British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the Muslim community needs to stand up
against radical clerics who are enticing young British Muslims to support terrorist
Relations between British Muslims and the broader society are under close
scrutiny, following police raids this week that netted half a ton of potentially
explosive fertilizer and the arrest of eight men believed to be British Muslims
of Pakistani origin.
Lawyers at a Muslim conference this week said 548 British Muslims have been
arrested as terrorist suspects since the 2001 attacks in the United States,
but only 91 have been formally charged, and of those, only 15 have been convicted.
Prime Minister Blair addressed the matter at a news conference, Thursday.
He rejected suggestions that the statistics prove police are heavy-handed toward
Muslims. And he said the public, including most Muslims, demand strict anti-terrorist
"This particular form of terrorism that we are dealing with is based on what
I think the vast majority of Muslims would accept is a perversion of the true
faith of Islam," the prime minister said, "and therefore, necessarily and obviously,
many of those that will be questioned will be Muslims. But that is not in any
shape or form a disrespect to the vast majority of the Muslim population here."
Mr. Blair also said the time has come to confront radical Islamic clerics
who are attracting young Britons to join terrorist movements.
"We have to challenge these people and we have to take on their ideology,
their rhetoric, their extremism and their fanaticism, and we have to defeat
it," he said. "There is going to be a limit, however, to what a political leader
in my position can do in respect to that. It also has to be led within the
Muslim community itself."
The prime minister repeated his gratitude to the moderate Muslim Council
of Britain, which has sent a letter to more than 1,000 clerics urging them
to report any suspected terrorist activity at their mosques.
Before the arrests this week, there were several other high-profile terrorism
cases involving British Muslims, including an attempt to blow up a U.S.-bound
jetliner and a suicide bombing in Israel. Also, several British Muslims were
captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan fighting in support of the Taleban
in 2001. Four of them remain detained by the U.S. military.