Britain will face have to deal with up to two million Islamic terrorists unless there is an end to ‘demonising’ of Muslims, the leader of the most influential Muslim organisation has said.
Treating all Muslims as if they were terrorists will encourage large numbers to become terrorists, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari said.
The warning from the chief of the Muslim Council of Britain—the grouping that Tony Blair’s Government has considered the leading voice for Muslims—came amid rising tensions over the increasingly suspicious attitude to Muslims in the rest of society.
Dr Bari declared: “Some police officers and sections of the media are demonising Muslims, treating them as if they are all terrorists, and that encourages other people to do the same.
“If that demonisation continues, then Britain will have to deal with two million Muslim terrorists, 700,000 of them in London. “If you attack a whole community, it becomes despondent and aggressive,” he added.
The message from Dr Bari appeared to be aimed at muting criticism from police officers and broadcasters and newspapers who have questioned widely-held Muslim attitudes and at police officers who have called for greater surveillance of Muslims.
It appeared to contain a measure of exaggeration—according to the last national census, there are fewer than 1.6 million Muslims in the country.
But by suggesting that a majority of British Muslims may be prepared to support or engage in terrorism the Muslim Council chief may undermine figures who have tried to ward off attacks on Muslims.
His view appears in particular to mock Scotland Yard Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick, who declared after the 7 July bombings last year that “Islamic and terrorist are two words that do not go together”.
In recent weeks a number of senior police officers have called for ‘profiling’ measures that would pick out Muslims for greater attention in security checks.
Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist chief Peter Clarke said last week that thousands of Britism Muslims are now being watched, and last month Met superintendents’ spokesman Chief Superintendent Simon Humphrey said it was “wholly unacceptable to portray the Asian community as victims”.
At the same time a series of highly-publicised surveys have shown that a high proportion of people are reluctant to sit next to a Muslim on public transport or would feel unhappy to have a Muslim neighbour.
Dr Bari said in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that he did not understand why “the whole of our diverse community” is being criticised.
“We want to isolate that bad people and put them in the dock,” he said. “But we all have to work together to do that: police, politicians, the media and the Muslim community.”
Security profiling at airports “reinforces a negative stereotype”, he added.
“When the IRA was blowing people up, the entire Catholic population of Britain was not demonised, so why is it happening to the Muslim community?” he asked.
Another prominent Islamic figure also said that extremists had been falsely represented as typical of Muslims.
But Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament said the responsibility lay on Muslim communities to expose and end the threat.
Dr Siddiqui said: “Muslim failure to act robustly against extremist ideology provides ammunition to those who wish to pursue the Neo-con agenda by demonising Muslims and creating an atmosphere of fear and hatred within society.”
He added: “It is up to moderate Muslims to reclaim Islam and for a new generation of young Muslim activists and leaders to emerge who love both their country and their religion.”
Most mosques have remained immune to change and faith schools need to become more open to the wider society, he added.
A section of Australia’s Muslim community did not share Australian values and would not integrate into the Australian community, Prime Minister John Howard said today.
Mr Howard said the rest of the Muslim community needed to make sure these people did not have adverse consequences for all.
Speaking on the ABC’s Four Corners program airing tonight, marking the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, he said he was concerned about the potential influence of some people on young Muslim men.
“There is a section of the Islamic population which will not integrate … does have values and attitudes which are hostile to Australia’s interests, and I have said that before,” he said.
“And I would like the rest of the Islamic community to join the rest of the Australian community in making sure that the views and attitudes of that small minority do not have adverse consequences.”