London, 8 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Yesterday in south London, Muslims at one of the city’s largest and most recently built mosques gathered for a funeral of one of the old members of the community.
Yet, because the gathering was just a few hours after the terrorist bombings in central London, there were two armed policemen at the gate -- just in case there might be an attempt at a hatred-motivated attack on the mosque.
Mansoor Shah is a community leader and vice president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in the U.K. He tells RFE/RL he is very angry with whoever is behind the terrorist blasts.
“There is absolutely no space for people like this in the Muslim world. These people are not Muslims, you know. People like the Muslim Council of Britain should condemn these sorts of acts, and take these people out of Islam. Such people have absolutely no space in Islam whatsoever,” Shah said.
Shah’s indignation at the attackers reflects statements by many of Britain’s Muslim organisations.
The Muslim Council of Britain has issued a statement by General Secretary Sir Iqbal Sacranie. It says, “The evil people who planned and carried out this series of explosions want to demoralise us as a nation and divide us as a people. All of us must unite in helping the police to capture these murderers. We must remember the victims will have been people of all faiths, all races and many nationalities.”
"Muslims have also been affected by this. They also travel the Tube; they also travel on the buses; they also are working and living in central London and all around London."
But if many Muslims are outraged at yesterday’s events, some are also worried by the possible repercussions for their community if the perpetrators turn out to be Islamist radicals.
An group calling itself the Secret Group of Al-Qaeda's Jihad in Europe has claimed responsibility for the bombing. The British government says that it is still too soon to know who carried out the attacks.
At the south London mosque, Shah says he fears for the safety of his peaceful flock, which is huddled in small groups in the courtyard.
“We will be facing some sort of venom from some in the British society. It’s understandable, because they’ll feel that people who belong to the Muslim faith have done this thing. But I think the vast majority of the British people are extremely tolerant, they are extremely understanding, they know what has happened, and they will not themselves resort to terrorism,” Shah said.
Close to the mosque in the main street there is a solicitor’s office. In charge is a 30-year-old lawyer, Imram Adin, and he is shares his feelings and attitudes.
“Obviously it’s really very sad what’s happened today, and all the people who have been hurt. You’re thinking of them at the moment. But in terms of how it affects me as a Muslim, I think I have been born and brought up in this country. And I don’t feel that this will seriously affect my relationship with the local community, my friends and my acquaintances. I have a lot more faith in the British people,” Adin said.
Adin admits, however, that some of his Muslim friends are now also concerned about their safety, too, and many are really worried.
“It’s the cause of great concern. If it’s found -- which I think the reports suggest -- that what people call as ‘Muslim extremists’ are involved in this, then obviously other non-Muslim people of this country will be concerned,” Adin said.
Adin adds that he hopes most people will “hopefully react thinking that most Muslims in Britain are peaceful, nonextremist people.” But he is convinced that some will not.
Such as the extreme right British National Party, which immediately called for tougher immigration policy. And it said it hoped its chairman Nick Griffin who has been accused of perpetrating racial hatred, will be vindicated by the attack.
Adin points out that Muslims also have been victims of these kinds of terrorist bombings, and may be in this one.
“I am sure that Muslims have also been affected by this. They also travel the Tube; they also travel on the buses; they also are working and living in central London and all around London and all around the United Kingdom,” Adin says.
And Adin stresses that the terrorists probably hate their peaceful Muslim brothers as well as non-Muslims.
“The people who do these things are terrorists per se. They are people who like to put terror into people’s hearts. The religion of those hearts that they terrorise is not of any concern. They are purely political and this has nothing to do with the religion, nothing to do with the faith, nothing to do with people’s beliefs. It’s to do with people’s political views, and what they want to achieve. It’s mindless violence anyway, for whatever purpose it is,” Adin said.
Just a few yards from Adin’s office two young Muslim mothers with light muslin shawls loosely flapping in the breeze are pushing their prams. The babies are smiling, but the mothers’ faces are grim. They are obviously worried, and they say so. And they would not reveal their names. The younger one translates what her friend says: “She is saying it’s not good what happened in the morning. That was not good, so we are worried now. Yeah, every one is worried about this. Now us, like every one is worried. OK?”
And the mothers hurriedly depart, heading for a local shop.