Rooting out radicalism

london undergroundReligion has been a consistent undercurrent, if not a prevalent theme, in the coverage of the one-year anniversary of the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London. The problem was readily identified in the media as a group of radicals within the Muslim community that had to be rooted out. Not only would it require a tougher law enforcement role, but it would also require Muslims getting tougher about identifying terrorists within their communities. The coverage of the memorials for the victims have the focused on a "service" attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair. It's clearly some type of religious service, except it is in a park. Here is the Telegraph:

This evening Tony Blair joined survivors and bereaved relatives for a service of readings, poems and songs in Regent's Park.

The service, in the serene surroundings of Queen Mary's Gardens, began with a powerful rendition of Something Inside So Strong, sung by the London Community Gospel Choir.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, was the first to speak, and said that she had been "moved beyond words" by the "courage" of the relatives and survivors.

She added that by holding today's service "we show our solidarity with victims of terrorism everywhere, particularly those from this country wherever or however they lost their lives".

Alan Cowell of The New York Times jumped quickly to a video aired by Al Jazeera Arabic with what seemed to be one of the attackers warning Londoners that "what you have witnessed now is only the beginning."

The theme was echoed Friday by London's police chief, Sir Ian Blair, who told the BBC that the threat of a new attack had "palpably increased" since July last year.

"I fear that we have to accept that we live in an age for some years when the threat of an attack getting through is very real," he said. And, he said, "Some of the threats that we have now interdicted in the last few months are from inside and outside. We are now in a position in which the threat is both internal and external."

He added: "The threat is very grim, there is no doubt about it."

The British government has attempted to enact laws dealing with radical Islam and encouraging Muslim communities to reform, but has met with little success, according to this July 6 essay in The Economist:

The government is almost as disappointed. Tony Blair told a parliamentary committee this week that Muslims were "not having a debate of a fundamental enough nature" in their own ranks. The government, he pointed out, had less power to turn Muslims away from extremism than did Muslims themselves.

Religious and community leaders were invited to Downing Street because they were thought to have some influence over the zealots. They did not seek to correct this impression. But they have less influence than either side hoped. Few British mosques are dens of radicalism; indeed, many ban lectures about politics. In the scathing words of Adnan Siddiqui, a grassroots campaigner, the committees that run the mosques are "little cabals composed of deferential men from the Indian subcontinent". Muslim leaders would have little sway over the political opinions of the angry young even if they had not been publicly emasculated in the past year.

As the nation mourns the 52 people killed in the terrorist attacks, it is imperative for the media to dig into the lives and stories of those in the Muslim communities. At what level does the British participation in the war in Iraq anger them spiritually? Are those in the Muslim communities sympathetic to Islamic terrorism? Where do the loyalties of British Muslim lie?

It is important for journalists to remember that Islam is not monolithic and it is very difficult to generalize about Islam. This requires a careful level of reporting that is willing to detail the intricacies of Islamic history and theology. It's a big job, but it must be done.

Photo courtesy of Noelle Myers.

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