Yesterday, the BBC investigative news program Panorama tackled the thorny and critical issue of Islamic extremism in Britain and whether the Islamic leadership there, in particular the ostensibly moderate Muslim Council of Britain, was capable of “dealing with this issue head on,” as MCB Secretary General Sir Iqbal Sacranie promised his organization would do after meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair in the wake of the 7/7 London terror attacks.
In “A Question of Leadership” journalist John Ware examines the extent of the extremist Islamist ideology among the approximately 2 million British Muslims, an ideology brought to Britain from Pakistan and the Middle East over the past forty years.
The show purports to demonstrate that, even within some of the mainstream, “there exists sectarianism, anti-Semitism, and a powerful conviction that Christians and Jews are conspiring to undermine Islam.” Some MCB affiliates also promote the belief that Islam is a superior ideology to secular Britain.
Some key excerpts:
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Muslim Institute: “I think the British people may give us benefit of doubt once this time, but if this were to be repeated, then I think the Muslim position in the future is very bleak. And knowing our community, the amount of fundamentalism and extremism that exists, I’m not quite sure that this will not happen again.”
Mehboob Kantharia, Founding Member, Muslim Council of Britain: “A lot of them still live in a state of denial. It is my personal belief that because they are in this state of denial, they cannot become real, you know, sort of like, forthright, really forthright about wanting to do something about the kind of extremism that prevails.”
“One of the most powerful strands, and many will tear me up and say, ‘sorry, you’ve got it completely wrong’, has been an anti-British, anti-Western stand. We are now British, therefore this is our home, this is our country, this country is not our enemy.”
Professor Neal Robinson, University Louvain, Belgium: “Their whole ideology is one of Arab and Islamic supremacy and they have little room for other more liberal Arab interpretations of Islam and no room at all for West. The West is just dismissed as decadent and secular. They have no understanding of the way in which modern secular societies have carefully separated the domains of religion and state and kept certain areas of public life free of religious influence.”
Dr Taj Hargey, Chairman, Muslim Education Centre Oxford: “We see it [intolerance] from the time you’re a child, you’re given this idea that those people they are Kaafir, they’re unbelievers. They are not equal to you, they are different to you. You are superior to them because you have the truth, they don’t have the truth. You will go to heaven, they will go to hell. So we have this from a very young age.”
“…The Muslim Council of Britain is mainly composed of Indo Pakistanis. They have a very narrow, in my view a conservative view of Islam. They toe the line generally of what conservative groups in places like Pakistan preach.”
Professor Kurshid Ahmad, Chairman and Rector of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester: “Islam is a revolutionary message. Islam wants the whole of mankind to accept God as creator and to live in God’s presence, in his grace.”
“…A revolutionary idea means that let people try to change the world on the basis of values of faith in Allah, justice, service to humanity, peace and solidarity. So revolution is not something to be afraid of.”
Sheikh Musa Admani, Imam, London Metropolitan University: “You cannot serve the Muslim community while looking to the east and ideologies that are alien to Islam in the first place. The British people have to be made comfortable that they are not facing another direction, their Islam is not incompatible to being British.”
John Ware: “The battle for Muslim minds in Britain is well under way. It’s a battle of ideas – between those for whom Islam is personal – and those who also wish to pursue Islam as a political ideology, fuelled by the rages and injustices of much of the Islamic world.”
After viewing the program, MCB’s Sacranie said, “We believe John Ware’s team have made a deeply unfair programme using deliberately garbled quotes in an attempt to malign the Muslim Council of Britain and with the barely concealed goal of drawing British Muslims away from being inspired in their political beliefs and actions by the faith of Islam.”