Why we don’t march against terrorism

The familiar call has gone out, in response to the recent London and Glasgow bomb attempts, for Muslims to somehow organise “not in my/our name” marches in order to condemn terrorism: for example, this article on Comment is Free by Asim Siddiqui, whose biography still says he is the chair of the City Circle even though Yahya Birt has been in that position for some time, and this letter in the Times (last one the page) by Dr Shaaz Mahboob (one of apparently two members of “British Muslims for Secular Democracy”, along with Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the so-called Muslim Parliament).

They conveniently overlook one important difference between the terrorism of al-Qa’ida and the war in Iraq against which we marched under the slogan “not in my name”, however. That war was waged by elected politicians - some of them representing constituencies with large Muslim populations - and paid for out of British tax money, including tax money from Muslims. The marches, which took in Trafalgar and Parliament Squares, was aimed at the centres of power in the UK, the marchers’ own country. Al-Qa’ida is not the military wing of some international Islamic congress, and it did not carry out a consultation exercise, or invite all our representatives to vote, before they left their bombs in London and tried to ram Glasgow airport (if it was al-Qa’ida). If they had, the government might well have been better prepared to intercept them!

No, al-Qa’ida are a small, extremist fringe group and they represent themselves and perhaps a shade of extreme opinion in the Arab world and, to a lesser extent, other parts of the Muslim world. It would make no difference if those sections of the community which were against them anyway marched; their supporters would look on them with contempt and hatred. Of course, Muslims in some Muslim countries have held such marches, but these were government-supported marches against an enemy of the governments, and some of these countries otherwise ban street demonstrations. You cannot march against the tyrannical religious police in Saudi Arabia, for example.

And if, a month or so after such a march, a bomb goes off and the culprits turn out to come from the ghettoes of Leeds again, does anyone think those who shout “condemn terrorism or else” after every bombing or bombing attempt will accept that we’ve done our bit? Of course they will not - they will say that only a few tens of thousands turned up, or that we were doing it just for show, or come up with some other excuse. Some of them have an agenda of bigotry, but others are just fumbling around in the dark looking to put the blame on someone, which can be expected particularly if the actual perpetrators are dead.

There is one other thing Muslims should consider here, which is that we as a community are innocent of what a few people with extreme views do, unless we egg them on ourselves or otherwise help instigate the attacks. If we’re not contributors to it, we don’t need to prove that we are innocent of it, whether by marching or by putting badges on our blogs, as some Muslims did a while ago. These claims are often made by people trying to stir up hostility to Muslims, frequently knowing full well that voices are raised in condemnation of these acts every time one of them happens, but when they are told of the condemnations, they demand that the whole community jumps up and down. I won’t dance to their tune and I suggest that others don’t either.

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