BY ASGHAR KHAN
A Cypriot friend tells me that a few years ago, in Karsiyaka, a small town in Northern Cyprus, a visiting Imam from Jordan was invited to Friday Prayers.
This Imam addressed the men in the mosque (no women present, of course) and abused them for the way that their womenfolk dressed; how disgusting they were exposing their arms and ankles; how weak and shamed the local menfolk were by not intervening and telling their women to cover up.
One of the congregation telephoned the police.
Soon enough a couple of junior policemen arrived and joined the congregation listening to this imam. They listened for five minutes then politely invited the imam down from the minbar, put him in their car and drove him straight to the airport, without reference to any senior officer or magistrate. They put him on the very next plane out of the airport, which happened to be heading to Istanbul, a couple of thousand miles out of his way.
The locals were laughing about the incident after Friday Prayers had disbanded and news soon spread throughout Northern Cyprus about the police officers’ actions.
First thing on Monday morning the Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister was up in Parliament wanting to know how it was possible that such an “idiot” could be invited to Karsiyaka to give a sermon. He launched an immediate inquiry. He promised steps to ensure that this would never happen again. The junior policemen were lauded for their initiative and good judgment.
My friend tells me of another time when several imams in Famagusta were prosecuted following some “teaching” to children at a mosque. The press were demanding answers and the word “extremism” was mentioned by one of the inquiring journalists. But the police chief responded, “No, we don’t have any extremism. These imams have been charged with teaching while not being members of the teachers’ union and teaching subjects outside of the school curriculum. They will get 5 years in jail each.”
If foreign governments ever raised the subject of extremism with the Turkish Cypriot authorities, the answer was always the same. “Why do you want to waste time talking about idiots?”
This is the way to deal with extremism. Have Muslims identify them and punish them out of society.
I know that in today’s world silencing all the mad mullahs in the world is not feasible. The Internet makes this impossible. But even today in Britain, ask any Muslim and he’s at most a phone call away from a friend or relative who can tell him of a radical preacher in operation in the UK right now. It’s not difficult to point out religious schools run by extremists if you visit places like Luton, Bradford and parts of East London. We Muslims know who are bad and we know those deluded Islamists who genuinely want to regress Britain into UKstan.
We are to blame. Really. We moderates do not identify extremists enough even though we know who they are. And we have let extremists – political Islamists – steal our voices in the UK. Most Muslims have no interest in political Islam – Islamism – and so the extremists have penetrated Muslim organisations like the MCB and prey on government to benefit from counter extremism funds. Many of the talking heads on TV, some journalists and even some Muslims associated with Channel and Prevent (often former extremists) are still political Islamists.
Moderate British Muslims should have found a way by now to detach extremists from our religion. Maybe, due to local due process and European human rights laws, we can’t be as draconian as the Northern Cyprus authorities and deport these preachers the same day but we sure as hell can tell them they are not wanted and dob them in. Yes, the British Government’s kowtowing to Saudi Arabia fails us. Maybe we should try and shout down these radicals’ messages. But we know who they are. These extremists, foreign and home-grown, preach in our mosques and pass on their extremist messages – often in languages other than English – in private gatherings in Britain today. We know their followers from school, from university and through friends and relatives.
While groups like Islamic State try to portray Muslims as one body and try to bomb public opinion in the West against Islam, now more than ever moderates like me need to find their voice. We are NOT one body. Moderates don’t care one iota about caliphates or even what people wear on the beach. And we moderates are by far the majority of British Muslims.
I’m an assimilated Brit. My parents are both Pakistani. I am a mad Man United fan and I shave every day too! I’m a Muslim. No less of a Muslim than the pyjama brigade with long beards who claim they never touch a drop of alcohol or ever puff on a ciggie. And I’d say I represent 90% of British Muslims. It’s the 10% who are fanatical about Islam and misinterpret it who are letting us Muslims down; not the rest of us.
It pains me the increase in anti-Muslim incidents but I wholly understand why they are happening. The same happened to Britain’s Irish community when the IRA were killing innocents. I don’t condone anti-Muslim incidents but I don’t buy Islamophobia either, which was a lever created by political Islamists to thwart the police and manipulate the authorities.
Maybe, post-Brexit, the UK Government can come up with some British laws so us moderates can shut these “idiots” down. It will be doing British Muslims a huge favour. Many moderate Muslims would appreciate a harder line being taken by the British Government – just that our wishes get drowned out by political Islamists.
Maybe then the rest of the British population can look at us and say hold on a sec, you are with us and not against us. We can regain some trust. And move on into a golden future together for this country.
Either which way, we should have done more in the past and should be doing more in the present to stop the rise of extremism. It will make me unpopular in certain quarters saying this but, really, we are to blame.
Guest Writer Asghar Khan (pseudonym) was educated at the University of London and works in the City of London as a bond trader. He grew up in Coventry and lives with his family in East London.