Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:45 pm (KSA) 16:45 pm (GMT)

UK Muslims protest treatment like German Jews

Bari warns of repeating the 1930's when 'people's minds were poisoned' against the Jews (File)
Bari warns of repeating the 1930's when 'people's minds were poisoned' against the Jews (File)

The head of a major body representing British Muslims warned authorities against helping to create a climate of fear and suspicion similar to that in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

The government's policy of emphasizing the threat of al-Qaeda is alienating many Muslims and exclusion makes young Muslims vulnerable, head of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Muhammad Abdul Bari, said.

"The air is thick with suspicion and unease. It is not good for the Muslim community, it is not good for society," he told the Daily Telegraph newspaper and the BBC in a joint interview.

"Every society has to be really careful so the situation doesn't lead us to a time when people's minds can be poisoned as they were in the 1930s," he said.

"If your community is perceived in a very negative manner, and poll after poll says that we are alienated, then Muslims begin to feel very vulnerable," Bari said.

"We (Muslims) are seen as creating problems, not as bringing anything (positive) and that is not good for any society," he added.

Bari made references to the new head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, speech last week, where he said that Islamist militant were growing in number and were targeting children as young as 15 in the United Kingdom.

Bari said he thought Evans' speech was "creating a scare in the community and wider society" and added that such comments could help rather than hinder terrorists.

There are about 1.6 million Muslims in Britain, which is home to some 60 million people, according to the latest census in 2001.

A climate of fear

The MCB's assistant general secretary, Inayat Bungalawala, later told BBC radio that there was a danger of the threat from extremists being magnified "out of all proportion".

"What you had in the 1930s was all sorts of popular fictions were spread about the Jewish community that they were responsible for all ills that were occurring to Germany," he said.

"They were made into folk-devils and I think there is a danger that the word Muslim in the UK is becoming synonymous with bad news," he said.

Bari, a special needs teacher, also said it was wrong to describe someone as an Islamic terrorist, adding: "We never called the IRA (Irish Republican Army) Catholic terrorists."
"Muslim young people are as vulnerable as any others. Under this climate of fear they will begin to feel victimised."

He also said he believed that suicide bombers were often emotionally damaged young people.

"Children come to hate when they don't get enough care and love," he said.

"They are probably bullied, it makes a young person angry and vulnerable…the extreme case could be suicide bombers, it is all they have," he said.

He stressed there was no justification for suicide bombing in Islam but argued that British foreign policy in Iraq had been used by extremists to entice young people to join them.

"The country (Iraq) has been destroyed for no reason, that had an impact on the Muslim psyche," he said.

The Muslim Council of Britain is one of the biggest and most influential umbrella groups representing British Muslims and is seen as moderate, having encouraged the community to work alongside police and politicians.

In response to the comments, the Home Office said in a statement it was committed to working with British Muslims "to increase their sense of inclusion."

"Through open dialogue we can discuss concerns, explain policies and foster greater understanding," it added.

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