Yesterday, the Muslim Council of Britain took the exceptional step of
writing to the Imams and Chairmen of each and every mosque in the UK –
1000 of them – calling upon them to observe the utmost vigilance in the
of a common terror threat that hangs over us all.
The MCB letter has been issued in the wake of last month’s atrocious
bombings of the Madrid trains. There can be little doubt now that our
country has become a premium target for terrorists.
Tuesday's huge counter-terrorist operation involving over 700
Police officers across London and the Home Counties which saw twenty-four
premises searched, eight men of Pakistani descent arrested together with
seizure of half a ton of ammonium nitrate will inevitably be seen as
evidence of the increased threat facing our country from terrorists.
At the Muslim Council of Britain, we see it as the duty of all Britons,
Muslims and non-Muslims, to work together to thwart any danger to this
country and its inhabitants.
Yet, very often, British Muslims have been told that they have not
terrorists loudly enough and need to do more. Last week’s semi-literate
lecture in Italy by Lord Carey admonishing Muslims for being backward and
not speaking out against suicide bombers was a classic case in point.
This time though, it was heartening to see Peter Clarke, Head of the
Metropolitan Police's Anti-Terrorist branch, making it clear that:
"the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community are law abiding
and completely reject all forms of violence."
Clarke even urged the media to refrain from using the term "Islamic
terrorist" - a term which has caused a lot of hurt to British Muslims
because of the utter incompatibility of the teachings of Islam and
the blessed Prophet Muhammad with the vile and destructive phenomenon of
Still, the immediate spotlight will fall on Britain's two million strong
Muslim community. The British press has been awash with provocative
since 9/11 about the inflammatory rantings of Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri.
the wild level of coverage given to these two loudmouths is out of all
proportion to their minuscule following in this country and has arguably
helped them to further their divisive agenda to the detriment of good
relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
This is not to ignore the real possibility that there may well be a tiny
group of Muslims who have decided to embark upon the path of
violence. They should be caught and tried according to the law. If found
guilty, then the full weight of the judicial system ought to be brought to
bear on them. We will have no sympathy for those who plan to endanger the
lives of innocent people.
The Qur’an teaches us:
“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.” (al-Qur’an 5:32)
We in the Muslim community need to do everything we can to ensure that
mischievous or criminal elements are prevented from infiltrating our
community and provoking any unlawful activity. Certainly, any suspected
criminal activity should be reported to the police.
Our youth should be provided with correct Islamic guidance and not left to
be preyed upon by ideologues with sinister motives.
Muslim communities around the country need to liaise with the local Police
and give them the fullest cooperation in dealing with any criminal
including possible terrorist threats.
“Help one another to virtue and God-consciousness and do not help one
other to sin and transgression.” (al-Qur’an 5:2)
Once in receipt of this information, it is then the duty of the police to
verify the exact nature of the threat.
A real concern we do have is that Tuesday's arrests should be seen in the
wider context of events in this country since 9/11. Many of you will
recall reading about the arrests in November 2002 of six men for allegedly
plotting a cyanide gas attack on the London Underground. Do you, however, remember
reading anything further about that case, such as a trial hearing or any
convictions being secured for that dastardly plot? No, neither can I.
Similarly, you will recall the high-profile police raid on the Finsbury
Park mosque in January 2003 involving some 150 police officers. Seven men were
arrested at that time. All, except for one man - who was charged with
immigration offences - were later released.
There are a number of 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 usually crushing.
Indeed, according to Home Office figures, between 9/11 and December
31st 2003, 537 people were arrested under anti-terror legislation, with 94
of them being charged with terrorist-related offences; 263 people were
released without charge and only 6 convictions had actually been secured.
The British Muslim community has faced a severe backlash following the
Madrid bombings. Just last week, in Plumstead, South East London, over 40
graves were desecrated in a Muslim cemetery. In Ilford, a Christian
fanatic abducted a Muslim schoolgirl and with a razor blade slashed crosses on her
hand, upper arms and side, while demanding that she recite the Trinity
during an hour-long ordeal.
So we would urge caution from all concerned in the wake of Tuesday's
We have been told in recent weeks by the Prime Minister Tony Blair, the
Home Secretary David Blunkett and the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John
Stevens that our country is facing an unprecedented terror threat. Who can
now doubt them?
All of us, Muslims and non-Muslims, need to work in a united manner to
The Muslim Council of Britain