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December 2006 - January 2007

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Commentary: Burqa Bigotry

by Krishan Gopal Dutt

Firstly, here in Britain we were first confronted with anti-British hysteria by Muslim extremists demonstrating in the streets of London in the early nineties against the UK/US military action in Kuwait to evict the invading Iraqi army. Unlike the Iraqis, Western allied forces were not, repeat not, invaders but had intervened to help a Muslim country regain its sovereignty.

Secondly, in the aftermath of the horrific Al Qaeda-inspired 9/11 attack on American soil by Islamic terrorists, the United States responded in a robust manner by sending troops and heavy armour into Afghanistan to rid the war-ravaged country of Al-Qaeda mercenaries and their terrorist-training camps, and to bring about a democratic and civilized government in Kabul. That brought renewed anti-West demonstrations by irate Muslims enraged at what they considered as armed aggression against fellow-Muslims.

Thirdly, when British and American forces later on entered Iraq to topple the tyrannous rule of Saddam Hussein, and possibly introduce democracy to the troubled land, there was even greater uproar among the Muslim community resident in Britain. UK Muslims looked at the British intervention in Iraq as a war on Islam!

Britain was faced, for the first time ever, with the dangerous spectacle of hundreds of young Muslims, mostly of Pakistani origin and many born here, turning to Al-Qaeda and rushing off to Pakistan and Afghanistan to get military training for Jehaad in the hundreds of Islamic terrorist-training camps in these two countries steeped in Islamic radicalism and the hardline Shariah concept of Islam.

Then came the horrendous 7/7 London bombing by four young Muslim suicide bombers which led to the death of over 50 Britons and injuries to 700. The British public, and the security services responsible for national security, suddenly woke up to the grim reality that the enemy – homegrown terrorists – were right in their backyard.

When you’d have thought that the (British) public would be spared any more ugly and disturbing scenes, a new - though not unexpected - phenomenon loomed large on the scene: the ‘Burqa Brigade’ of Muslim females defiantly parading the streets in their all-enveloping head-to-heel black robes which only revealed two eyes.

It was an alien and hideous sight – termed by an English lady as ‘mobile tents’- frowned upon by indigenous Britons, and one which has clearly exacerbated the anti-Muslim feeling in Britain today. It is the symptom that is spreading among fundamentalist Muslim women like wildfire. And this prompted an exasperated Muslim college professor I know quite well to exclaim: "Why the hell are these women creating so much fuss, and trouble to the Muslim community."

Following the ludicrous case of Aisha Azami, 24-year-old school teacher who stubbornly insisted on wearing the full-length Burqa at work and was suspended from her job, Shabnum Mughal, a lawyer, whilst attending court refused to remove it even when told by the presiding judge. Both these women , of Pakistani origin, were born and brought up in England.

Aisha and Shabnum and their likes have done something much more than harming relations between the host and Muslim communities. Their utterly frivolous and farcical antics more out of religious fanaticism than religious fervour, have led to widespread criticism and condemnation by the British public – and some Muslim leaders – for the wearing of the Burqa in British society. So much so that Prime Minister Tony Blair, Leader of the Commons Jack Straw, a clutch of Cabinet Ministers and a Muslim MP have made it clear that the Burqa has no rightful place in democratic and secular Britain. In fact the Burqa is banned in some Muslim countries.

As I pen these lines, the BAN-THE-BURQA campaign by all appearances seems to be gathering momentum.

Islamic extremism on the upsurge

That the serious threat of Islamic terrorism in Britain persists with unrelenting ferocity is illustrated by what I would call dramatic disclosures that as many as 200 terror cells with 1600 sleepers in UK are planning up to 30 plots to cause death and destruction on a far greater scale.

This is the grim warning from MI5 director-general Eliza Manningham-Buller – an exceedingly frightening scenario too horrendous to contemplate.

At a top-level meeting in London the MI5 supremo, while delivering a stark assessment of the (Islamic) threat and saying that ‘all Britons were under such a threat’, pointedly stated the terror network ‘stretching from the UK to Pakistan’. The secret service boss said that some of the terror networks were directly linked to Al-Qaeda in Pakistan which were using the Pakistani community in Britain to recruit and promote terrorists. This was by far the most serious and outspoken statement made by MI5.

Dame Eliza described how young Muslims were being radicalised and turned into potential suicide bombers (by, if I may add, those Mullahs and Imams of mosques with hatred in their heart and murder in their mind).

The terrorist threat is further highlighted by the sensational case of Muslim convert Dhiren Barot (34), known as Al-Hindi who was jailed at Woolwich Crown Court on 7 November for 40 years for planning ‘carnage, bloodshed, and butchery on a colossal and unprecedented scale.’

This vicious terrorist, who had illegally entered Indian Kashmir to fight the security forces, and described as Osama bin Laden’s ‘UK General’, came to Britain from Kenya with his parents in 1972 and converted to Islam when 20.

The lad from a respectable Gujarati Hindu family frequented the controversial Finsbury park mosque in north London and associated with radical Muslims with a rabid anti-British bias.

And another UK Muslim, Minazur Rahman (23) who called for terror attacks in Britain and Europe, has been found guilty of inciting racial hatred for which he could get a possible seven-year sentence, or face life imprisonment if charged with the more serious offence of ‘soliciting to murder’. Rahman is currently held in detention.

Change or you’ll be left behind

The common saying that one should change with the times in order to progress and prosper holds good for all the peoples of the world. It was perhaps not so much the norm in the past centuries, but in recent times it is imperative that in a democratic set-up with a progressive outlook, vast avenues for advancement, and modern technology, we move with the times in our endeavours to attain a good lifestyle on this earth. This holds good especially for the non-white ethnic minority communities from Asia, Arabia and Africa who have opted to accept Britain as their home.

One can take a cue from a tall tree in the path of a strong storm; if it does not bend, it is liable to break up, and if it bends it remains intact.

This would rightly apply to the (unbending) Islamic extremism that not only seriously threatens peace and security in the non-Muslim world, but also impedes the welfare and progress of fellow Muslims the world over.

Instead of adopting a fruitful ‘compromise-and-cooperation’ policy with the 80 per cent non-Muslim world, Islamic extremists are pursuing the futile ‘conflict-and-confrontation’ dogma which will ultimately be their downfall.

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