Leaders of Britain’s Muslim community have begun their task of soul-searching to find out if there is anything they could have done to prevent the London bomb attacks, and can now do to forestall future outrages.
The two million-strong community is in the unenviable position of having to look both outwards and inwards – inwards to those elements within radical Islam that might have colluded in the terrorist operation, and outwards towards a society where there will be a depressingly inevitable increase in Islamophobia and attacks on innocent Muslims.
One of the strongest early statements came from the Muslim Council of Britain, a body that has itself been attacked by extremists, who disrupted a pre-election meeting accusing the council of being hand-in-glove with Tony Blair’s Government.
After a hurriedly-convened emergency meeting when it became apparent last night that home-grown Muslim suicide bombers were responsible, Secretary-General Sir Iqbal Sacranie said: “We have received terrible news from the police with anguish, shock and horror.
“While the police investigation continues, we reiterate our absolute commitment and resolve to helping the police bring to justice all involved in this crime of mass murder.
“Nothing in Islam can ever justify the evil actions of the bombers. We are determined to work together with all concerned to prevent such an atrocity ever happening again. We now look to our shared values and common humanity to face the traumas and the challenge ahead.”
Later, in a joint statement with the leading ecumenical Christian body, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, the Muslim Council urged people of all faiths to stand side-by-side at public gatherings across the country at midday tomorrow to observe the two minutes’ silence.
The Muslim Council continued: “No good purpose can be achieved by such an indiscriminate and cruel use of terror. These attacks strengthen our determination to live together in peace, and to grow together in mutual understanding.
“The scriptures and the traditions of both the Muslim and Christian communities repudiate the use of such violence. Religious precepts cannot be used to justify such crimes, which are completely contrary to our teaching and practice.”
The Muslim Association of Britain, clearly shaken by the developments, warned of the possibility of more attacks. Spokesman Harris Bokhari said that all communities, including Muslims, must cooperate with the police and other security forces to prevent any further such attacks and where possible lend a helping hand.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of a conspiracy to carry out more attacks in the future, whether near or distant. An urgent measure would be to lend the police a helping hand in their investigations and their efforts to stem the threat altogether,” said Mr Bokhari.
“There will be those who, by virtue of their racist and xenophobic tendencies, will endeavour to blame the Muslims or Islam for the heinous crime committed by a few misguided individuals. Such attitudes must be confronted and any hate crimes should be severely dealt with.
“Once the profiles of the perpetrators of the London bombings are fully established and made known to the public, the Muslim communities of the United Kingdom will be under obligation to assess whether there was something we could have done to prevent these attacks. More importantly, we need to assess whether there are things we need to, or must, do to help prevent such attacks in the future.”
The Muslim Association also began to address the question to which none at present has the answer – what can have turned apparently secure, happy, cricket-loving young British men to fanatics more in love with death than life. While the war in Iraq is being blamed by many, others are not satisfied by this because 9/11, the worst terrorist atrocity in history, happened before the war.
“Community leaders, clerics, journalists, academics, politicians and decision-makers need to face up to the causes of radicalisation of the Muslim youth in the United Kingdom.,” the association said. “The question we all have to answer is, what can we do to prevent such radicalisation, if the real cause is anger over our foreign policy, as has been repeatedly suggested? Once the investigations are completed and the jigsaw puzzle is fully resolved, we shall be in a better position to diagnose more accurately what went wrong.”
From the Islamic Cultural Centre at the London Central Mosque came a reminder that Islam expressly forbids the use of violence against civilians and innocents and called on all Muslims to cooperate fully with the investigations. Dr Ahmed Al-Dubayan, Director General, said that he condemned unequivocally the attacks, and urged all Muslims to support unanimously the Government’s anti-terrorist programmes.
The Leeds Faiths Forum, consisting people of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths, urged in the strongest language possible that religious leaders resist any temptation to associate Islam or any other faith with terrorism.
“It is imperative that we endeavour to create and maintain good relations with our neighbours, and thus we must be clear and strong in declaring peace, justice and humanity,” forum members said in a statement.
“We resolve to continue to work together, strengthening the trust between us and to work for the peace and well being of all the people of Leeds. These bombs are contrary to the teachings of each of our faith communities.”
Besides organising their own act of remembrance tomorrow at midday, the religious leaders in Leeds are asking members of all faith communities to approach their local Mosques and ask if their presence would be welcome at Friday prayers. “This would be to show our respect for the Muslim faith and as an act of solidarity so that people know that the Muslim Community cannot be isolated and easily threatened by extremist factions at this time,” the forum said.