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Press Release

Fear and Loathing is not the Best Response to Terrorism: Muslim Council of Britain Responds to Extremism Task Force Proposals

5th December 2013

 

The Muslim Council of Britain today expressed the concern felt in many British Muslim communities following the Government’s proposals for countering extremism in the wake of the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in May this year. This act was condemned forcefully and unreservedly by British Muslims.

In introducing the proposals, the Prime Minister is reported to have said: “there are just too many people who have been radicalised in Islamic centres, who have been in contact with extremist preachers, who have accessed radicalising information on the internet and haven’t been sufficiently challenged”. This narrative will only add fuel to an already charged Islamophobic atmosphere.

 

In spite of the odd references to other forms of extremism, the proposals and the words of the PM clearly single out Muslim communities and institutions, with an unsubstantiated assertion that extremists are radicalised at Islamic centres.  Many are concerned that these proposals continue to view British Muslims through the prism of security, rather than as fully fledged members of British society.

This weekend, the Muslim Council of Britain’s scheduled National Council meeting will discuss these proposals. And the MCB will invite the Government to present its case to the community. We do hope they will accept the invitation.

In the meantime, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain issued the following interim statement:

“We agree that those who call for the murder of innocent civilians, as we saw in Woolwich earlier this year, and in other atrocities around the world, are indeed presenting a distorted interpretation of Islam. That is the red line that the vast majority in our community would have no problem in endorsing.

We are concerned, however, as to who will be the judge of what a ‘distorted interpretation of Islam’ really is.  At what point does opposition to a war based on one’s faith or values becomes an act or ideology of extremism? There are still muddled notions of what extremism really is.

Over the years, vested interest groups have campaigned against speakers who may be conservative, or whose words were ill-advised, but they are certainly not supporters or promoters of terrorism. Many in our community are concerned that the Government’s proposals have been influenced by these questionable elements.

While exceptional events linked to Islam and Muslims as problems draw enormous attention and forcible and concerted action, little is done and even less willed to be done to combat Islamophobia, of word or deed, to tackle social exclusion, or to actively promote civic inclusion.

Moreover, the idea of the state or police arbitrating theological ‘distortion’ is especially worrying.  We are a diverse Muslim community, it would be inadvisable for the government to promote state-sponsored sectarianism.

Following the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in May, the Muslim community was united in its condemnation and disgust at this action. They were joined by fellow Britons who stood firm in solidarity with each other. As I noted in a speech in June: “We look at Woolwich and are struck by the ways that ordinary people responded to this shocking event in extraordinary ways. The lessons from Woolwich lie less in acknowledgement of impending existential threats to our way of life, than in the demonstration of the resilience of our society.

No amount of investment in counter-terrorism alone will prevent another attack, but investment in the strengthening of the resilience and capacity of our communities across the whole of our society – through the promotion of civic engagement, social cohesion, capacity building, voice, dignity and stake-holding, through the strengthening of our democracy and through democratic practice and social justice will go a long way towards making the values we all defend a reality for all. Investing in the resilience and capacity of our communities is the surest guarantee that we can stand up for who we are and what we believe in; that we can articulate our grievances without being accused of disloyalty and face up to those who seek to undermine our contribution to this society.”

 

 

Notes to Editors

1. The Muslim Council of Britain (www.mcb.org.uk) is the UK’s representative Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.

2. The MCB’s National Council meeting will be held this Saturday in Birmingham. If you would like to attend, email media@mcb.org.uk

3. Background: MCB’s response after Woolwich

a. Secretary General Calls for Fresh Thinking on Extremism

b. Muslims Condemn Attack on Soldier in Woolwich

c. Muslim Council of Britain responds to Announcement of the Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Extremism

d. Make Tea, Not War: British Muslims Urged To Open Mosques To Public

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