Editorial: What Have We Learnt From Woolwich?

Sajid Iqbal

Just when you thought terror and extremism in the name of religion in Britain had finally died down, it reared its ugly head in Woolwich, which shocked and disgusted the nation. Two crackpots committing a horrific murder happened to be Muslims and apparently did this barbaric act in the name of Islam.

It didn’t take long for all eyes to be on the Muslim community and Islam.  Pauline Neville Jones, the former security minister, stated on the Today programme that Muslims have a special duty to condemn the Woolwich attack. It’s stupid comments like these which make a lot of people look at the Muslim community with suspicion and before you know it, Muslims are targeted and mosques bombed by ignorant thugs, mainly from the racist and fascist EDL.
I have no problem condemning any evil done by anyone as the prophet of Islam taught Muslims that if you see any evil then try to stop it with your hands. If you can’t, then speak against it and if you can’t do that, then at least feel bad about it in your heart - which is said to be the weakest of Iman (faith).


So condemning any act of terror, extremism and evil is not a problem but apologising for it is. Why are Muslims forced to do this? Did I or 99.9% of the 2.7 million Muslims in the UK have anything to do with this? I'm done apologising for things I haven't done. Cold-blooded murder committed by random Muslims has nothing to do with me, the Muslim community or Islam.


I don’t recall the Irish in mainland Britain being forced into collective denunciations following IRA bomb attacks. After the mass murders of right-wing extremist Anders Brevik in Denmark, I don’t remember politicians demanding the White community or its followers to come out to condemn it. When mosques are burnt and attacked nationwide by the EDL hooligans, again, I don’t see the White community being asked what they are doing to condemn this. So don’t ask of us what is never asked of others. Are we not equal citizens in this country?

When terrorism or extremism is carried out by members of any other religion, community or culture, do you see their religion or community blamed or targeted - so why are Muslims and Islam treated differently?

I thank God for the likes of George Eaton. In the New Statesman he argued that Muslims should not have to distance themselves from the attacks. Well done to Russell Brand for speaking common sense by saying that the two men were nut cases, nothing to do with Islam and that we should stop blaming all Muslims for this. Respect to my dear friends! It was great to see leaders of the Sikh community saying this brutal attack has nothing to do with Muslims and Islam, and shame on the EDL for inciting hatred and dividing our country.

It was pleasing to see Muslims standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the nation outraged and in mourning after the Woolwich incident. I can’t think of any major organisation or scholar who didn’t play their role positively, apart from Anjem Choudary- the Tommy Robinson of the Muslim community- who did his best to incite hatred and divide communities. Despite quite a few mosques being attacked and over 150 incidents against Muslims by Islamophobes and right wing thugs the Muslim reaction can only be praised.

Hats off to the mosque in York for serving tea and biscuits to English Defence League supporters after the far-right group arranged a demonstration there. This is a fantastic way to respond to hate and extremism. Next time I’m confronted by any right wing nutters, I’ll just say ‘…you fancy some Jaffa Cakes mate...’!

Even though the Muslim community were united in their disgust in what they saw, they were divided in why young Muslims turn to extremism and terror. Some argue it was totally down to Foreign policy where Muslims are being killed by British and Western forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Young Muslims see this and get radicalised. They argue that because mosques and Imams don’t deal with political issues and how to tackle this anger and frustration, young men turn to extremism and terror.

Others argue that it is only part of the problem. It’s also down to youngsters being brainwashed by preachers of hate and that Islam allows you to carry out acts of terror against non-Muslims because they are killing our brothers and sisters. Then they are taught that they will be martyrs and will enter Paradise.

I believe it is a combination of the two. Foreign policy makes young Muslims angry and radicalises them; a perversion of Islamic teachings then convinces them that killing ‘the enemy’ wherever they are, is justified.

The big question now is what have we learnt from this? What needs to be done to stop British Muslims from carrying out acts of terror and extremism in the name of Islam?

  1. Teach young Muslims in Mosques and institutions what Islam says about Jihad, violence, extremism and terrorism so they don’t think being a wannabe-suicide bomber is legit.
  2. Teach young Muslims to be politically active and to deal and discuss issues of foreign policy, political lobbying and how to play a politically active role in society, so that Muslims don’t take out their anger in the form of extremism. Imams can’t afford to shy away from this anymore.
  3. Open mosques to all faiths and people of no faith so we understand each other rather than having the ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation. We don’t want mosques teaching hatred towards non-Muslims but it should be a platform for all to discuss and tackle issues facing us all.
  4. Extremism is not just a Muslim problem but occurs in all communities and societies. We need to work closely with all aspects of society to tackle this. Let’s avoid segregation and isolation, Muslim v Non-Muslims. This country belongs to us all, so let’s contribute to it, to make it a better and safer place.
  5. We all need to know how to react and behave when the next act of terror is done in the name of Islam. Condemn but don’t apologise. Respond with respect and wisdom when required. Learn your Islam so you know what it teaches. Don’t show hatred to anyone. Do as our beloved Prophet did. He showed love, forgiveness and compassion even to his enemies.

Finally, be that ‘walking, talking advert for Islam’ because if we were, we wouldn’t have to condemn any acts of terror because the world would see from our actions and realise that extremism and such attacks don’t have anything to do with Islam and the followers of Islam.