"Muslims: Labour's Patence Runs Out" reads the headline to a front-page article in today's Sunday Express. The article begins: "Leaders of Britain's Muslims were accused by the government last night of pandering to extremists. Ministers' patience with the Islamic community is running out. They accuse its chiefs of failing to deliver moderate leadership in return for major concessions by the Government over recent years, a Home Office source revealed. And now, the source claims, both Downing Street and the Home Office have given up hope that the self-appointed Muslim leaders can play any significant role in the fight against Islamic extremism."
Another unnamed "source with close links to ethnic minority groups" is quoted as telling the Express: "There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim leadership or community leadership." And an Express editorial lectures Muslim representatives in the following pompous and ignorant terms: "Memo to the leaders of the Muslim community: it is time to stand up and take your place in the fight against terrorism now." As if that isn't what they've been doing all along.
You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to suspect that the anti-Muslim propaganda in the Sunday Express and Sunday Times is designed to negate the message of peace and moderation sent out by the thousands of British Muslims who attended yesterday's mass rally in Trafalgar Square.
Muslims: Labour's Patience Runs Out
By Julia Hartley-Brewer, Political Editor
Leaders of Britain's Muslims were accused by the government last night of pandering to extremists. Ministers' patience with the Islamic community is running out. They accuse its chiefs of failing to deliver moderate leadership in return for major concessions by the Government over recent years, a Home Office source revealed.
And now, the source claims, both Downing Street and the Home Office have given up hope that the self-appointed Muslim leaders can play any significant role in the fight against Islamic extremism.
Tony Blair and Home Secretary Charles Clarke have repeatedly praised Muslim associations for their moderation since the terror attacks on London last July. But they have grown increasingly impatient over the failure of these self-appointed figures to offer real leadership to Muslims.
Ministers are also angry that they have repeatedly pledged support to the Muslim leaders, inviting them to join Home Office working groups on tackling extremism, while at the same time seeking to pass the controversial Religious Hatred Bill in response to demands from Muslims.
The source said: "This idea of community leadership is a complete nonsense. The Muslim Council of Britain purports to represent the Muslim community but what have they actually done to show leadership since 9/11? on all the major issues – on the 7/7 terror attacks, on the cartoon row they have hid behind the Home Office.
"It is now taken as read by the Government that these self-appointed groups really don't have any power or influence over the Muslim populations. They got what they wanted from the Government but there was no real delivery in return. Now it is clear that they can't deliver."
A spokeswoman for the Home Secretary insisted the Home Office source was "slightly overstating" the views of the Government.
Last night it was reported that a leading Imam at the West Yorkshire mosque where the 7/7 bombers worshipped described the atrocities as a "good" act. Taped by an undercover reporter, Muslim cleric Hamid Ali said the bombings, which claimed 52 lives, had made people take notice where meetings and conferences failed.
A newspaper claimed Ali also praised the July bombers as "children" of radical cleric Abdullah al-Faisal. Al Faisal is to be eligible for early release next week from a seven-year jail sentence following a conviction for inciting murder and racial hatred in 2003.
Only 5,000 protesters turned out for the anti-Islamophobia/anti-incitement rally in Trafalgar Square. Organisers had predicted 30,000. And when Respect MP George Galloway took to the speakers' platform, a group of around 20 Muslims booed.
Editorial: Time for moderate Muslims to make their voices heard
Memo to the leaders of the Muslim community: it is time to stand up and take your place in the fight against terrorism now. For years we have been told that Islam is a religion of peace, that the Muslim community is as appalled as anyone else at the atrocities committed by Islamic terrorists and that it is only a small number of extremists who take to the streets carrying placards saying, "Behead all those who insult Islam". Now the Muslim population of this country must make it clear that this is true. For, as we report today, the Government has lost faith in the ability of moderate Muslim leaders to lead the fight against Islamic extremists and, it is fair to say, it has a point.
Take the events of yesterday. Thousands of Muslims gathered in London to protest at the recent cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed – and yet not one of these cartoons has been published in a mainstream newspaper anywhere in the country. Where were these protesters when Ken Bigley was murdered and the results broadcast on the net? Where were they when disaffected youths set off suicide bombs on London's transport system, killing and maiming untold others?
For far too long organisations such as the Muslim Council Of Britain and the Muslim Association Of Britain have remained silent in the face of atrocities carried out in the name of Islam. If they do not wish their religion to become synonymous in the public's mind with barbarity, they must speak out now.