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Shaaz Mahboob says British Muslims 'lack compassion' for UK soldiers

Shaaz Mahboob says British Muslims 'lack compassion' for UK soldiers

Categories: Latest News

Friday July 17 2009

  Pickled Politics features a guest post by Shaaz Mahboob (pictured) of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) on Muslim patriotism. He writes:

Yesterday’s coverage about the repatriation of the eight British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and the welcome accorded to them by the British public has filled me with pride for our brave armed forces and instilled respect for the ordinary people who turned out to show their support.

‘At the same time as a British Muslim it fills me with sadness that none of the leading Muslim organisations have bothered to publicly mourn the soldiers or show solidarity with the armed forces and their families, who are facing an immensely difficult battle with the Taliban in order to bring stability to the region, and directly securing the safety of our nation.’

‘Although many British Muslims objected and criticised the manner in which a small group of Islamic extremists in Luton hurled abuses towards the returning soldiers from Iraq, they apparently did so fearing a backlash from the rest of the British public, not for their love and respect for the British soldiers.

‘Such lack of compassion on part of British Muslims for our Army which retains immense respect in the eyes of ordinary British people, is disheartening and needs to be highlighted at every forum. This is especially relevant since British Muslims and their respective organisations claim to be equal citizens of the country yet when it comes to wars against barbaric regimes and forces such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, who happen to be Muslims, their shift in allegiance on the basis of their religion becomes distinctly clear and disturbing.

‘British Muslims did not object to the military campaign against former Yugoslavia, infact hailed it, when fellow Muslim Kosovars benefited from the war on foreign soil, deemed by the Serbs as foreign invasion and interference. Yet when it comes to brutal regimes and their atrocities such as the ones in Darfur or Afghanistan, the Muslim silence is deafening.

‘It is high time British Muslims recognise and acknowledge that in order to exert their rights as British people, they must also fulfil their civic and moral responsibilities by beginning to show solidarity with the rest of the society, especially where it matters the most.

The accusation that Muslims responded to the Luton protestors for reasons of fearing a backlash by the British public is not only false, it is malicious.

The condemnation of the Luton protestors had everything to do with their being unrepresentative of British Muslim opinion and nothing to do with fearing a public backlash. British Muslims are long accustomed to the views of the fringe minority being exaggerated out of all proportion and erroneously treated as ‘majority opinion’. To suggest that denouncing the protestors was some ruse to deflect criticism by the British public is patently wrong.

Moreover, the BBC last month reported on a survey of British Muslim attitudes on our armed forces’ service in Afghanistan. The ICM run survey of 500 British Muslims over the age of 16, found that:

78% said they opposed Taliban attacks against NATO soldiers in Afghanistan and three-quarters of those surveyed said it was wrong for the West to intervene militarily in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Is it Mahboob’s contention British Muslim patriotism ought to preclude the right to criticize our government for committing our troops to a foreign invasion? Seumas Milne commented on this concept of ‘shared values’ that prohibits conscientious objections to wars of aggression in the Guardian. He said, ‘Ministers want Muslims to accept shared values. Luckily they already do, including opposition to wars of aggression.’

Or is this an opinion a British Muslim, like so many other Britons who opposed these wars, is not entitled to hold? Does Mahboob suggest that other groups in the UK (faith or otherwise) similarly should publicly show their support for returning troops? Why single out Muslims for these public displays of support?

Mahboob remarks on Muslim attitudes towards Kosova and the former Yugoslavia and their attitudes on Darfur and Afghanistan. He refers to a ‘deafening silence’. Deafening, or just deaf?

The MCB deputy secretary general, Dr Daud Abdullah, is just one of the members of the MCB that have been part of the Day for Darfur. Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra of the MCB penned a special prayer for Darfur. Did these actions escape the attention of Shaaz Mahboob?

Not that any of this is at all surprising. BMSD’s claim to speak for the ‘silent majority’ rests on its ability to portray the MCB and others as speaking for only a vocal minority. Responding to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks on shari’ah law, Mahboob in a letter to the Telegraph wrote:

The majority of British Muslims, such as myself, who have come to realise the benefits of living under the existing British justice system will certainly resist any imposition of an alternative justice system, based not on logic, science and equality but on twisted interpretation of religious text and ideas.

Anyone who knows the basis on which Shari’ah tribunals operate knows that the arbitration service they provide is voluntarily entered into by contracting parties. There is no question of an ‘imposition’ either on the part of the state or from the tribunals themselves. Nor is this constitutive of an ‘alternative justice system’. Mahboob’s claims echo the absurdities contained in Denis MacEoin’s recent ‘report‘.

On the interventions themselves, the responsibility to protect (intervention in Kosova and Darfur) is not governed by the same laws as apply to upholding state sovereignty (invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan).

It would seem that for Shaaz Mahboob, British Muslims ought to concede to whatever their government decides, forgoing the right, a citizen’s right, to demur, protest and speak out against a decision that they not only deem ill fated or simply wrong, but which also contravenes international law.

Most British Muslims will no doubt concur with the views expressed by Dr Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain who yesterday said:

As the MCB and I had made clear even before the Question Time broadcast, we do not support attacks on British soldiers anywhere in the world. We are deeply saddened by the senseless loss of lives both amongst UK soldiers and the many thousands of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Update: A letter from Shaaz Mahboob reiterating the points he made above was published today in The Independent.


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