Magazine article The Spectator

As an American Muslim, I Warn You: Britain Has a Unique Problem

Magazine article The Spectator

As an American Muslim, I Warn You: Britain Has a Unique Problem

Article excerpt

With the foiling of the alleged conspiracy by radical Islamists to devastate transatlantic air travel -- at the height of the US-UK tourist season -- Britain has emerged, a little more than a year after the London Tube bombings, as the apparent main target for jihadist terror in Europe.

This has little to do with British policies, poverty, discrimination or Islamophobia.

Simply put, a million or more Sunnis of Pakistani background, who comprise the main element among British Asian Muslims, also include the largest contingent of radical Muslims in Europe. Their jihadist sympathies embody an imported ideology, organised through mosques and other religious institutions, rather than a 'homegrown' phenomenon, as the cliché would have it. They are symbolised by individuals like Rashid Rauf, the British-born Birmingham Muslim who was arrested on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border two weeks ago and who is now the chief suspect in the terror enterprise, and his brother Tayib, who is in custody in the UK.

Dr Irfan Ahmed Al-Alawi, head of the UK Islamic Heritage Foundation and an outstanding British Muslim adversary of the extremists, put it well at a Washington conference on Euro-Islam in June. He declared, 'Students who graduate from the Muslim schools in England and those who become extremists have the same brainwashing done to them as the Taleban. There is extremist Islam within the United Kingdom -- yes, there is -- and we should clean out our own house.' I learnt about the problem of British Islam -- which is unique when compared with Muslim community life in France, Germany and the rest of Western Europe -- while pursuing my commitment to moderate Islam worldwide. I became Muslim in 1997 in Bosnia-Hercegovina, following a decade of reporting and writing about the end of Yugoslavia. In the Balkans I learnt about the Saudi cult of Wahabism, which aims to control all Sunni Muslims around the globe and inspires al-Qa'eda. Before and after 11 September 2001 I worked to expose Wahabism. I then co-founded a public charity, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, as a network of moderate Muslims in the US and Canada, Western Europe, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, the Balkans, Turkey, Pakistan and India, and Central and Southeast Asia. But as I travelled back and forth, to Britain among other places, and spoke to British Muslim representatives in international forums, it became clear that the UK faces the most serious jihad danger of any country in Western Europe.

Imported Muslim clerics are the basis of the threat. Islam in the UK is overwhelmingly influenced by imams and other religious officials born in Pakistan and trained in that country or in Saudi Arabia.

Pakistani Sunni mosques in Britain are major centres for jihadist preaching, finance, incitement and recruitment. The Islamic picture in the UK is much darker than that in Germany, where most Muslims are Turkish and, when they turn to radicalism, follow either a Marxist or a nationalist inspiration -- or even that in France, where social dislocation and violent outbursts by the discontented young have produced, perhaps surprisingly, efforts by leading clerics to calm the community.

By contrast, the leaders of British Islam -- exemplified by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) -- have assumed a posture of truculence, obstruction and indignation when any suggestion is made that jihadist sympathies infect their ranks. British politicians and media exacerbate this problem when, apparently baffled, they rend their garments in dismay over Muslims and converts raised to be British but turning out anti-British. The problem is not British society. British Muslim youths who enlist for jihad act not out of negative experiences of British culture or politics, but as tools in a deliberate process of indoctrination, carefully pursued by imams and agitators mainly imported from Pakistan with Saudi backing.

Unfortunately, the Blair government, notwithstanding its support for the US administration of George W. …

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