London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Islamic leaders in London have called on British Muslim women to remove their veils so to blend in with the general public and avoid being targeted by extremists looking for vengeance.
In a conversation with Asharq Al Awsat, the community leaders blamed the imams of a number of mosques for the deviant beliefs of Muslim youths and the lack of a firm stand against extremism. They called for practical steps to be taken to prevent young Muslim men and women from falling into the trap of terrorism.
Dr. Zaki Badawi, the Dean of the Islamic College in London , said, “In a recent meeting with [Prime Minister] Tony Blair, he asked [representative of the Muslims community] to explain to our youths the dangers of terrorism. Government officials need to take the same step, independently, and meet young Muslims”, absent from meetings between Blair, the Home Secretary and Muslim leaders.
On the link between mosques and extremism, Badawi flatly denied the accusation that religious establishments are dens of extremists. “This is totally false”, he told Asharq Al Awsat. Badawi complained about many imams, “who do not speak to the people at all. Some don’t even speak English. Others never mention important issues such as the rise in extremist sentiment in their sermons. The gap that exists between the mosque and young people is being filled by fundamentalists.”
In the aftermath of the London bombings, the Dean of the Islamic College urged all Muslims, especially women, to be extra vigilant. He said women should remove their veils as a precaution, since his organization has “received a number of threats on a daily basis. British police, across the country, are being deployed to protect Muslim institutions and the public.” Accordingly, Badawi said, “I have advised women not to wear the veil because it might harm them. A Muslim woman should not wear her veil is she has sufficient reason to believe it may endanger her safety.” He noted that, according to Islam, “clothes are for protection and are not to harm the individual.”
As a reaction to the recent attacks, Badawi expected the Blair government to adopt a series of measures targeting the Muslim community in Britain . He said, “The government is likely to pass strict laws that will certainly affect Muslims living here.”
Jawad al Khoei, from the Imam al Khoei Foundation in London also expressed his sorrow at the terrorist incidents that have left London on edge the past fortnight. He said, “Whether we accept it or not, Muslims are blamed for the bombings. We need to rise to the challenges ahead and present the real face of Islam to the Western World, least of all the British government which has offered shelter for Muslims fleeing their countries.” He added community relations are being threatened by “the extremists who attend religious schools in Arab countries and elsewhere who return to Britain and present a negative image of Islam.”
Speaking on the meeting between the Prime Minister and Muslim leaders, al Khoei said, “We explained that the terrorists striking Britain and killing innocent lives are also murdering civilians in Iraq , with no regard to age, sex, ethnicity, or religion. These extremists are inhumane and no do not differentiate between one group or another.”
Accordingly, al Khoei added, “Terrorism should be fought wherever it comes into view and eliminated. We need to unify our ranks and fight extremists who continue to be supported by a number of governments, security agencies, and organizations. He appealed to Muslim scholars and Arab regimes not to use double standards given that, “If Muslims scholars and Arab governments condemned the violence in Iraq , terrorism would not have appealed to so many.”
Sheikh Abdel Karim Khalil, form al Manar Islamic Center reaffirmed “the clear position on any attack on innocent lives, whether in London or elsewhere.” He said his center “strongly rejects any actions that affect security across Britain .” Khalil also pointed out that “The Islamic standpoint is clear when it comes to attacking other people. If we to follow Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence), were are obliged not to damage the security of this country and its people.” More generally, he added, “Islam, by principle, rejects targeting innocent people and causing harm to their person, their property, or their honor.”
The former Head of the Islamic League of Britain, Kamal Helbawi, blamed British security forces for not monitoring the terrorists and exposing them before they acted. He expressed his confidence in the future of the Muslim community in Britain but feared “a worsening relationship between East and West and between Islam and the West.” This is why, he said, “Violence and terrorism ought to be addressed through specialized institutes.”