Shahid Malik is the Labour MP for Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. He signed Saturday’s letter sent by influential British Muslims that claimed the government’s foreign policy was endangering British lives at home and abroad.
In today’s Times, Mr. Malik turns his attention to the Muslim community. In a piece entitled “Why Muslims must rise up now and join the battle against extremism”, he doesn’t repudiate the letter, but he does talk a great deal of sense. In fact, my inclination is to do something I’ve never done previously and reproduce the article in full, but I’ve resisted and gone for extensive citation instead. Even so, I encourage everyone to read every word.
I doubt if many would question my commitment to fighting terrorism. I have vociferously argued, ever since it was revealed that the leader of the 7/7 bombers was my constituent, that no policy, domestic or foreign, can ever justify or excuse British-born Muslims strapping on suicide belts.
Yes, foreign policy causes anger among many British Muslims but this does not in itself cause terrorism. Unquestionably, the lethal ingredient is a twisted, perverted interpretation of Islam whereby you can legitimately kill yourself and other innocent people, and you will go to Heaven.
The notion that you change foreign policy to save civilian lives in, say, Lebanon, or Palestine, by slaying innocent men, women or children in the UK or US is perverse and profoundly abhorrent. Furthermore, all it does is create tremendous misery for the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject the terrorist ideology.
Any British Muslims who are in disagreement with foreign policy must follow the path of others by exercising their right as citizens to influence policy through the established route: that is, by engaging in the political process.
In this world of indiscriminate terrorist bombings, where Muslims are just as likely to be victims of terrorism as other British and US citizens, we have an equal stake in fighting extremism. But more importantly, given that these acts are carried out in our name (Islam), we have a greater responsibility, not merely to condemn but to confront. As an MP for the constituency with the country’s highest BNP vote, I strongly believe that the BNP will only be defeated by white people taking leadership. Likewise, Muslims themselves must take the lead if we are to defeat the extremism within.
With the exception of a very few, mosques in Britain are extremely vigilant about who and what they allow on to their platforms. The greater danger is now posed in the virtual world, by the preachers of hatred accessible on the internet and based virtually anywhere, ever ready to prey on the angry and frustrated.
As I said to some 500 Muslims in a hall in Leeds on Saturday, a whole year on from the heinous acts of 7/7, the Muslim community has not yet risen to the challenge presented by extremism in its ranks. This was depressingly laid bare by a recent Times poll that stated that 13 per cent of British Muslims believed that the 7/7 attackers were martyrs.
As a Muslim I believe that there is no better place in the world to live than Britain. After 7/7 we expected a backlash against Muslims but it didn’t really materialise. Yet had 7/7 taken place in Pakistan and the perpetrators done it in the name of Christianity, how many Christians, one year later, would be dead? Ten or 100 or perhaps 1,000? A real-life analogy in that region came in 2002 when some 50 Hindus died on a train in Gujarat .What was the response? Some 3,000 Muslims were butchered, hundreds of women raped, businesses and homes looted and razed to the ground.
The freedoms and lifestyle we enjoy here cannot be matched in either the Muslim or non-Muslim world, but they do demand a price. Despite accusations of “sell-out”, a barrage of hate mail and the compromising of my personal safety, I would still support the Government’s anti-terror legislation, including the 90-day pre-charge maximum detention period.
For British Muslims the fight against extremism is not just for the very soul of Islam but for the freedoms we enjoy as Britons.
I haven’t changed my opinion of that letter, but I have changed my opinion of Mr. Malik.