Monday, August 22, 2005

Muslim cheshbon nefesh

Tonight I watched the controversial BBC Panorama investigation into whether Britain's Muslim population is honestly confronting the extremists in its midst. The program achieved some notoriety before airing because some Muslim leaders demanded to have it cancelled and claimed it was proof of 'BBC pro-Israeli bias.'
The show proved pretty quickly why they were so eager to prevent it being shown. The leaders, in particular the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the main 'moderate' Muslim spokesman, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, were shown up as complete hypocrites, anti-Semites and anti-Christians, and supporters of terror -- although they sang a different tune in public. Moreover, they were shown time and time again trying to politicise Islam, turning cultural issues into political issues (eg. the case of Shabina Begum).
Most viewers -- who presumably previously bought the Islamic leaders' moderate statements to the public -- probably found this behind-the-scenes footage shocking and scary. So did I -- but it was nothing I didn't know before.
In fact, I came away somewhat reassured -- because the program also featured some moderate Muslim groups having extremely honest internal debates about what's going on in their community, appearing to be genuinely shocked by some of the statements of their well-known leaders, and being prepared to say so on the record (as opposed to Sacranie and a few others on the program, who were jumping through hoops to avoid condemning other Muslims who had called for the murder of Israelis, to avoid saying that the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was wrong, etc). It is this face of Muslim Britain which is rarely seen and which I am encouraged to know exists. It is a shame, however, that they let their leaders get away with so much -- and that the government and the press continue to indulge and pander to the self-proclaimed leaders. Let's hope that the events of the last few weeks will spur them into speaking up more loudly and taking a more assertive role in their community.

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