By Dr. Nayyer Ali

July 22, 2005

Bombing in Britain

The shocking attacks on the London transport system should be a wakeup call to Muslims living in America and Europe. We have a problem with extremism, and it is not going away. Just getting Muslims to concede this problem exists within our religious community has taken much longer than it should, but at this point there is no doubt.
Before the full extent of the casualties was known, Muslims were circulating e-mails demanding “proof” that these attacks were not the works of some other terrorists. By the time I write this, the proof has become overwhelming. Four British-born Pakistanis have been identified as the bombers. Their personal identification has been found in the bomb scenes, there is video of them arriving in a London train station carrying rucksacks, a station that all the bombed subways passed through a few minutes later, and eyewitnesses describe the bus bomber being agitated and fiddling with his rucksack moments before the explosion. To suggest that these four individuals just happened to have entered London together, split up innocently, ended up in the exact compartments destroyed by the bombs on four separate subways and a bus, and had nothing to do with the attacks, is preposterous.
A few years ago this column denounced suicide bombing, and noted that eventually the trend will end with suicide bombers in Muslim cities. That has certainly come to pass. Whether it be Saudi, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq, suicide bombing is now all the rage. In Iraq, the insurgents (and they are frankly terrorists by any definition with a shred of logic within it) have killed 13,000 Iraqi civilians since the fall of Saddam. This exceeds the total number of Iraqi civilians and soldiers killed by US firepower since the start of the Iraq war. The attacks, mostly by Sunnis against Shia targets, have the goal of inciting a Shia crackdown on the Sunnis, and further polarizing the Iraqi state.
In Pakistan the cult of suicide bombing is also used mainly for sectarian purposes. Attacks against minority groups have generated great mayhem.
The total lack of logic or rationale behind these attacks is the most disturbing element of them. Can anyone describe what exactly is the goal of the Iraqi insurgents? Restoring Saddam Hussein? What is the purpose of sectarian violence in Pakistan? What good does that accomplish? What was the purpose of the bombers in Britain?
The British bombing is ominous because it was carried out by British-born Muslims. 9/11 was carried out by importing the terrorists from the Middle East. For that degree of extremism to exist in the second or third generation implies a profound alienation from the larger society. For a variety of reasons that is a bigger problem in Europe than it is in the US, even in relatively open Britain. Certainly the failure to fully integrate immigrant Muslims into European society is a huge issue, and a source of potential recruits for extremism.
For Muslims in America, we need to realize that this extremist threat represents a colossal danger to our children and to the future of our religion in America. If we want Islam to thrive and to be respected in this society, then Muslims must behave in a way that warrants respect. We must be outspoken in our condemnation of the acts of these terrorists, and of the twisted version of our religion they use to justify cold-blooded murder. We must also protect our children from this warped view of Islam. We must ensure that our children see themselves as both 100% American and 100% Muslim, and that the two identities are not contradictory. The leaders of every mosque in this country must consider this issue in full.
Does this mean that we must support the policies of whoever happens to be President? Does this mean that we must keep our mouths shut and our heads low? Of course, not. I disagree with much of what this President has done. This column has attacked his policies on many occasions. But the proper way to deal with undesirable policy is through the political process. We must organize, lobby, raise funds, run for office, and reach for social, commercial, and academic excellence. That is the proper way to channel our efforts.
The suicide bombers are clever. They enlist the sympathy, and sometimes the support, of the broader Muslim community by claiming to be standing up to those who have oppressed Muslims around the world. They wrap themselves in the mantle of defenders of the Ummah. But their actions will not yield any useful result. And to answer oppression with the murder of innocents is profoundly un-Islamic and sinful. We are told in the Qur’an to do justice, “even if it is against ourselves”. This is a high standard of moral behavior. We must abide by it, and teach our children what it means to really be a Muslim. Comments can reach me at


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
© 2004 . All Rights Reserved.