Tuesday, July 12, 2005

If Muslim terrorists aren't real Muslims, were the Crusaders real Christians?

In the aftermath of the horrific bombing of London's transport system, Muslim leaders have been quick to condemn the attacks. There were no "ifs" or "buts" on this occasion. The fact that Muslims were among the victims may has brought home to many the reality of Islamic terrorism.

But the attacks have also brought with them the fear of a backlash, a backlash that never happened except in certain peoples' imagination. The fact is, the Brits are by and large a laid back lot, and have enough common sense to differentiate between the law abiding Muslim and the Islamic terrorist.

The same unfortunately, cannot be said for the Muslim leaders. Their response has been to feel they are all tarred by the same brush and have reacted by arguing the bombers are not real Muslims.

Maybe it's time Muslims realised they have more to fear from their own extremists than from any "backlash". Since 9/11, there has been too litte condemnation, and all too often outright praise for the likes of Yussuf Qaradawi and other extremists who have condoned suicide bombings. Whilst there has been a rush to denounce the likes of Salman Rushdie and Theo Van Gogh, there have been no fatwas issued against Abu Hamza or Omar Bakri Mohammed.

Things have not been helped by guilt ridden Christians too timid to point the finger of blame. "There are no Muslim terrorists. There are terrorists," Father Paul Hawkins of St Pancras parish church told his congregation on Sunday. "The people who carried out these attacks are victims of a false religion, be it false Christianity or false Islam." Which is like arguing that the Crusaders had nothing to do with Christianity.

The only reason that Christianity has moved on from it's blood soaked past is that Christians have had to take reponsibility for over two millenia of persecution against the Jews and those of other faiths. Just as the Crusuders were devout Christians, today's Jihadists are devuot Muslims.

After the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was murdered by a Jewish assassin in 1995, there was a lot of soul searching in the Jewish community, with many blaming the hate filled rhetoric of Rabin's political opponents for creating an atmosphere that led to his death (Remember the posters: "Rabin is a murderer", "Rabin is a Traitor"). I attended a memorial meeting for him at the Royal Albert Hall and I remember the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks remarking that as a Jew, the whole incident made him hang his head in shame.

There may be a concept of 'Umma' in the Muslim community, but there's a lack of individual responsibility when it comes to silencing the extremists. If we're unwilling to learn from history that violent words lead to violent deeds, it may take many more atrocities before we wake up to reality, and as the death toll from Thursday's attacks has proved, Muslims will be in the front line as much as we are.