We Muslims must root out the terrorism of the mosque

The case in Yemen is the wake-up call we need to confront what has become a blight on our name

THIS MORNING a Yemeni judge will pronounce his verdict in the case of eight Muslim men from Britain on trial for plotting a campaign of terror. Arrested in two separate swoops either side of New Year, the group is charged with forming an armed group, planning attacks aimed at destabilising the country and being in possession of weapons and explosives.

Muslims in Britain will be well advised to brace themselves should the accused be found guilty. The Muslim community will once again come under attack for being aliens in this land, for fomenting revolution in their midst and for promoting the worst excesses of religious fanaticism. Troublesome enough at home, many will argue, the muslims are proving even more dangerous to British interests abroad.

However unfair, the accusation of treachery will not be easy to gainsay. Three Britons died in a bungled attempt to release 16 western tourists who, if the prosecution is right, were kidnapped by Yemeni extremists as bargaining counters for the release of five of the eight accused. To make matters worse, if the men are found guilty, it will also represent the biggest terrorist enterprise ever to have been attempted from our midst. All eyes will be on how we respond, for it will signal just how we intend to relate to British society.

There are those among us who will continue to turn a blind eye to the implications. Others like myself are praying against hope that the case in Yemen is the wake-up call we need to finally confront what has become a blight on our name.

Our spokesmen will avoid saying it publicly but they must acknowledge that one of the last decade's most disturbing developments has been the snowballing radicalisation of British Muslim youth. Numerous factors have fed the dragon of extremism. Most of them, social and economic alienation, Islamophobia, oppressive western foreign policy, can be laid at the door of the policy makers and official neglect. For others however, such as the leadership vacuum and the failure to harness the talents and passion of our young, the community must accept a proportionate share of the blame.

Of course, being young and passionate about religion has never been a crime. Neither has armed struggle in a just cause, especially in a Muslim world faced with more than its fair share of injustices. But it is a long way from there to the wanton violence allegedly condoned by the likes of Abu Hamza al-Masri, the self-styled Egyptian sheikh, whose son and godson are among the accused.

So far our response as a community to the implications of the Yemen case has fallen short of what is required both by our faith and our aspiration to be an integral part of British society. We will never be sure whether it was a mutilated conception of jihad that drove the detainees in Yemen to plan the outrages with which they are charged. Their trial has left much to be desired. There have been other allegations of sexual abuse and torture, forced confessions, falsified evidence, and the persistent claim that the eight are innocent victims of a dragnet cast over the country's political extremists.

In these circumstances, there are those who feel that a miscarriage of justice is inevitable. With the judicial process so deeply flawed, the only option is the eight's release. Certainly that is the argument of the eight's lawyers, who have urged the Foreign Office to intervene.

In the battered and bruised - and not a little paranoid - Muslim community this call has found a captive audience. But I find it a strange response, especially in view of the probability that if the suspects were white middle-class Englishmen the same people would be laying the charge of colonial arrogance at any British government which decided to intervene.

An acquittal by default is not in the interests of justice nor is it in the interests of British Muslims. As fellow Muslims and citizens it is our duty to do our best to ensure the accused get a fair hearing. But demanding anything beyond this is to ask for the right to interfere in an independent judicial process. Such a demand does violence to the moral integrity of the British Muslim community itself, especially one that is exhorted by the Koran to stand up for justice - "even if it be against yourselves."

The trial presents the Muslim community with another critical imperative. Regardless of the result, it must seize the opportunity to take the moral high ground in order to disavow the views of a growing minority who sully our good name and our peaceable faith. For too long the law-abiding majority has laid itself open to the charge that it acquiesces in terrorism by its failure to condemn the actions of a few.

A misconceived notion of unity - sprinkled with a little cowardice - is responsible for this silence. The community is riven enough, runs the logic, without allowing outsiders to widen the rift between moderates and extremists. A reappraisal of this stance is overdue. It will no longer do to ignore the menace of extremism in the fanciful hope that it will simply go away. It wounds Muslims and their faith more to be seen to harbour extremists than to leave them to face the full ire of society.

Muslims were among the innocent civilians killed in last year's US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Closer to home, they have suffered discrimination and victimisation in the work-place as employers seek to exact retribution for the crimes of their co-religionists. British Muslim holiday-makers travelling to destinations like Turkey and Tunisia, regularly complain of interrogations and harassment by customs officials who tar us all with the extremist brush. And serious opposition groups already have to bear the brunt of Draconian legislation such as the Conspiracy to Commit Terrorism Abroad Act without facing the prospect of more curbs on their freedom.

Wresting back the pulpits from the demagogues is not going to be easy. Although we would like to regard them as marginal, their magnetism for the young is stronger than most of us would like to believe. Few Muslim organisations can put 500 young bums on seats as Abu Hamza recently did in central London and as his friend, Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun, plans to build on soon in the Royal Albert Hall.

It will take a brave new strata of leaders, prepared to rubbish the extremists' claims to religious legitimacy, to roll back their ascendancy.

Faisal Bodi writes for the Muslim magazine, Q-News

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week