BRITAIN’S top Muslim politicians have said the most effective response to extremism comes from the community itself, as the UK government increased its counterterrorism funding in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Lord Tariq Ahmad, minister for countering extremism, told Eastern Eye that British Muslims were well placed to give “the best response” to terrorists who hijack their faith to commit atrocities.
Labour’s Mayoral candidate for London, Sadiq Khan, said British Muslims had a “special responsibility” to challenge extremism and radical views – not because they are more responsible than others, but because their interventions can be more effective.
Since the attacks of November 13 in Paris, which claimed the lives of 130 people, Europe has been on lock-down mode and the terror threat to the UK remains severe.
Khan, who said what happened in Paris “could easily have happened in London”, said: “We can be more effective at tackling extremism than anybody else.
“Our role must be to challenge extremist views wherever we encounter them, to challenge this perverse ideology and to insist that British values and Muslim values are one and the same”. He made the comments in a speech to the House of Commons Press Gallery last Wednesday (18).
Lord Ahmad, who helped compile the government’s counter-extremism strategy, added: “Change must come from all of us.
“These people claim to act in the name of Islam. The best response comes from the communities themselves, who do not just say ‘not in my name’, but pro-actively demonstrate what the true features of the faith are and actually not only condemn, but seek to work with us across the board with all like-minded people to eradicate the notion of extremism in all its ugly guises.”
The home office minister added: “Those communities that feel most challenged, we’re not asking them to apologise and the Muslims community is no exception; we want to build, foster and strengthen our relationship with the Muslim community.
“We all have a responsibility, but I do also say that it is unfortunate that those who are currently seeking to hijack Islam are doing so and committing these acts of terror, these acts of inhumanity in the name of Islam.
“So if my religion is being hijacked, if my name is being tarnished, there is responsibility and a greater responsibility together with everyone to speak out very loudly and clearly about the true nature and the peaceful essence of your faith.
“It’s not pointing at one community over another, it’s about how communities work together. I know Muslims from many denominations have come out since 9/11 and always consistently condemned these types of actions.”
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in the French capital where gunmen killed people on the Stade de France, Bataclan concert venue and several bars and restaurants.
After, chancellor George Osborne announced a 30 per cent increase in counter terrorism spending, saying he was confident Britain would be able to deal with a major terror assault.
Osborne was due to deliver his autumn statement, or budget update, on Wednesday (25) after Eastern Eye went to press, alongside a spending review that was expected to lead to deep cutbacks aimed at slashing the deficit.
The chancellor told the BBC last Sunday (22): “Precisely because we are making difficult decisions in other parts of our budget, we can give our military more kit, we can increase our counterterrorism budget by 30 per cent, and we can also take action to prevent guns coming into this country and deal with gunmen on the streets.
“We will make sure Britain is properly defended against the terrorist threat.” Spending on counter-terrorism will hit £15.1 billion over the next five years – a 30 per cent increase on what was spent over the last five.
“Increasing the counter-terrorism budget by 30 per cent involves money going to the police as well as our security agencies to make sure we can deal with marauding gun attacks (and) stop the guns coming into the country in the first place,” said Osborne.
Since the tragedy in Paris, there have been more than 100 racially-motivated attacks against Muslims in the UK; Islamophobic hate crime has risen to over 300 per cent to 115 last week.
Most victims of UK hate crimes were Muslim girls and women aged from 14 to 45 in traditional Islamic dress, with the perpetrators being mainly white males aged from 15 to 35, according to the Tell Mama helpline, which records anti-Muslims hate crime incidents.
High-profile cases included an attack on a takeaway shop owner by a gang of men, a deliberate fire at an Islamic cultural centre, and online abuse against Humza Yousaf, a minister in Scotland.
A large number of the attacks occurred in public places such as buses and trains, the report said, adding: “Many of the victims have suggested that no one came to their assistance or even consoled them, meaning that they felt victimised, embarrassed, alone and angry about what had taken place against them.
“Sixteen of the victims mentioned that they would be fearful of going out in the future and the experiences had affected their confidence.” The rise in attacks is in line with a similar increase that happened after the murder in south London of British soldier Lee Rigby by extremists in 2013, according to the report.
Lord Ahmad said it was a matter of “concern” that there was such a big rise in anti-Muslim hate crime.
“The prime minister has made clear, the home secretary has made clear, that this has nothing to do with Islam, and nor should we give any kind of oxygen to those extremists, particularly those right-wing neo-nazi extremists who will use this tragedy in France to further try and divide and cause division within communities,” he said.
“I think there is a concern and police again have given us reassurance. I’ve talked to the police directly and colleagues across the Home office, and those in the communities department.
“Anyone who fears reprisals of any kind should in the first instance make sure they report these crimes. Anyone who attacks someone because of their religion, this is a crime. Anti-Muslim hatred is something we want to stamp down on. “Anyone who seeks to divide us, we’ll stand very strong and united against it.”
Last week, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella organisation, denounced the Paris attacks, taking out an advert in national newspapers.
It read: “With one voice, British Muslims condemn the Paris attacks unreservedly. We offer our condolences to the victims and their families.
“The barbaric acts of Daesh (or ISIS, as they are sometimes known) have no sanction in the religion of Islam, which forbids terrorism and the targeting of terrorists.”