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MUSLIM MATRYUSHKA
by Amir Taheri
Wall Street Journal
July 7, 2006

LONDON -- Set within Regent's Park, the Queen Mary's Garden is home to the world's largest collection of roses. Today, the garden will serve as the stage for a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the underground and bus services here, in which 52 people died and more than 700 were injured.

Originally envisaged as a grand event with the queen and government leaders present, the ceremony has been rescripted as "a simple, sober event" to please a multicultural elite gripped by self-loathing. The queen has been advised to stay away, along with Tony Blair and other leading political figures. There will be no mention of the fact that the four suicide bombers involved in the 7/7 tragedy were British-born Muslims. Nor will the grieving families invited to the ceremony be told that their loved ones were victims of a global Islamofascist movement.

The rose garden is a few hundred yards from Regent's Park Mosque, Britain's largest. However, the idea for a 7/7 ceremony at the mosque, aired in January, was dropped when Muslim leaders said such a move could be exploited by "the enemies of Islam." Some leaders have gone further, calling on their coreligionists not to break their noontime prayer (salat) to observe a two-minute silence on Friday, decreed by the government in remembrance of the 7/7 victims.

Rather than using the occasion to combat Islamofascism as the enemy of both Western democracies and Muslims everywhere, Muslim leaders and organizations in Britain have been in denial, or else have adopted a posture that could be described as "yes-but-however." The posture starts with a "yes" -- the mass murder of innocent people is, indeed, a horrendous crime. It then proceeds to a "but" -- a claim that the terrorists had legitimate grievances ignored by a British government that shares the blame for the tragedy. Finally, it snakes to "however" -- unless Britain recasts key aspects of its policies, it could expect more attacks.

This exercise in ambiguity is reflected in the Pew Global Attitudes Project, which has found that Muslims in Britain hold far more negative views of the West than Islamic minorities anywhere else in Europe. A majority of Britain's estimated 1.8 million Muslims found Westerners to be "selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral." Just over half said Westerners were violent. Only 32% of Muslims in Britain had a favorable view of Jews; the same figure for French Muslims was 71%. Across the world, the attitudes of Muslims in Britain more resemble those in radical Arab countries than those in the West.

The Pew survey echoes the results of a YouGov poll last year, which showed that 6% of British Muslims, over 100,000 individuals, believed that the 7/7 attacks had been justified. In the same poll, 24% said they were prepared to help terrorists, if needed, while 56% said they understood the reasons for the attacks. More importantly, 1% -- some 16,000 -- said they were prepared to join terrorist operations in the name of Islam. That a significant number of would-be terrorists might be present within the Muslim community in Britain is the main hypothesis of the so-called Rich Picture undercover operation launched by British intelligence in the wake of 7/7. According to intelligence sources quoted by the British press, some 8,000 persons, all "British born and bred Muslims," are under investigation as "al Qaeda sympathizers."

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The overall structure of Islam in Britain resembles the Russian matryushka dolls in which smaller dolls nest within bigger ones. The 8,000 people under investigation represent the smallest, deadliest doll, which nests within a larger one represented by radical groups operating on the farthest edges of legality. These include al-Guraba (the Strangers), which held a seminar on the subject of 7/7 devoted to the claim that Britain deserved the attacks and should expect more. Al-Ghuraba's "sheikh," a Syrian adventurer called Omar Bakri Muhammad, told his followers to prepare for "total jihad." "Western society," he wrote, "is decadent and immoral and Muslims should seek to bring it to an end."

The second doll resides within a third, represented by "mainstream" Muslim organizations such as the Muslim Council of Britain. These came together in May to discuss a strategy vis-à-vis terrorism in the name of Islam. The result was a seminar in London, financed by the World Muslim League: Rather than discuss measures to combat terrorism, it was an orgy of attacks on the West and its "Islamophobic ideologies."

The third doll is encased by a fourth -- one that represents a number of apparently secular organizations, including Stalinist and other leftist groups, in which radical Muslims provide part of the funding and much of the muscle in the street. And this doll nests within a fifth: the broader Muslim communities in Britain. These are deeply divided on matters of faith. Sunnis never set foot in Shiite mosques, and vice-versa. Salafis regard all other Muslims as heretics, and the latter repay the compliment by labeling the Salafis "deviants." In their original countries, the various sects often murder one another in the name of the rival boutiques of Islam. Shiites are not allowed to have a mosque in Cairo while Sunnis are denied that right in Tehran.

"We have more religious freedom in Britain than in any Muslim country," says Aazam Tamimi, a pro-Hamas British Islamist. "Our grievances against Britain are not religious but political." And that is the heart of the problem. Convinced that they can never agree on a common understanding of Islam, Muslim sects in Britain have sought unity based on a political program: Islam, in its broadest expression in Britain, is a political movement. It has adopted part of the anticapitalist discourse of communism, adding to it some anti-Semitic and anti-Christian themes of Nazism, and completing the mix with Third-Worldist lamentations against racism and imperialism. This Islam is an ideology masquerading as a religious faith.

Few sermons delivered at British mosques deal with theology, and none allows God more than a cameo role. Instead, they rage about Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir. They are designed to portray Muslims as victims of a great "Judeo-Crusader conspiracy" led by the U.S., with Britain, Australia, Denmark and Israel, to name but a few, acting as its minions.

The fifth Islamic doll often finds a nest within a sixth, and bigger, one, that represents Britain's multicultural elite. That elite shares political Islam's triple-hatred of the West: hatred of Christianity, capitalism and democracy. Today some traditional anti-Christian, anticapitalist and antidemocratic forces in the West are seeking a second youth in the energy and passion of political Islam. In calling for Islam to be allocated a separate space in the name of multiculturalism, the anti-West elements of the elite hope to continue their old wars under a new flag.

This hyperpoliticization is bound to hurt Islam as a religion, even though in the short run it might help influence aspects of British foreign policy. At some point, Islam in Britain -- indeed, Islam throughout the world -- must decide whether it wants to be a faith or a political movement. The direct relationship between the small, deadly doll and the large, benign-looking one cannot be hidden forever.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).

 

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