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Live webchat: Dr Siddiqui

Daily Mail • If you missed our live chat with Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui - one of the major figures in the British Muslim political establishment - then don't worry. The full transcript is here for you to read.

Jane: Can you clarify something for me please? Can Islamic law or the Qur'an be used to justify barbaric acts?

Dr Siddiqui: One can always looks at the Tora and Bible and compare the punishments these holy books describe and realise this is nothing different. Historically, this ideology of extremism, ideology of madness, came into existence when Wahhabism ideology from Saudi Arabia turned into alliance with Britain and America and their intelligence services in the wake of the Soviet Union. As a result of this, this ideology was militiarised.

Moderator: Why does a political wing of Islam exist in the UK, why does it feel the need and what are its goals?

Dr Siddiqui: Ordinary Muslims want to live in Britain in peace and in harmony with the wider society. But the extremists have, of course, a different agenda. They need to be isolated and confronted by all of us.

Phillip Scully: Did the war in Iraq contribute to the London bombings and do you hold Mr Blair responsible?

Dr Siddiqui: Tony Blair, of course, has a great deal of answering to do for de-stabilising our world, in which many Iraqis and our soldiers have died. But for the majority of suicide bombers to claim any link is simply unacceptable.

71 per cent of British people have always opposed invasion and occupation of Iraq. By bombing and killing Londoners it was like killing your supporters. Such an act can only be carried out by mindless people.

Phil: What do we need to do to win the confidence of all of these disillusioned young Muslims?

Dr Siddiqui: Well the entire society has to become involved. These young men have been bullied while at school. Mosques have abandoned them. This has created a feeling among these young people that they are not wanted or loved by the society.

Only if we work together can we eradicate this from our society. This whole environment has made them vulnerable to recruiters. We have to work together - all of us, society, parents and mosques, so that we do not create that kind of vulnerable situation.

Marge: The British culture places a notion of 'Britishness' above religious identity, yet, seemingly, Muslims are Muslims first, a nationality second. Firstly, do you agree with this summary? Secondly, do you feel - give the two such different cultures and ideologies - that successful integration and co-existance is ever possible?

Dr Siddiqui: Yes, successful integration and co-existance is possible. Both Islam and British society share common values, such as empowerment of people through education, tolerance, justice, creativity and equality.

This feeling that Muslims are Muslims first is a notion which has come from the extremists, and we have to deal with the source.

Moderator: As a leading Muslim in this country, would you say that your first allegiance is to the UK and all it stands for, or to the furtherance of Islam around the world?

Dr Siddiqui: My first allegiance is to this country, this society. As this society improves, gets better, I will also draw greatness from the wider society. I'm part of this society.

Moderator: You talked above about the empowerment of people? Does that include women?

Dr Siddiqui: Of course. They are part of society, half of the population. It's very sad that women have not achieved equality, in any society, here or Islamic ones, in relative terms. Women have a glass ceiling when it comes to progress in many places.

Barry: Do you support the police's shoot to kill policy with suspected suicide bombers?

Dr Siddiqui No, I don't, because this Brazilian young man has already shown that we need to reconsider this. The job of police is to protect people. If they decide they have to opt for the shoot-to-kill policy, this has to be a last resort approach.

To say that collateral damage is inevitable shows that some of these officers have not been trained properly and there is a failure of intelligence. And the intelligence can only come if the society feels that the police is absolutely not going to use this policy unless they have no option.

Moderator: How would you deal with suicide bombers?

Dr Siddiqui: Well I hope I don't have to, I'm not in that position. It's very difficult for any ordinary person to decide... the only thing ordinary people can do is deal with the sources of extremism. When it crosses a certain threshold it becomes the domain of police and security services.

Farzana: What can ordinary Muslims like me do to help the situation?

Dr Siddiqui First, we need to open a debate within our families, community, about this whole question of extremism and its consequences.

Second, we need to go out and build bridges and alliances with the civil society.

Trevor: After the London murders, Muslims in Leeds marched against the BNP; why not march against Al-Qaeda?

Dr Siddiqui: They should. I think perhaps they should think about it, because both are equally enemies of this society.

Salaam: Where and how do the Muslims go about living now? I'm a Muslim and sometimes I feel out of place when I go out.

Dr Siddiqui Continue living wherever you're living now. But don't withdraw yourself from your friends and neighbours. Instead, discuss with them policies of engagement and creating a stake holding society in Britain. An inclusive and stakeholding society in Britain.

Moderator: Earlier you said that Muslims should open the debate about extremism. Yet, Muslim extremism has been around for many years. Why has the debate not been opened already?

Dr Siddiqui: Partly because our government and security services have continued to promote groups who have these ideas. Many of us felt powerless.

In all fairness, there are a number of issues that need to be discussed at many levels.

Moderator: I would like to know why so many Muslims choose to live in western countries when they don't agree with western culture, western beliefs and the western way of life? There are many people in this country who have other beliefs and cultures, for example, Hindus and Buddhists, who do not show the anger that some young Muslims show towards western society and culture. Why do you think this is?

Dr Siddiqui I think the very fact that so many Muslims have come here indicates that they share common values. People who have problems are those who subscribe to the extremists' ideologies and views. The fact that the media has given them more column inches and airtime has given the idea to other countries that they speak for all of us.

Steve Butler: Would you encourage the Muslim community to issue a Fatwa against the escaped suicide bombers as you encouraged a fatwa to be issued against Salman Rushdie?

Dr Siddiqui Well, I think through the last few days a number of clerics have already issued fatwas making any participation in suicide bombing... [sic] so it is applicable to those who were involved in the past or might be in the future. These fatwas need to be circulated widely.

Will: Do you think the Muslim community will do their part to try and find terrorists hiding within their community or will many not bother as they have mixed views about the associated issues?

Dr Siddiqui No. Anybody who is hiding these criminals are participating in criminal acts. Anybody who knows where they are hiding is, in a way party, to these acts. It is everybody's duty to inform the police so that these people are caught, charged and go through the due process of law.

Farzana: What kind of problems have the Muslim community suffered since all this happened?

Dr Siddiqui I think first was shock, then all the fear or backlash. And of course, a realisation that why didn't we do something before? Deal with this problem earlier in our community? These are the mixed feelings we have in the community.

Farzana: Islam is a religion of peace. Do you think the message is still reaching ordinary British people after the attacks?

Dr Siddiqui I don't think so. I think it will take a long time and a great deal of effort on the part of the Muslim community to re-focus attention that Islam is about justice, fairness, equality and creativity. It was these qualities which created one of the most dynamic societies in history, it was this society which was said to have laid the foundations for Renaissance Europe. This extremist ideology is a peculiar phenomenon of our time and should be judged in this context.

Chee: I would like to ask who the leader of the Islamic religion is - for example, we have the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Jewish community have the Chief Rabbi, etc. Who keeps the faith together in a cohesive 'gelling together' manner? And do you feel that more effort is needed to prevent extremists from misinterpretation of the faith?

Dr Siddiqui Unfortunately, within the Muslim community, there is no single religious leader. The community is still a very new community. One hopes that within time some learned people will emerge to occupy this position, which is acceptable to all sections of the Muslim community.

Phil: I would just like to say that as an ordinary British person, I do not blame Muslims - only individuals. Thought it was best mentioned.

Dr Siddiqui I'm glad, of course, I receive phone calls and letters from people and I think this is the hope. That despite what has happened, we have a very positive attitude to life. It is this approach that will eventually tell the society for a much higher cause we all aspire to achieve.

Ali: You say regarding extremists that 'we have to deal with the source.' What exactly do you mean by that?

Dr Siddiqui Surely there are individuals and groups who are recruiting our young people. Because, however vulnerable these young people might be, they are not taking this decision to become suicide bombers on their own. So that must be our major concern, we could find by opening this debate within the community and engaging ourselves with our young people. It is they who will lead us to those recruiters.

Moderator Have you ever sought to stand for election to the Parliament of the UK?

Dr Siddiqui I did. But now I think I have crossed that age! I do urge other young people to do so.

Chee: Going back to your reponse on the issue of having a leader of the faith, I think that this may be part of the problem. The Islamic faith perhaps need to address the issue of a leader who will be acceptable to the ordinary Muslim person. This might then provide a role model for young Muslims to look up to and follow in the peaceful faith that Islam actually is.

Dr Siddiqui Muslim community is still a tribal community. It will take time before it becomes a community with one language of communication and believing in common Islamic values. We're still confused between culture and religion. This is the goal but it will take time.

Farzana: Do you think a lack of education about the real Islam is causing tensions and divisions in society? How can we practically go about educating people?

Dr Siddiqui This is indeed the case. We have to have educated clerics in our mosques. Clerics who are not only learned in Islam, but also have the ability to communicate and engage with our young people, both men and women. This is obviously a matter of great need of the time.

Moderator: It is my understanding that the Qur'an can be interpreted in more than a dozen different ways. Do you think that this is a problem, and should greater effort be made to settle on one definitive meaning?

Dr Siddiqui Qur'an is the word of God. Any translation or interpretation has to be understood as the understanding of that individual who has read it. It can never be taken as the intention of God. This interpretation will vary from time to time. It is a failure of our people that a certain interpretation is causing a problem among our young people. Learned scholars should solve this problem.

Moderator: It was very noticeable that the extended families of the recent London suicide bombers were all totally shocked to find that their son, nephew, friend, was one of these people. Is it fair to assume that Muslim family ties are not that strong anymore?

Dr Siddiqui Muslim families are breaking down, they are fractured. These events should come as a wake up call. The change in behaviour of any individual should be spotted by their parents. The fact that they failed to spot is the problem. Many of our families do not have the culture of engagement within the families. Where young and old meet, talk, relax with each other. The change should have been spotted there.

Chee: Do you advocate the exclusive teaching of Islamic faith to young children in faith schools to the exclusion of other subjects such as science, languages and art? We see these images of Qur'an recital to the exclusion of everything else. Perhaps this does not endeavour to provide a well rounded modern approach to life for young Muslims in an ever changing world.

Dr Siddiqui Absolutely, I agree with this statement. I believe that we ought to do two things. One, all of our young people should learn all other areas of knowledge, including Islamic teachings and our faith schools should seriously consider admitting students of other faiths. So that we provide a semblance of multiculturalism in our schools. School is the only time these young people are going to learn about others and begin to develop tolerance for others.

Moderator: What is being done to moderate extreme clerics within your community who preach hatred towards the West?

Dr Siddiqui I think it's the responsibility of the community to identify them and isolate them. At the same time we need to engage with our young people to convince them that their ideology is a destructive one. If they want to follow these demigods, this will destroy them, their parents and future generations. They should pursue and create a culture of excellence. It is this culture which will give them acceptability and respectability that they so dearly desire.

Francis Jones: Do you feel the attacks on the West and Egypt have pushed moderate Muslims towards or away from extremism?

Dr Siddiqui Well, understandably such acts will put enormous pressure on moderate Muslims and there is a danger of marginalisation. But, for the sake of the future of Muslim societies, they have no option but to continue pursuing this approach. They have to highlight that the Qur'an lays great emphasis on moderation in all aspects of life. If they are really believers, they should take note of this.

Moderator Thanks for this Dr Siddiqui - a great webchat! This will be our last question for the day:

Catherine Bailey: What needs to happen for this cloak of terror to lift? And do Muslims around the world see America and Britain as one and the same?

Dr Siddiqui Britain and America have played a very crucial role in giving birth to this ideology of extremism within the Muslim communities. The time has come that both the UK and the US governments accept their responsibility in destabilising the world. Making the world an insecure world.

Moderator Excellent chat Dr Siddiqui. Many thanks for coming along. How did you find the chat?

Dr Siddiqui I enjoyed it, very good, very happy.

Moderator Excellent! We loved having you here today. Many thanks to everyone else who came along.

This live webchat took place on the Daily Mail website

 

 

 

 

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