Ignorance 'sowing seeds of hatred'

War against terrorism: British Muslims
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The Independent Online

Western ignorance about Islam risks creating "thousands of Osama bin Ladens", a leading Muslim warned on Thursday at a gathering of religious leaders.

Hazrat Faizul Aqtab Siddiqi, president of the International Muslims' Organisation (IMO), said the misunderstanding and confusion was "sowing the seeds of hatred" in the Islamic world. "Today the West is trying to deal with bin Laden but if the situation is not rectified, you will be dealing with thousands of Osama bin Ladens, who throughout the confusion will want to repel and take the law into their own hands," he said.

Mr Siddiqi was speaking at a convention of the IMO called in Birmingham in direct response to the 11 September atrocities and the bombing of Afghanistan.

About 150 imams and Muslim scholars from Britain and Europe attended the convention, called to discuss theological implications at moments of crisis. The past three were convened during the Iran-Iraq conflict, after the publication of The Satanic Verses and during the Gulf War.

Mr Siddiqi said a resolution was passed stating the attacks on the United States were "regrettable" but were "symptomatic" of problems that had not been addressed by America or the rest of the world.

The treatment of the Iraqi people under Western sanctions had contributed to the cause of the atrocities and no distinction had been made between terrorism and the struggles of Muslims in Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine and the Philippines, he said.

The West had misunderstood the term jihad, which did not just mean holy war. Assuming that was its only meaning was "as ignorant as saying the Salvation Army has bombs". Mr Siddiqi said jihad could refer to lawful opposition to injustice that could be fought "with a pen", within a Muslim's soul or could even be a family's financial struggle.

He said. "We urge the people of Britain to struggle within their means and through demonstrations to express in the clearest terms they will struggle against any injustice. The bombings of civilians in Afghanistan are a grave injustice."

Mohammed Bostan-Al-Qadri, secretary general of the Confederation of Sunni Mosques Midlands UK, said that there was great sympathy for the people of Afghanistan among the British Muslim community.

Massoud Shadjareah, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said Muslim communities needed more protection from the hostility which had led to 160 attacks on Muslims since 11 September.