Karen Armstrong on 7/7

Karen Armstrong (3)“It is a year since the London bombings, an act committed in the name of Islam by a viciously disaffected minority, but which violated the essential principles of any religion. Doubtless with this anniversary in mind, the prime minister has complained that British Muslims are not doing enough to deal with the extremists. The ‘moderate’ Muslims, he said testily, must confront the Islamists; they cannot condemn their methods while tacitly condoning their anger. The extremists’ anti-western views are wrong, and mainstream Muslims must tell them that violent jihad ‘is not the religion of Islam’.

“This regrettable step will put yet more pressure on a community already under strain. It ignores the fact that the chief problem for most Muslims is not ‘the west’ per se, but the suffering of Muslims in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Palestine. Many Britons share this dismay, but the strong emphasis placed by Islam upon justice and community solidarity makes this a religious issue for Muslims….

“It is disingenuous of Tony Blair to separate the rising tide of ‘Islamism’ from his unpopular foreign policy, particularly when Palestinians are being subjected to new dangers in Gaza. He is also mistaken to imagine that law-abiding Muslims could bring the extremists to heel in the same way that he disciplines recalcitrant members of his cabinet. This is just not how religious groups operate.”

Karen Armstrong, author of Islam: A Short History, in the Guardian, 8 July 2006