Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: A Partnership against Terror | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Media ID: 55331429

The central mosque is seen in Birmingham, England, on January 31, 2007. (Reuters/Darren Staples)

Labelling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group has caused an earthquake whose reverberations have reached Europe, particularly Britain. After targeting Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups, the British government has recently started monitoring the activities of Islamists across the country. From the point of view of the British government, the handling of the issue of Islamism should be directed at the roots of the problem—the education Muslim children receive at a young age. Thus, the British government has zoomed in on Islamic schools whose religious authorities vary in accordance with their intellectual, ideological and religious backgrounds. Under the Sunni heading there are the Deobandi and Barlevi schools, those associated with the Ahl Al-Hadith (People of Hadith) movement, and schools influenced by the thought of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Tablighi Jamaat, among others.

Does the British government have the right to take such preemptive measures in order to protect its citizens against terror, draining the sources of terrorism and pursuing active and dormant cells? The answer is definitely ‘Yes.’ On the other hand, does the Islamic community in Britain have the right to ask the government to be careful in its search for terror suspects and to take every effort to differentiate between the good and the bad? Why does the British government have the right to deal with terror and extremism? Because Britain, like Muslim countries, has suffered from terror, particularly following the July 2005 London bombings, which were perpetrated by British Muslims. In other words, far from coming from a different culture, the perpetrators were born, raised and educated in Britain. One serious, unequivocal need is that the Islamic community should differentiate themselves from the terrorist ideology of Al-Qaeda and its sisters. Muslims in Britain should not pay attention to the pro-Palestinian and Islamic slogans of these groups. Trying to solve conflicts abroad through violence will rebound at home. A bomb or a thoughtless statement may lead to the collapse of all that has been built by the moderate, loyal majority of Muslims.

I have had considerable experience working for Islamic schools and centers in Britain since 1989. I have realized, through my experience, the need the British government has for moderates within these Islamic institutions and among the Muslim community’s leaders. Such moderates are more capable than anyone else of navigating the labyrinthine corridors of extremism within their communities. I also realized that both the institutions and community leaders badly need to be able to bridge the gaps between them and British decision-makers and state institutions. This will give a clearer picture of the dimensions of the problems facing the community, not least of which is that of terror and extremism. It will also help place every approach within its right framework.