on all
those concerned to establish the creative space necessary for this discussion
to take place.
We need leadership to foster greater civic and political
engagement, ensuring young people are equal stakeholders in British public
life. The challenge of civic apathy affects us all.
In the past 48 hours we have witnessed an upsurge in
anti-Muslim hatred with targeted attacks on mosques and the Muslim individuals,
not to mention the torrent of hateful abuse on social media. Attitudes against
Muslims have hardened. Any Task Force must examine extremism from all quarters.
The last few days have taught us good lessons in other ways
too: we have broadened our partnerships and solidarity. In our view, the
biggest repudiation to extremism came in the expression of solidarity across
all parts of our society: this was symbolised so poignantly when His Grace the
Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged the condemnation of the Woolwich murder
with my colleague Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, MCB’s Assistant Secretary General on
Finally, as objectives of the new strategy are yet to
emerge, it would be premature for us to second-guess what our government will
be doing. We only outline here our broad hopes and fears based on the feedback
from our affiliates – a cross section of British Muslim civil society.
Details of this murder and the motivation of the assailants
are still emerging. Questions will no doubt be asked about how these
individuals arrived at their most destructive point and why; worries will be
expressed about how they slipped through the net of the security services while
within their radar.
While tackling extremism requires the participation of all
of us, at the end of the day, it is the job of the police authorities to
protect us, as the public has no power of enforcement.
We need evidence-based strategies to ensure such violence
does not return to the streets of the United Kingdom."