British-Muslims want little to do with this terror outfit, revolted as they are by the barbarity of its merchants of death. this is a far cry from their anti-war mood in 2003
By Sajeda Momin in London
More than a decade ago, when the British government decided to join the US in its war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq, there was a lot of resistance from the ordinary people of this country. In fact, over a million of them, an awful lot for this tiny island nation, had joined a historic anti-war march to Trafalgar Square to show their displeasure. But times have changed. On September 26, after an overwhelming pro-war vote in parliament, Britain has committed to a second war in Iraq, but this time, the anti-war voice has been muted, if not silent.
In 2003, the anti-war campaign was led from the front by British Muslims and suppor-ted by left-wing and liberal non-Muslims. However, during the current war, the Islamic State (IS), or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or any other name it might like to call itself, has not received support from the majority of ordinary British-Muslims. Rather, they are repulsed by the IS and its barbaric acts.
There have been no anti-war marches and very few opinions in favor of the IS in mainstream media. In fact, so strong has been the revulsion towards the IS that British-Muslim women have launched a campaign proclaiming their “abhorrence of extremism and terrorism”. They took their “MakingAStand” campaign to the Ministry of Home in Whitehall in London and urged Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the “brutality and barbarism” of IS from spreading to the UK. They have also urged other Muslim women to join them in stopping hate preachers in their local communities from trying to spread their propaganda and luring susceptible youth into fighting their “irreligious jehad”. And this backlash against the IS has also spread to other radical groups like the Al-Muhajiroun, as people want them banned in Britain.
The Al-Muhajiroun is a British organization based on the Salafi-Wahabi sect of Islam, which believes in establishing an Islamic Cali-phate around the world, much like the IS. It was founded by Omar Bakri Muhammad in Saudi Arabia in 1983, and banned by the Saudis in 1986, when Bakri moved to Britain and began operating the group from London. It was disbanded in 2004 because of bad publicity, but it is believed to have continued to operate under a different name, The Saviour Sect. This was, then, banned by Tony Blair shortly after the 7/7 London transport bombings. In 2009, Al-Muhajiroun was relaunched, but banned in January 2010 under the Terrorism Act of 2000.
However, many of the terror acts that have taken place in the UK since then and the hate literature that is being dispersed are thought to have been carried out by groups or people who owe their allegiance to the Al-Muhajiroun. British intelligence feels it’s this terror network that is linked to the IS.
Coming to the war in Iraq, there are many reasons for the change of heart among British-Muslims, and the methods used by the IS have certainly played a role. “I protested in Trafalgar Square to prevent Britain from joining the war on Iraq in 2003, but that was because I strongly believed that it was an illegal war by Western governments with an ‘imperialist’ agenda. The US, particularly, cooked up proof of nuclear weapons just to get their hands on Iraq’s oil,” says Saira Amin, a British-Muslim and mother of two. “But I am totally disgusted and repulsed by the IS. I neither believe in their aims or methods, nor do I think they are Islamic in nat-ure. They are simply going around killing innocent people and I believe they need to be stopped. They are also giving Islam and Mus-lims a bad name,” she adds. Amin’s views reflect the majority of ordinary British-Muslims.
Parents, family and friends of those few Britons radicalized by groups like Al-Muhajiroun and who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq, have demanded that the government deal severely with these “merchants of death”. One of them is the British-accented masked terrorist, who features in the latest round of beheadings of Ame-rican and British civilians by IS. He is said to be a rapper who has been nicknamed “Jehadi John” by the British media.
Last month, former students of Bakri distri-buted leaflets in the heart of London’s shopping area, Oxford Street, demanding that Muslims pledge allegiance to the “Khaleef”, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the IS. Anjem Choudary, spokesperson for the Al-Muhajiroun said there was “nothing wrong” with wanting to “go and to live there and bring up your children under the Khilafah”. He also added that the reports of the slaughter were “not true” and that Muslims were living in “peace and security under the Sharia” in IS ruled areas.
Most Muslims laugh at his views and dem-and that Choudary should go and live in this IS idyll rather than forcing others to go there. But when British-Iraqi student Asmaa Al-Kufaishi, questioned the leafleters in Oxford Street, she was assaulted by them. Al-Kufaishi is a Shia from Iraq—a community which the IS has vowed to exterminate. “This group was promoting IS on Oxford Street. When my friends and I spoke out, we were racially abused. They don’t know Islam. Promoting death of innocent people, telling me to die because of my faith and race and insulting me is not Islamic behavior,” she says.
Similarly, Ghaffar Hussain, managing director of the counter-extremism think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation, denounces the IS propaganda as a clear breach of law. “We need to have a zero tolerance policy towards IS supporters and recruiters in the UK. It is about supporting one of the most evil groups we have ever seen,” he says.
Even some women have fallen prey to the radicalization, with reports emerging of girls joining IS fighters and marrying them. They have been nicknamed “Jehadi brides” by the tabloid press. One of them is 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood, daughter of a successful Pakistani-origin businessman, who abandoned her university course last year to join IS fighters in Syria. Since then, she has married, has delivered a baby, and is now posting regular messages on Twitter, urging people to commit atrocities in the West. Her family and friends in Glasgow, where she was born and led a privileged life, going to an expensive private school, are shocked and shamed by her involvement with radical Islam.
“We still love you Aqsa, but we now have to put your family first, as you have betrayed us, our community and the people of Scotland when you took this step,” said her parents, Muzaffar and Khalida Mahmood in a press statement. Khalida Mahmood cried and war-ned of other young British-Muslim women following their daughter’s example. Her sentiments put fear into many a parents’ heart, as they do not want to lose their children to such an abhorrent “jehad”.
Another case which recently hit the headlines is that of Muslim convert, Sally Jones, who abandoned her two children to join her extremist husband in Syria after an online romance. The blonde 45-year-old now goes by the name of Umm Hussain al-Britani and has been described as “scatty” by her friends. She joined her 20-year-old husband Junaid Huss-ain in Raqqa province at the end of last year. Her family in Surrey in South England has said they will not disown her and feel there is more to the case than meets the eye.
While most anti-war supporters feel that violence simply leads to more violence, in the case of the IS, there is little political or moral legitimacy or sympathy for their cause. As Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, an opponent of the 2003 Iraq war and now a proponent of the war on the IS, says: “This is not a clash of civilizations, but a specific war to stop the spread of IS, and supported by the democratic government of Baghdad.”
This war has legitimacy, which the previous one didn’t. It is views like these, shared by a majority of Muslims, that makes the IS one of the most hated and feared terrorist organizations in the world.