In the media
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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