When Muslims behave badly

'Why have Muslim leaders not condemned properly the anti-Christian terror in Bradford by some who claim to be Muslim?'
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The Independent Online

How impossibly hard it is to be a western Muslim in a world still being rocked by the events of 11 September.

How impossibly hard it is to be a western Muslim in a world still being rocked by the events of 11 September.

For me, it's mood swings worse than any PMT; terrible pessimism and fury one minute to pride and defiance the next; the rush to protect your own despised tribe which descends to self loathing as you watch injustices turned into excuses for cruelty against innocents; ancestral identities, anchors, battling with modern values which you now hold more preciously in your heart; brutal demands for absolute loyalty from all sides; endless tests (which I always fail) to prove you are a "real" Muslim or a reliable "liberal"; deepening melancholy that maybe it will be impossible to carry on living our lives the way we once did, quietly, at ease with other groups, taking the best of the West.

It is also debilitating to be fighting on both fronts: against Islamophobia and against Muslims who seem to think they can behave as they want because of Islamophobia.

This weekend, more evidence emerges of how some of our UK mosques continue to sow hatred in the seething minds of young believers. Videos showing people having their throats cut in Algeria and Afghanistan by Islamicists (my definition – Muslims who use Islam for their ruthless political ambitions in the same way that the nasties in Northern Ireland use Protestantism and Catholicism) are for sale in the Finsbury Park mosque for £10.

As blood gushes out from the necks, heads and chests of the infidels, their killers congratulate each other and pray as a sombre voice asks Muslims to "kill in the name of Allah until you are killed". We now know that at least three of the inmates in Cuba are British Muslims (one, Asif Iqbal, is only 20) and that a number of others are held in Afghanistan or are about to be transported to the disgraceful US special prison. The mothers of Feroz Abbasi and Richard Reid – the two other British al-Qa'ida men – have complained that their sons were brainwashed by mullahs in these dangerous mosques.

I believe them. What's more, I think that not enough is being done about the people who are suspected of inciting repugnant behaviour. Abu Qatada, a known firebrand, has disappeared since the new laws against terrorism came into force. In Leicester, the Salafists, an Algerian extremist Muslim cult (which allegedly produced one of the videos) has been allowed to operate in one of the mosques for at least six years. Abu Hamza, of Finsbury Park Mosque, Omar Bakri and other hate-filled ranters are peddling their stuff, often on the Today programme, which finds it hugely entertaining to broadcast such corrupt messiahs.

I have seen some of the shocking material which is used to ignite the passions of disenchanted Muslims, and have been complaining for years to Labour politicians and those who describe themselves as Muslim leaders. You get three stock responses when you do this – even now, when so much more is known of these activities. One: These are just a few hotheads who should be ignored. Two: You are only going to encourage prejudice against Muslims who are already suffering enough; and three: Islam doesn't say you should hate anyone or Islam forbids murder and suicide or Islam says this wonderful thing and that. Now, as it happens, I agree with the last two, up to a point.

It is indisputable that there is now more overt discrimination against Muslims and it is true that there is much textual evidence in Islam which emphasises peace and tolerance. These were the messages to come out of Lambeth Palace last week when the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Prime Minister, enlightened Arab princes and scholars and other worthies gathered together, walked in fine gardens and rooms discussing theology and mutual respect.

Yet does any of this help us confront the abhorrent behaviour of some Muslims? No. Such self-deception damages British Muslims, who feel obliged to keep up a facade while knowing that we must speak out because others are too afraid to. Yet churches have been firebombed, sexual threats have been made against the wives of preachers, a church caretaker's dog was hanged and a group of Brownies was chased, pelted with eggs and stones by a crowd yelling "Christian bitch".

Black Pentecostal churchgoers are also threatened, as are Ahmadiyyas, a Muslim sect, for not being "proper" Muslims. In Pakistan, this kind of persecution is never questioned, and here much of it is left unchallenged because of fears of being accused of Islamophobia. Why have Muslim leaders not condemned properly the anti-Christian terror mounted in Bradford by some young men who claim to be Muslim? Where are the grand protests by the Muslim peers or MPs or local councillors?

How Muslims treat others is as important as how others treat Muslims, and the story here is equally depressing, even though I acknowledge that we have not had the explosion of brute violence that so many of us expected, and a significant number of non-Muslims have done much to make us feel safe and wanted.

But this week, news emerged of a terrible attack on a Muslim restaurant in Southall by a gang of Sikhs. Twenty of them allegedly raided the Lahori Kebab House where I often take my mother to eat, leaving Imtiaz Hussain Syed dead and his nephew, 20, on a life support machine. Some of our local mosques have stopped opening for dawn prayers because of threats and attacks by racist gangs. Near one of the mosques was the following graffiti: "The only good Muslim is a headless one. Burn the Pakis".

The mosque staff cleaned it off but wanted no further action because of fear of worse. Sunrise Radio, the most successful commercial radio station for British Asians is now dropping the word "Asian" because Sikhs and Hindus feel it ties them too closely with fanatic Muslims. What a cowardly decision. British Muslims continue to worry, too, about possible human rights abuses against the prisoners in Cuba and here at Belmarsh, where Muslim detainees have been "buried alive in concrete coffins", without proper rights according to the leading civil rights lawyer, Gareth Pierce.

I receive hundreds of e-mails and letters from Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, white Britons, black Britons, Jews and Christians, Americans too. Some are offensive. Most are not. They, we, are all struggling to promote fundamental common humanity, willingness to understand the other. But to do this we need to promote a more ruthless regime of self criticism. Good religion needs to drive out bad religion.

As one of these correspondents, London University student Zara Syrian, who is half Jewish and half Muslim, says: "We are always fighting in my home. My Jewish mother defends Israel and my dad will never criticise any Muslim person or government because he thinks problems are caused by Americans and Jews. But they love each other and us. For my brother and me, their world is not ours. Our future is harder and better because we are more honest, more open, more complicated." Hope lies in the minds of such people.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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