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Fanatics realise worst fears of Muslims

By Jonathan Guthrie
Financial Times
Published: July 8 2005

Terror attacks in London were what most British Muslims have been dreading since the outrages by al Qaeda in the US.

The long-feared assault on the capital is predicted to trigger a resurgence in hostility towards Muslims that followed September 11. But in the intervening period, this previously low-profile community has learnt to speak with a united voice and push extremists to the margins of debate.

Moderate Muslims presented a more concerted response to the London bombings than following September 11, when they were criticised in right-leaning media for the weakness of their condemnations.

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary- general of the Muslim Council of Britain, which has emerged as the main body representing Muslims, said: "We utterly condemn the perpetrators of these co-ordinated attacks in London. We express our deepest sympathies with the families of the victims and our prayers are with them."

Mr Sacranie said one aim of the attacks would be to alienate Muslims from Britons of other faiths. He said: "The object is clear. It is to divide the nation. But they must not succeed. Yesterday Londoners celebrated winning the 2012 Olympic Games together, and now together we have witnessed these brutal attacks."

Ahmad Al-Dubayan, director-general of the Islamic Cultural Centre, a wing of the Central London Mosque in Regent's Park, described the attacks as "craziness". He said: "Around 10 per cent of the population of London is Muslim and it is a place of asylum for us. It is a perfect example of a society where people of different faiths live together in harmony."

Prayers will be said for victims today at 1pm at the mosque, the UK's best-known Muslim landmark. Friday is a Muslim holy day, when men are obliged to visit a mosque if possible.

Dr Al-Dubayan, in common with other Muslim leaders, urged their co-religionists to co-operate with police. Islamic terrorists have operated on the fringes of the Muslim community in the UK. Richard Reid, who attempted to blow up an airliner with a bomb in his shoe, was recruited to al- Qaeda through the controversial Finsbury Park Mosque in London. Two Algerian members of al- Qaeda, now also in prison, ran a credit card scam from a largely muslim district of Leicester.

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, a moderate pressure group, said Muslims were scared the attacks "could trigger a rise in Islamophobia and a tendency to treat them as a fifth column". There was much critical media coverage of Muslim extremists in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

But the violent backlash feared by some commentators failed to materialise.




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