'Islam Is Not Biased against Women. Forced Marriages Are a Cultural Issue'; Tensions between Muslims and Others Have Risen since September 11. but Is the Problem as Bad as Painted? Iqbal Sacranie, OBE, 51, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Answers Some of the Difficult Questions

The Evening Standard (London, England), July 5, 2004 | Go to article overview

'Islam Is Not Biased against Women. Forced Marriages Are a Cultural Issue'; Tensions between Muslims and Others Have Risen since September 11. but Is the Problem as Bad as Painted? Iqbal Sacranie, OBE, 51, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Answers Some of the Difficult Questions


Byline: TREVOR BARNES

Q Have moderate Muslims done enough to disown the Islamist fanatics?

A We don't agree with the terms "moderate Muslims" or "Islamist fanatics". We have Muslims who adopt a fanatical interpretation of Islam but they are a minuscule group who have been deliberately given this disproportionate coverage by sensationalist sections of the media. Whenever a view is expressed that is un-Islamic we are the first to challenge it and we've issued regular statements that make it clear what the views of the mainstream are. What do you achieve by simply condemning? Nothing. We want to move beyond condemnation to a more constructive point of view, making it clear what is Islamic and what is not.

Q Has the Muslim community lost control of its young people?

A No, it has not. Youth is a time to rebel and to show off.

And they all grow up and settle down. The likes of Peter Hain and Tariq Ali are not the same today as they were in their youth.

However, it is also a fact that young Muslims suffer most from educational underachievement, unemployment and prejudice and these issues have to be addressed.

Q Is it right that so many radical Muslims should continue to live in a country whose freedoms they use to attack it?

A What's wrong with being radical per se - so long as one is within the bounds of the law and decency? The beauty about freedom is that if someone is abusing freedom there are plenty of others who can use their freedom to deal with these excesses - and this applies to radicals from any section of the community.

Q Is Islam compatible with Britain's liberal, largely secular democracy?

A Islam is a divine construct.

Liberalism and secular democracy are the output of human assumptions and experiences. But there is no problem of compatibility as long as we are aiming at the common good and working together in consultation with the people and with their consent. Islam's foundations are built on justice, tolerance, participation and freedom.

Q Does the Muslim community do enough to integrate with those of other faiths in Britain?

A Integration is a function of time and not lack of desire insofar as the community is concerned. We are satisfied with the pace and, no doubt, over a period of time that will be better understood.

Q Do you understand why some from the indigenous population feel threatened by Islam?

A I can understand their fears.

They are responding to stories, images and projections they receive from a sensationalist media. But I am confident that as they have a closer look at Islam's beliefs and teachings they will see that their perceived enemy is actually a friend.

Q How do you, as a Muslim, feel when you hear of a man beheaded on video, children and civilians murdered in Saudi Arabia, the Taliban destroying ancient and venerated Buddha carvings, Hindu temples bombed, Christians massacred because of a Miss World contest in Nigeria and a fatwa taken out against a novelist exercising his right of free speech?

A I feel disgusted, like anybody else, at those evil or criminal acts - whether it's individuals, groups or states causing loss or maiming of innocent civilians.

But people need to take time to educate themselves and make a clear distinction between those who commit these criminal acts and those from the wider community. And it is not at all fair to link the entire community with the acts of those individuals.

Q If Muslim countries were incapable of taking on the Taliban and al Qaeda, did America and Britain have any option but to do it for them? …

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'Islam Is Not Biased against Women. Forced Marriages Are a Cultural Issue'; Tensions between Muslims and Others Have Risen since September 11. but Is the Problem as Bad as Painted? Iqbal Sacranie, OBE, 51, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Answers Some of the Difficult Questions
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