Aide-Memoire addressed to Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair MP
10 Downing Street
London , SW1A 2AA
15 July 2005
Dear Prime Minister
Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights (JKCHR), Muslim Women’s Aid (MWA) and Women for Peace and Education (WPE) join you and every member of the civil society living in Great Britain in condemning the acts of terrorism inflicted on the streets of London on 7 July 2005.
We share the grief of the affected families, the resolve of your Government and the resolve of every member of the public and the concentrating of their minds on this shared danger.
However, the circle of wisdom is never complete and London showed how even the most vigilant surveillance of known terrorist cells cannot prevent a determined attack. The best defence therefore must be a strong offence, but not only against the terrorists. The war must be taken to their ideology.
Sir Ian Blair the Police Commissioner has rightly pointed out that the Muslim community was living in ‘denial’. It is partly correct yet it does not complete the circle of wisdom.
There are many more smaller truths embedded in the bigger circle. The system too has been living in ‘denial’ and needs to revisit its higher burden of responsibility in times of peace and in times of crisis.
The Cold War was not won by hunting down every Communist soldier. Communism collapsed when those living within its grip rejected Communist ideology. Until the West invests the same amount of resources and conviction to counteracting the ideological appeal of Islamic extremists, the bombs across Europe will become painfully banal.
First of all let me point out that the post-tragedy behaviour of the Government and public response reinforced our will to roller skate faster than the evil embedded in the acts of terrorism. At the same time as a responsible citizen whose daughter too was on her way to the University on the first train I wish to point out that the post-tragedy behaviour of the Government, politicians, community leaders and the media has revealed a number of serious weaknesses as well.
It would be a tragedy and more so a playing in the hands of a ‘terrorist culture’ if the Government is seen short-listing community and religious leaders for the Muslim community. MCB leadership, community leadership and the religious leadership does not represent the Muslim youth.
Gender non-representation is another serious issue. The deficit in the gender representation is reflected at the national level institutions like House of Commons and House of Lords, community and religious leadership and in all walks of life in the Muslim community. We are, not only refusing the Muslim male youth a full and fair participatory role in the community life but at the same time are unprepared to accept an equal role for the female youth.
The fact that some of these leaders have used community institutions for private political ends and are bedecked with ‘titles’ makes them even more suspect and far remote for the Muslim youth – a real generation which should be the focus of our attention.
Most of the Muslim community leaders paraded on TV and radio and most of the Imams are either undemocratic in character in their institutions or do not have a comparative study of other religions and habitats.
Even the two out of the four elected Muslim Members of Parliament are seen more to represent an extended agenda of the High Commission of Pakistan and their allegiance to their oath as Members of British Parliament to represent a composite plural interest of us all remains peripheral. On a balance they could be easily mistaken as two Government officials of the Government of Pakistan with all the prejudices associated with an official ‘policy reflex’.
They have failed in their duty to fairness ex aequo et bono. This issue of a failed and inadequate political representation too needs an urgent attention. Political representation should not be held hostage to Muslim faith but should be in accordance with the jurisprudence of a social agenda, of course with a higher burden of responsibility to the Muslim community and other communities too.
They are out of touch with the common Muslim and the Muslim youth in particular. They are seen spending more time at, around or in association with the High Commission of Pakistan and very little or no time in empowering the youth and in associating with the various disciplines of the Muslim youth.
It would be living in ‘denial’ if we fail to admit the fact that the four young people involved in the tragedy have a real and unassailable Pakistani and a Jamaican background. They are real people, from real families and their relationship with Islam and Britain is equally real.
Unfortunately the variables of the three habitats of Pakistan , Jamaica and Britain , the real strengths of Islam and the dream sack of youth could not be gelled to channel their energies to live for themselves and for others. This failure raises many questions for the community, religious and political leaders in the Muslim community. It highlights the fault-lines in the Government and its system as well.
Our community, religious and political leaders and our institutions failed them and they landed in a blind cul de sac. The issue is much deeper than is made to appear by the various variables paraded on the subject. Pakistani TV channels and the Press too are non representative and sadly averse in regard to younger generation and gender.
There is a real question of generation gap. Muslim youth is faced with an enormous challenge and he/she sees himself/herself on his/her own. If not at home at least in the local library or a youth club they have an opportunity to read an English daily news paper which their elders have never cared to take home in their life-time.
Muslim youth are part of world youth movement. Like any other youth they too know that ten years ago, during the war in Bosnia , ethnic Serb forces murdered more than 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica, almost every Muslim male in the city. That genocide stands as the worst atrocity against civilians in Europe since World War II, and as a tragic symbol of the inability of United Nations peacekeepers to protect civilian populations.
A decade later, the two men (Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic) with ultimate responsibility for the massacre remain free. And despite the parallel tragedy of Rwanda , the major powers that run the UN Security Council have yet to make peacekeeping operations more credible and effective.
Muslim youth somehow seem to be caught in a belief that they are able to service the cause of suffering Muslims around the globe and miss the basic tenet of a higher burden of responsibility to their families and neighbours in their own country of residence – Great Britain .
Contextualisation of the four British Muslims involved in the act of ‘equal opportunity killing’ is very important. The approach of community and religious leaders to absolve themselves by casting these four Muslims out of the pale of Islam or by taking upon a ‘nothing doing’ attitude is unhelpful. They are real people in letter and spirit. They need to be examined in their social, political and religious context.
The four families too have a real life and to make them insecure for a sin for which we all are responsible is unfair. They too need privacy to grieve in their own way and ‘substance’; they need counselling and a full reassurance.
The tragedy has given us a wake up call and we have a duty to follow the trail pointing to a volcanic situation. The Government, the system and the civil society institutions have a duty to see far beyond the failed generation of community, religious and political leaders and need to move from an elitist and a privatised mind set to an open area where we can see the Muslim youth in hope and in despair.
The Government has to be measured, cautious and well informed that there are four schools of opinion in Islam. There are other variables as well. There is a difference between a terrorist with a sack full of explosives and a young articulate Muslim youth, who travels, interacts, compares and measures himself/herself up to an out of touch unyielding elder occupying all the slots of leadership in the community, in the mosque and in politics. Government and its apparatus should not err to become a constituency of support for the out of touch and act against the aggregate interests of Muslim youth.
The culture of a freely expressed political opinion in all areas of Muslim life has to be encouraged and the role of youth in this regard has to be recognized. Non-violent freely expressed opinions are important for the Muslim community to be able to cultivate a future generation able enough to travel at par and co exist with other faiths and opinions. It would however mean a preparedness for the older generation to part with the old tendencies of refusing a fuller participatory role to both male and female Muslim youth.
More opportunities on the earth, in the air, and on the sea should be assured for the younger generation. It could be done by encouraging a healthy symbiosis between the two tiers in the Muslim community. Government and its apparatus should have a pro-active plan to stand in as an ennobling influence – where the community, religious and political leaders have failed. Gender equality has to be corrected on the way.
It is important that the Government and its apparatus revisit their understanding of the Muslim community and restrain the on-going old habit of short-listing the community, religious and political leaders, the majority of whom have either passed their ‘sell-by-date’ or remain abysmally out of touch with the Muslim youth and the competitive demands of a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-lingual London.
It is equally important to point out that the Pakistani and Kashmiri Muslim community in Britain lives in political, social and religious ghettoes. They have failed to convert their numerical strength in various cities into a qualitative political strength.
Every household has become a playfield for Pakistani and Kashmiri politics and the intolerant dissension in the Muslim community is presided over and fanned by some, if not all the four, Muslim Members of the Parliament. The House of Commons has become a cafeteria for various Government sponsored and blessed Muslim members of Government machinery in Pakistan .
Mayoral offices in various counties and shires are equally abused in favour of those who have done a great disservice to the ‘administration of justice, rule of law and democracy, in Pakistan or in Azad Kashmir.
I would wish to conclude by proposing that we have to sketch the fault lines in the system that has failed the Muslim youth. Pew Global Attitudes Survey conducted in six predominantly Muslim countries – Indonesia , Jordan , Lebanon , Morocco , Pakistan and Turkey – and in Britain , Canada , China , France , Germany , India , the Netherlands , Poland , Russia , Spain and the United States may be used in Britain to scratch the fault-lines.
We sincerely hope and pray that we would not fail in our duty to our youth and that we shall succeed in critically engaging them so that no one strays off to contemplate a havoc at Edgware Road , Tavistock Square , Algate and Russell Square .
We have to be sombre and thoughtful to admit that until the morning of 7 July 2005–Mohammad Siddique Khan was “proud to be British and advised youth on the perils of drug-taking”. A year old baby-daughter and a widow teacher left behind by him are the opposite side of the bomber at Edgware Road .
In this regard JKCHR, MWA and WPE would be more than willing to offer our expertise in any effort of the Government or of any institution to examine the fault-lines and to assure a meaningful role for a Muslim youth in the British civil society.
Prime Minister kindly rest assured of our best regards and highest considerations.
Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani