In the media
Talking Point Forum
Thursday, 11 October, 2001
The leader of the Muslim Parliament of Britain
The leader of the Muslim Parliament of Britain, Dr Ghayasuddin
Siddiqui answered your questions in a live webcast on Thursday.
Tony Blair met religious leaders at Downing Street earlier in the
week to discuss the attacks against Afghanistan and has been stressing
again that the military action in Afghanistan is a war against terrorism,
not against Islam.
As allied air attacks continue against the Taleban forces in Afghanistan
I'm joined here in the newsroom by Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, who's
leader of the Muslim Parliament of Britain.
John Smith from Southampton asks: "What is the general consensus
of feeling amongst Muslims in the UK at the moment?"
I think as far as the Muslim community's concerned they are against
Taleban, they are against Bin Laden and they were all for action
against terrorism. But I think they do not agree that the military
operation against Afghanistan was the right way of containing -
tackling terrorism. They thought that perhaps the best way would
have been to allow diplomacy to play a much greater role and perhaps
explore all the possible peaceful means before embarking on the
military operation. You have got to remember that the Americans
have lost credibility in the past when they attacked Libya, when
they attacked Sudan - they said they had all the evidence but later
on it turned out that there was absolutely no evidence. So I think
it was in their interests that they should have tried to take the
world public opinion with them to recover moral high ground and
show the people that they are for rule of law and for justice. And
if they had been seen to be going for military option after having
explored all possibilities then the whole world would have sided
Alusine who's in Guinea who asks: "Don't you think that Osama
Bin Laden is trying to use the Islamic world in order to reach his
Everybody's trying to use - obviously it was President Bush who
declared crusade first. He said it's a crusade. And quite understandably
the Taleban responded declaring holy war against infidels. And also
you must not forget, as far as the Muslim world is concerned Taleban
and Bin Laden are at root the creation of America, CIA. It was they
who discovered them, it is they who finance them, it is they who
trained them and imposed them on us as our leader. So now having
done all that we feel it's unfair that you should blame us for what
their own mistakes. And nobody's talking to try some of them, to
take legal action or any action against those politicians or CIA
officials who have committed these heinous crimes for which we are
having to pay the price in the form of innocent deaths and destruction
of our land and people.
Are you also saying that, essentially, the problem is that Muslims
around the world are being homogenised, they're being lumped together
as a single entity, when one wouldn't make such generalisations
for instance about the Christian faith?
Absolutely, absolutely it's true. I mean every Muslim society has
its own priorities and interests and they basically want to live,
behave and so on or conduct their affairs. In fact at the very root
the feeling of the Muslim world is that you impose your solutions
on us and when your solutions begin to fail - having done all the
damage - beginning to make mistakes which are not in your interests
then you go and do the demolishing work.
On the other hand many would say that Osama Bin Laden and others
like him have drawn the mantle of the Islamic faith around them
- they're the ones who do the actions they do in the name of Islam
and therefore many would argue that's why this label is used - of
Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.
No I think there is another explanation to this whole thing. You
know, after the process of de-colonisation after the Second World
War, you know, we had so many nation states and the leadership which
was imposed was - whether they were generals or colonels or presidents
or sheikhs or kings - they were all pro-Western elite. They were
there to carry the white man's burden. And as a result you see the
destruction of society - one of the things that has happened is
the destruction of centres of learning and also people don't realise
that the kind of religious thought that we have today is causing
the trouble and driving people like Taleban - was supported, financed,
by the current secular leaders - the monarchs of Saudi Arabia, sheikhs
of Gulf and so on and so forth because it suited them so that they
could divert opposition from themselves to somewhere else. So that
is why. I mean we never believed, in Islam, never believed in terrorism,
taking lives and these kind of things, so, this is a new territory.
A question from Paul Morris in Bristol who asks: "Under what
circumstances can jihad be justified according to the Muslim religion?"
It's a very long story but at the very core again you had to have
an Islamic state first. An Islamic state cannot be imposed, it has
to come into existence as a result of a consensus within a society,
within a country. Now we do not have a state where a leadership
can make decisions on behalf of the people of that country. Their
decisions will be applicable for only those people who live in that
area. So there is no such thing that Bin Laden, who has been imposed
on the people of Afghanistan by Americans, by CIA, by Pakistan intelligence
and they'll begin to make decisions on behalf of all of us.
But jihad itself does not just mean war, it means struggle rather
than war does it not?
Indeed, indeed. But I think at this stage - obviously you are absolutely
correct - but at the moment our problem is with that part of jihad
which involves a military operation.
How is it looking back at the attacks which were inflicted on the
Americans, can you explain to people how it is that some people
appear to believe, through the Islamic faith, that if they carry
out a suicide bombing or whatever it may be they will somehow be
rewarded in the land of milk and honey? Where does this idea have
its roots - is it in Islamic text or not?
Not at all. I think Islam is very clear on this whole issue. It
says, you know, Koran is very specific, it says the killing of one
innocent person is like killing the entire humanity - so Islam is
very clear. And I tell you when Bobby Sands and other people died
in Ireland they were not Muslims.
He was an IRA hunger striker.
That's right, yes. Then of course there are people who have acted
- committed suicide attacks in Sri Lanka - Tamils - they were Hindus,
they were not Muslims. And of course some of the people have also
been Muslims. So the point that I'm trying to make is that this
is not peculiar to the people of Islamic faith. There are people,
all over the world, perhaps they find, in a certain corner, in a
kind of a situation and hopelessness and perhaps they feel at that
moment, in their own understanding, that if they were to die why
not we take few people with us.
So in that limited respect you would agree with Tony Blair's analysis
that people who are using and harnessing and abusing the Islamic
faith that is defiling the Islamic faith?
Absolutely, this has been very clearly understood by us. I mean
we are having problems, for example, there have been many suicide
attacks in Palestine for example. We say it's un-Islamic, it's not
acceptable, but then Palestinians ask a simple question - what options
do we have? When we are killed, dispossessed and our houses and
orchards are uprooted by the Israelis, this is the when the world
looks at the other side. What options do we have? If we are going
to die we might as well take a few other people. So it is that kind
of attitude which has created some kind of acceptability but at
root the whole action is un-Islamic.
Let me bring you on to a question from Chris Turner in Sheffield
in England. Do you accept that you have a responsibility, he asks,
as a prominent Muslim leader to ensure that British Muslims do not
react to al-Qaeda's statement and join them in a holy war against
Britain and America?
Absolutely. In fact our Muslim community has been unanimous in this
whole thing in condemning what happened in New York and Washington
on 11th of September and also from the very beginning they have
dissociated themselves from both the Taleban phenomena and Bin Laden.
And I think we have to remember one thing: Muslim community in Britian
is a very new community and vast majority of us come from a village
A community of, what? - two million approximately.
Two million or around that figure. And we come from a village background,
the vast majority. And I think if you keep these two things in mind
then personally I feel that the Muslim community and Muslim leaders
have reacted in a very mature way, in a very responsible way, and
I think we need to praise them rather than despise them.
Now a question from R. Mukhopadhay from Charlotte in the United
States. Do you feel in any way concerned about the safety or freedom
of Muslims living in the UK or the US? Do you feel that there will
be a long lasting feeling of distrust towards people from the Arab
nations? And how should they cope with this?
I think after what happened in America on September the 11th and
the way the media covered and started calling it Islamic, Muslim
fundamentalists - I mean they wouldn't call, if IRA was involved,
that it was Catholic fundamentalism or if Israelis were doing something
- which they do all the time in Palestine - they call it Jewish
fundamentalists. Somehow people think, the media think - or at least
a section of the media think that Muslims are the easy game, easy
target, I think it's that thing which created the atmosphere of
the climate of fear in United States and of course in Britain. And
of course we have seen many cases of attack on mosques, Islamic
centres and Muslims and people who look like Muslims have been attacked
and abused. But I think one has to appreciate also the way the British
media, newspapers and Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ministers
have reacted to this danger and I think this has obviously had a
tremendous effect and we see a tapering down of that kind of danger.
Well a number of questions that people have e-mailed in ask about
the level of protection afforded to Muslims living in Britain and
one from Mark McDonnell in London says: Can you say how in the event
of any reprisal attacks against the UK by fundamentalists how we
can, as one nation, ensure these people do not make a difficult
situation into a dangerous one for the majority of peace-loving
I think we have to recognise that Britain is not perhaps France
or the United States. I think the whole atmosphere is very different.
I don't expect anything of this nature happening in this country.
I mean the vast majority of people - the common people, the activists,
the mosque centres, everywhere - there has been such a strong condemnation
for anything illegal, unlawful, savage, that I don't think anything
of this nature can happen in this country.
Just picking up on the other aspect of Mark's question - the possibility
of any reprisal attacks. We do hear comments in the media from some
people who claim to be prominent Muslims suggesting this kind of
thing might happen. Are those regarded by Muslims as a whole in
the community in Britain as hotheads? How are they seen those people
who make those types of comments?
They have no roots in the society. They have become our leaders
because the media has given them too much column inches and airtime.
Because they make good story. I'm quite sure this is the feeling
of the Muslim community, that if these kind of lunatics existed
in Jewish community or Irish community or other communities, they
would not have received that kind of coverage as our lunatics have
received. I mean they may have got one or two lines somewhere, but
not the kind of full page and hours and hours long of airtime that
they have received. I think if a media behaves in a responsible
way then there is no problem, it is media's creating and imposing
a problem on us.
Do you think that the government in Britain is handling this issue
correctly in saying that it's keeping a very close eye on the kinds
of comments that are being made to see whether they are incitement
to violence or not? Is it adopting the right approach, do you think?
I think we have no problem, because if they feel that there are
some people who are behaving that way they are most welcome to do
that. But if they really want a proper solution then they should
have a quiet word with the newspapers and other media people who
have been going out to seek these people and giving them the coverage
that they have received.
So you're saying it's a symbiotic relationship, it's partly fanned
by the media?
Martin Adams in London is asking you on a wider issue: What do you
believe is the single greatest Western policy, attitude, or approach
that is causing the Arabs (or the Muslim world, he says) such concern
or anger? Is it reasonable then to alter this policy or is it a
core value of the West that cannot be altered?
No, no, no. I think that at the very core, what the Arab and the
Muslim world feels is the injustice that has been done to Palestinians.
That is at the very very core. There are a few other issues but
I think this is the very core. And - you see, if this issue was
attended to, a lot of problems would just disappear. I mean in 91/92
when the Americans went to bomb Iraq, they promised to all the Arab
world that if you support us this time, we'll make sure that the
justice will be done to the Palestinians. Well it wasn't.
I noticed actually in Osama Bin Laden's video message the other
day that he was careful to draw in this issue of the Middle East
and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is that something he's been
exercised about before or he was largely concerned about US troops
on Saudi soil until then?
No, there are three issues. One is the Palestinian issue and justice
for them. The second is sanctions against Iraq which has led to
the killing of one million Iraqis, including innocent children and
old people. And thirdly, of course, US presence in Arabian peninsula.
So these are the three, perhaps in the same kind of order. But I
mean I think if, for example, President Bush were to make a public
declaration that he promises that by 2005 there will be a viable
Palestinian state then things will cool down. And from next Monday
or a week's time sanctions against Iraq will be lifted, you can
see that the whole scenario will change and you will have demonstrations
all over the world in support of the United States.
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