THE PLANK JULY 5, 2007
One other consequence of the London and Glasgow incidents is that leading Muslims in the United Kingdom have been stirred to act. Even the Muslim Council of Britain felt able to condemn the attacks, doubtless having been relieved that the would-be terrorists had not been "born and bred" in Britain. The MCB and its ilk never spoke for all British Muslims even if it sometimes seemed as if they did.
Regardless, new voices are piping up.
For instance, here's Sarfraz Manoor:
"It is no longer enough for British Muslims to pretend it is someone else's problem or to retreat into the usual ritual of bashing the media. Denial is no longer an option and British Muslims need to accept that the cancer of extremism affects their entire community. They also must utterly and without equivication denounce the use of violence."
Sometimes one gets the sense that there are some for whom the idea of any "hearts and minds" strategy is so much nonsense, tantamount to replacing the Union Flag (or Stars and Stripes) with the white flag of surrender. Yet people can and do change. Take Hassan Butt, once a fundraiser for the radical group al-Muhajiroun and a supporter of attacks on Britain, now writing in The Observer last weekend to explain why he was no longer a member of the "British Jihadi Network":
"I believe that the issue of terrorism can be easily demystified if Muslims and non-Muslims start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism. (The Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake from this state of denial and realise there is no shame in admitting the extremism within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.) However, demystification will not be achieved if the only bridges of engagement that are formed are between the BJN and the security services.
"If our country is going to take on radicals and violent extremists, Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims whose homes and souls are firmly planted in what I'd like to term the Land of Co-existence. And when this new theological territory is opened up, Western Muslims will be able to liberate themselves from defunct models of the world, rewrite the rules of interaction and perhaps we will discover that the concept of killing in the name of Islam is no more than an anachronism."
A Harry's Place contributor puts it very well:
"A clear dividing line (and sharp argument) is now emerging between those British Muslims who are anti-Islamist--(ie opposed not only to acts of terrorism but to the political ideology of Islamism) and those Muslim Brotherhood affiliated (and other) activists who reject terrorism as a tactic in the UK but support it elsewhere and who have a political outlook hostile to liberal democracy and a strategy firmly tied to grievance politics. It will be fascinating to watch this argument take place. There has already been one positive result--no longer will the media, or anyone else, be able to make the mistake of pretending that the Muslim Association of Britain or the Muslim Council of Britain represent 'British Muslims'--their strategy in gaining a platform and a foothold of credibility through astutely taking advantage of ignorance in the media worked for a while but is now being defeated."
Indeed. No one disputes that when it came to the rise of radicalized Islam in Britain successive governments made mistakes, turned a blind- eye, closed their ears and the like. Nonetheless, that was then, this is now and change is now afoot.