The disgraceful recent antics of Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza al-Masri
with their veiled threats of violence against our country in the event of
war against Iraq have caused widespread dismay and anger amongst ordinary
Every time these two figures open their mouths it seems
they are determined to help the cause of the racist British National Party
in their goal of portraying Muslims as being disloyal and potential
"fifth-columnists". I doubt whether the BNP have two better recruiting
sergeants than Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza.
The real victims of their hateful and inflammatory rhetoric have been
British Muslims who are left facing a racist backlash. In the wake of
September 11 and the shameful response of Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza to that
tragedy, the Muslim Council of Britain began to receive report after
of mosques being despoiled; one Bolton mosque was even firebombed while
there were still children inside performing their prayers. Even Muslim
cemeteries were vandalised and desecrated.
By the end of the week of the
Sept 11th, there emerged the first confirmed reports of grievous bodily
assaults on Muslims. In Swindon, a nineteen-year-old Muslim woman wearing
headscarf was left hospitalised after being chased and hit hard on the
with a baseball bat. In London, an Afghan cab driver was left paralysed
the neck down after being savagely beaten with a bottle and then punched
kicked repeatedly by three men. From all over the country, from Dover,
Birmingham, Oldham, Southend, Glasgow and Edinburgh, the story was the
ordinary British Muslims, with their persons and their property, were
the price for a terrorist crime and the irresponsible statements of two
publicity-seeking individuals whom they despised.
Just last week, Christopher Williams, 37, was convicted of taking part in
attack on an Exeter mosque which involved dumping eight pigs' heads and
blood in the Islamic centre.
British Muslims are certainly opposed to a new war against Iraq but this
not because of any illusions about Saddam Hussein. Saddam is a vile
who has in the past invaded the two neighbouring countries of Iran and
Kuwait killing hundreds of thousands of Muslims. He has also inflicted
tremendous suffering on his own people and was responsible for using
gas to kill the Kurds in the northern Iraqi town of Halabja in 1988. No,
British Muslims - in line with the opinions of the wider British society
according to recent opinion polls - are opposed to a new war because of
undoubtedly heavy toll it would take on innocent Iraqi civilians and the
unpredictable consequences in an already unstable region.
Our opposition to a new war will be expressed only through democratic
channels by conveying our concerns to our MPs and engaging in a debate
those who do not agree with us. There is certainly no room for making
threats against our country. Indeed, this only betrays a fascist mentality
in those that make them and their lack of confidence in the rightness of
It is important to understand that of the over 800 mosques in the UK, Omar
Bakri does not run a single one of them while Abu Hamza has recently been
ordered to stop using Finsbury Park mosque in north London by the
Commission. When asked about the true extent of his organisation
al-Muhajiroun's membership, Bakri seems to become very coy. In fact, it is
known to number significantly less than one thousand people. When you
compare this to a total Muslim population in the UK of around two million,
it becomes very clear that the massive press coverage these individuals
attracted has been unfair and caused enormous damage to the image of
mainstream British Muslims. The vast majority of British Muslims have no
time for these two characters and their odious comments - it is time the
media too adopted the same position.
The dubious motivation behind some of the members of al-Muhajiroun was
exposed last December when their ex-spokesman in Pakistan, Hassan Butt,
tried to return to the UK to sell his story to a major British Newspaper
a reported £100,000. He was sent packing.
British Muslims stand by their responsibilities as citizens of Britain and
respect the law. As citizens, we also have the right to use wise counsel
impress on our government the duty to follow ethical policies both home
abroad. Though there are serious problems of poverty and social exclusion
British Muslims have also prospered. Every year, record numbers of British
Muslims graduate in our colleges and take up positions in the mainstream
British life. They can now be found in every profession as teachers,
doctors, engineers and even politicians.
It was to represent the full range of diversity and talent in our
that we formed the Muslim Council of Britain in November 1997 and invited
existing Muslim organisations to affiliate with us and work together for
common good of all British citizens. To date, over 380 Muslim bodies:
mosques, educational institutes, charities and research centres have
affiliated with us. The MCB is by far the most representative Muslim
organisation in the UK.
It is surely time the media stopped giving undue coverage to fringe
in our community. Both Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza have deliberately courted
publicity over the years. Who knows, if the media stops talking about
they may even perhaps both leave and go live somewhere else.
Mr Inayat Bunglawala
The Muslim Council of Britain