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Blunkett slams radical Imams, irks Muslims

The Muslim community was outraged by the Home Secretary's comment that extremist imams were increasing the threat of terrorism.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2003 21:34 IST
Nabanita Sircar
Nabanita Sircar

Home Secretary David Blunkett provoked indignation from the Muslim community in the UK once again by warning that extremist imams were increasing the threat of terrorism by preying upon impressionable young members of the community.

In his speech at York University he also stressed the importance of ensuring that Muslim Imams and other teachers from the community learn English to avoid "clash of cultures." He reiterated that the Imams who could speak English had a key role in helping to shape the world view of young Muslims.

"We have to understand what is happening in a world where young men and women can be enjoined by their religious leaders to take their own lives and others as suicide bombers," he pointed out.

Blunkett referred to the involvement of two British Muslims in the suicide attack in Israel earlier this year and said it demonstrated that "we are not completely untouched".

Britain has in fact also supplied Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who allegedly masterminded the attack on the Indian Parliament and the kidnapping and murder of the American journalist Daniel Pearl. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber who tried to carry out a suicide attack on a Paris-Miami flight in December 2001, was also born in London.

Anjem Choudary, the British leader of Al-Mujahiroun, had despite the pressure on radical imams, declared that Muslims had an obligation to support their fellow believers in jihad.

Blunkett minced no words in saying that tension between religion and nationality was a worrying trend and the second generation of Muslims were more likely than their parents to feel a need to choose between feeling British and their faith.

He blamed religious extremism for forcing the youth to choose. It was separating them from their British citizenship and demanding the impossible, Blunkett asserted. He warned that there was real danger that religion instead of helping build a civic society could actually increase alienation.

Home Secretary's blunt message to imams and teachers to learn English and to desist from alienating the youth from the society they live in has however, outraged quite a few. A Muslim Council spokesman said it was dismaying that Blunkett had again singled out the community for denigration.

Inayat Bunglawala said: "Blunkett appears to be ill-briefed when it comes to matters dealing with the Muslim community? His comments seem to be a post-September 11 form of Paki-bashing."

A think-tank had, however, said a little while ago what Blunkett hinted now. It held that religious leaders who preached hatred of western values should be barred from British mosques. Another organisation called for an immediate reform of immigration rules to stop influx of Islamist ideologues.

First Published: Dec 25, 2003 21:33 IST