addressed to Sir Ian Blair Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

Sir Ian Blair
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

22 July 2005

Dear Commissioner

JKCHR co-author of a letter dated 15 July 2005 addressed to Prime Minister expressing our deep concern on the London bombing of 7th July and on other issues of great community interest, in particular, the Muslim youth, forwarded a copy for your attention.

We were passing through a difficult time of grieving and soul searching that London police shot dead a member of Asian Community, most probably a Muslim, today at a close range and under circumstances where an arrest could have been made or under circumstances when the man had tripped and was fully overpowered by the police officers holding him down.

It is understandable that the rules of engagement in this case have been one of the worst scenario – and police action has unfolded the first leaf of its shoot at sight policy or shoot to kill policy. We are even more concerned to hear the account of an eye witness Mark Whitby who had been sitting on the Northern Line subway train at Stockwell station. According to this account the man had been pursued by plainclothes police officers who fired five shots at close range.

“I was sitting on the train,” Mark Whitby said. “I heard a lot of noise, people saying, ‘Get out, get down.’ I saw an Asian guy. He ran onto the train, he was hotly pursued by three plainclothes officers. One of them was wielding a black handgun. He half-tripped. They pushed him to the floor and basically unloaded five shots into him.”

As the man stumbled onto the train, Whitby told the BBC, “I looked at his face, he looked sort of left and right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox.

“He looked absolutely petrified and then he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him,” he said. The police officers “couldn’t have been any more than two or three feet behind him at this time and he half-tripped and was half pushed to the floor and the policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand.” “He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him,” Whitby said.

It is also reported that man’s heavy clothing may have persuaded police officers that he was carrying a suicide bomb. A presumption which would in no way add up to sustain the justification of a ‘shoot to kill’ policy – where the subject is a member of a minority community, that too from a Muslim community.

Without prejudice to a resolve to make our cities safer and make all members of the various communities equally partners to guard our streets, one should not miss out on the core psychology which has gripped the Muslim community. Our letter of July 15 details the fears and concerns.

It is important to point out that people of the Indian sub-continent trace the history of British shoot to kill policy back to Jalianwala Bagh massacre of April 13, 1919 . It remains one of the most inhuman acts of the British rulers in India .

General Dwyer ordered his armed police force to fire indiscriminately at innocent empty handed people leaving hundreds of people dead, including women and children. We have graduated ever since in civilisation and good conscience.

We do not intend to draw any parallels between 13 April 1919 and 22nd July 2005 . Both situations are set in different time zones and different political content and a social climate. However, the engagement of British men and women in conflict zones, in particular those inhabited by Muslims, and the daily loss of life, including men, women and children and their use of weapon at home unfortunately against Muslims again, makes the borders of a rational assessment, unbelievably undistinguishable.

On an aggregate the media and other reporting until late evening today add up to a situation where the pursuit of a man onto a subway train and then shooting him at close range in full view of other passengers has caused a grave unrest in the Asian community as a whole but more so in the Muslim community in particular.

Although we have a full faith in the integrity of our police force and expect them to hold up to a higher burden of a ‘duty to fairness’, yet we have our reservations in regards to a common human instinct when individuals fail their institutions and communities and succumb to a perversion of mind and spirit.

We fully appreciate that the civil society in London has a right to enjoy a normal and wholesome life in their homes and on the streets of London . Each one of us has to contribute in vigilance and in substance to make our habitat peaceful and liveable. Police has an important role to engineer a socially responsible mind.

Unfortunately the use of a weapon today to take the life of a member of community from an Asian origin and more so if it happens to be a Muslim, when other options were duly available, does not encourage us to say that we live in a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-religious London where a police man does not carry a gun and a member of a society does not need an identity card.

Asian and Muslim community is not homogeneous. There are various variables and generation gape and gender issues make the environment much more distrustful. Reaching the community through short listed community, political and religious leaders may not complete the circle of wisdom in regard to representation and composite input.

In this regard and in view of my article ‘A Mistake to Name Bombers as Muslim Bombers’ published in Daily Nation London on 19 July 2005 and our letter of 15 July 2005 we wish to set up a meeting with you at your most earliest possible.

An input from non-commercial civil society institutions should be more impacting and it overrides a number of prejudices. Meanwhile we sincerely hope and pray that shoot to kill policy would not override restraint and caution and the ultimate weapon of social conscience to keep London safe.

I look forward to your most early consideration and response.

Yours Sincerely

Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani
Secretary General-JKCHR


Aide-Memoire addressed to Prime Minister Tony Blair

Tony Blair MP
Prime Minister
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.

Yours Faithfully

Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani
Secretary General-JKCHR