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Sunday, July 24, 2005


The consequences of 7/7, as it is being called, and the abortive attempts to follow-up those horrendous attacks with others a week later, continue to reverberate. As the Observer reports today, fears of an anti-Muslim backlash have been realised in a 500-per-cent rise in faith-hate crimes in the past two weeks.

More than 1,000 race and faith hate incidents have been reported to police across the country since the London bombings, though community leaders believe the actual number of incidents is at least four times higher.

Most of the reported crimes are 'low-level' attacks such as graffiti and verbal abuse. However, race monitoring groups across the UK have seen a significant increase in the number of reports of arson attacks on mosques and Muslim women being spat at in the street or not being allowed on buses because they were wearing headscarves.

Police are investigating several serious assaults and one murder related to the backlash. Although most incidents have taken place in and around London, police or community groups across the country have reported a rise in Islamophobic-motivated attacks.

A race body in Wales has recorded that the rate of abuse has increased from 10 incidents in a month to more than 30 in the two weeks following the 7 July attacks. In Glasgow, a woman sharing the same surname as one of the bombers said her children had been spat on.

News items such as this one in today's Wales on Sunday do not assist in building understanding between communities. They report that a radical Muslim cleric who supports suicide bombers is behind the curriculum at a top Islamic college in Wales. Courses run by the European Institute of Human Sciences draw on the teachings of Egyptian Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who the Home Office is currently deciding whether to ban from Britain.

The institute, in Llanybydder, opened six years ago, and offers courses in Arabic and Islamic studies as well as training Muslim holy men called imams. It has 80 full-time students paying up to £4,000 a year each.

The courses were drawn up by a council of scholars chaired by Mr al-Qaradawi, who has praised Palestinian suicide bombers and denounced homosexuality as a disease.

The Wales on Sunday lists some of the more extreme moral stances taken by Mr al-Qaradawi, without mentioning that many of them are also shared by born-again Christians in Britain and America. They then string together a number of tenuous links to try and paint a picture of the college as a hotbed of extremism and terrorism. The article seeks to impose its own values on the Muslims who run this school in a way that can only provoke misunderstanding about its purpose and its intent.

In the piece both Plaid AM, Janet Ryder, and I, stress that Islam is a peaceful religion that does not condone violence. The Charity Commission makes the very reasonable point that there is no evidence of wrong-doing that they can investigate, whilst Raja Gul Raiz, Wales' representative on the Muslim Council of Britain, insists that Mr. al-Qaradawi is not an extemist and says that he has condemned the London attacks.

I do not know what goes on in this school and I am not prepared to form judgements or jump on bandwagons without definite proof. If there is terrorist activity there then the security forces will be aware of it and will deal with it. If what is being taught is considered inappropriate by some then we should all remember that not only do the Charity Commissioners have the power of intervention but also that we still live in a society where there is freedom of speech and thought. Only if that freedom impinges on others or promotes or leads to unlawful activity should we intervene.

Whatever the truth, we should all be aware that stories such as these and the way that we respond to them as politicians, have consequences for the Muslim community. People will form judgements from our reactions and sometimes they will take matters into their own hands. The vast majority of Muslims are peace-loving, law-abiding citizens. They know that it is in all of our interests to stamp out violence wherever it rears its head. As an integral part of British society they are more than ready to take on that responsibility.
I don't think it does any good to sidestep inconvenient facts, Peter. You can't honestly call Islam a peaceful religion.

Orthodox Islam calls for the murder of apostates - and carries it out in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, and Mauritania.

Sura 9:29 commands Muslims to fight against Jews and Christians until they either submit to Allah or else agree to pay a special tax

Most of Islam is extremely, often violently, hostile to homosexuality. Did you read about the two boys executed in (the theocratic, islamic state of) Iran the other day?

According to most interpretations, the Koran sanctions physical violence against disobedient wives, although a few Hadith seem to frown upon it.

al-Qaradawi seems to be considered a moderate, of sorts - but this is by the rather odd measure of the rest of contemporary Islam. al-Qaradawi rejects the separation of Church and State,agrees that apostates must be punished, supports clitoridotomy of girls, calls homosexuality an abominable peversion and supports at least the same punishemnet for homosexuals as for extramarital or premarital heterosexual sex (100 lashes, stoning etc) - oh, and he supports suicide bombing of civilians in Israel. That's what passes for a moderate.

Yes, there are some weirdo fundamental Christians - but we've had the Reformation and the Enlightenment in the West, western Christians tend not to be literalists and don't seem to push, anywhere, for anti-democratic theocracies.
I do not dispute these facts David but the overwhelming majority of British Muslims are peaceful and do not accept that the sort of campaign being waged by the extremists is acceptable. The Christian religion has not covered itself in glory either and some extremists have also been known to commit violent acts against homosexuals (though admittedly that is not sanctioned by the church).

The danger is that this sort of analysis of Islam will encourage more attacks on what is essentially a peaceful group of communities. Like most of the Christian texts what is written down is not always put into practice by those subscribing to the religion.
Belief in the literal truth of the Bible is not mainstream Christianity and Western countries have a recent history of divorcing Church from State.

That's not the case with Islam. The Koran is taken to be unassailable, flawless and final.

These are significantly different approaches to interpretation.

Where the Bible contains some hideous injunction Christians generally ignore it (I'm not a Christian, by the way) and feel comfortable with a more sophisticated analysis of the religious texts as texts; contingent, historically located, produced by fallible individuals.

In contemporary Islam, what the Koran says is true, literally. There have been liberal movements in Islam but they're not in the ascendent today.

The history of Islamic culture seems to me very much more admirable than its current incarnation. The Arabs gave us much of the foundation of maths (algebra) and kept alive the traditions of classical Greece.

When you say 'Islam is a religion of peace' I think that is demonstrably untrue both in mainstream Islamic thinking and in current practice in Islamic countries. There's no neccessity to that, unless this absurd literalism retains its grip on Islamic thrology.

I don't like the idea of religious fundamentalists of any stripe running a school - I campaigned against the Vardy foundation running Emmanuel College, Gateshead, where they taught Creationism, and was responsible for bringing it to the attention of 'The Guardian'.

Too many people, I think, are finding it difficult to accept that religion itself might be a pernicious influence.
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