Monday, August 22, 2005

British muslim institutions failing to deal with extremism?

I missed it last night, but the BBC's Panorama news/documentary program A question of leadership put forward the argument that "mainstream" Muslim organisations, like the Muslim Council of Britain, were failing to deal with extremists in their midst. (Transcripts available on BBC site.)

Here's something about it from The Times:

THE most powerful Islamic organisation in Britain has accused the BBC of
persecution after a documentary said that it was in denial about sectarianism in
its communities.
A Panorama documentary broadcast on BBC One last night
suggested that the (MCB) should provide a stronger lead and that groups
affiliated to it peddle hardline views.

The MCB is an umbrella organisation with more than 400 affiliated groups.
They include Ahl-e-Hadith, which has a British base in Birmingham and 41
branches across the country. According to the documentary one part of its
website exhorts its followers to “be different from Jews and Christians”, whose
“ways are based on sick or deviant views concerning their societies”.

My sense is that anti-semitism is common among British Muslims. One Muslim I know told me straight to my face "I don't like Jews". I was shocked, and to my shame, didn't challenge this as aggressively as I should have (though I did express displeasure).

So what is the Muslim Council of Britain's response? To lable the BBC "pro-Israeli". That is such a laugh. If anything, I would say that the BBC has long had a pro-Arabist bent, and the chattering classes in England (from which the BBC draws its staff, largely) have often been overtly pro-Palestinian. You can read their long and rambling response to the program on their website (but I couldn't find a permanent link to the full statement).

Part of the problem here, I think, is that the Muslim College of Britain, doesn't see extremism in the same way that many Britons do. Extremism to the MCB appears to mean fomenting or committing acts of violence on British soil, but not elsewhere (maybe elsewhere in Europe, they did seem to come out against the Madrid Atocha bombings). Nor does their view of extremism seem to cover hateful speech against other segments of our society (namely Jews, but also homosexuals). And they certainly don't seem to think that religion should be part of the private, not the public sphere. That's something they seem to be in agreement with Tom DeLay, Bill Frist and others who are involved in Justice Sunday type events.

For more info on this from other, better commentators:
MCB watch
Harry's Place (a post specifically about this Panorama program)

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