British Muslims fear rise of anti-Islam xenophobia

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The multiple terrorist attacks on London has been the average British Muslim’s worst nightmare scenario. In the aftermath of the deadliest terrorist attacks since the Madrid blasts last year, British Muslims have a feeling of deja vu. Most of them know what it is to be under the scanner, it is a similar feeling that was prevalent in the country post 9/11.

Majority of the Muslim community leaders in Britain have told that they fear a anti-Muslim backlash as London struggles to come to grips with the tragedy. Authorities have already reported two incidents, but have not given any details. The 1.6 million strong Muslim community in Britain has been unanimous in condemning the blasts. The anger at the terrorists was most pronounced as worshippers gathered for the Friday prayers’ outside mosques in London. Most people chose to stay away as they felt that they would be targets of hate attacks. The Muslim Council of Britain has said that it has already received 30,000 hate messages and expects to be deluged with many more. London’s Finsbury Park mosque has always been regarded as a radical one courtesy the Imam Abu Hamza al-Masri who advocated anti-Western preachings. Fearful of being branded as a terror community, the Finsbury Park Muslims boycotted him and installed a new imam who delivered the message of peace in the Friday prayers, “These acts were aimed at destroying the work of Muslims and Muslim groups in Britain. We want to integrate with the (British) community, and not to live like foreigners,” Mohamed Sawalha said.

The world press has also taken note that an anti-Islam xenophobia could rise worldwide in the aftermath of these attacks. In fact most papers in the Middle East have taken a strong stand and have universally condemned the attacks. Egyptian paper Al-Ahram has said, “It is important and necessary that Arabs and Muslims in Europe and North America, and probably in the entire world, organise a day of international demonstrations against terrorism.” London’s Al-Hayat was even more firm in rebuking the terrorists, “The 11 September terrorists or the July [2004] terrorists in Egypt did not care about the Arabs and Muslims in the US and Britain. The reality is that they have abandoned all religions and beliefs,” the paper said.

Most Muslims have also resigned themselves to the expected backlash. They agree that it is a natural defensive reaction, but are at pains to point out that not every Muslim is a terrorist. But every Muslim is also very much aware of the large shadow that looms over them, the shadow of al-Qaeda and that man Osama bin Laden. The very name of the group has become synonymous with terror. Ironically, ‘Qaeda’ translates as discipline. And the terrorists have been very disciplined in that they have been prepared to give up their lives for the cause that they believe in. Pity that they have no qualms in letting others face the music.