Friday, July 8, 2005

LONDON — Muslim leaders in Britain yesterday were swift to condemn a series of deadly bomb blasts in London and they appealed to Britons not to single out their community for reprisals.

The leaders also made an unprecedented appeal to the estimated 1.7 million Muslims living in Britain to tip off the police about who had carried out the bombings.

“These evil deeds makes victims of us all,” the Muslim Council of Britain said.

“The evil people who planned and carried out these series of explosions in London want to demoralize us as a nation and divide us as a people.

“All of us must unite in helping the police to capture these murderers.”

That same appeal was made by the leadership of Europe’s largest mosque and cultural center.

“We call on the Muslim community to be fully cooperative in this situation, so we may all live in peace and harmony and continue to make London the vibrant, tolerant and peaceful city it is,” concluded a statement from the London Central Mosque, whose golden dome rises above one of London’s major landmarks, Regent’s Park.

Other Muslim groups, dismissed by the establishment Islamic representatives as a hard-line fringe, during recent years have expressed public support for al Qaeda, but have avoided giving open backing to terrorist attacks against Britain itself.

One such radical, the Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza, influenced a number of youths who later fought in Afghanistan and joined terror cells.

He was forced out of his Finsbury Park mosque some two years ago, and is currently under arrest in Britain while also facing deportation to the United States, which accuses him of terrorist activities.

At the Finsbury Park Mosque after evening prayers last night, the new leadership was careful to display a correct stance.

A huge red-and-black poster outside the brown-brick structure proclaimed: “A new beginning for the Mosque. For better community image, better relations, better services.”

“What happened today horrifies humanity,” said a 34-year-old Algerian-born imam who would give his name only as Faisal. “It is against humanity and against Islam, which means peace.”

He said some of Abu Hamza’s adherents still prayed at the mosque, but they had changed their minds about their past radical ideas.

In the past, Britain’s Muslim vote traditionally has gone to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labor Party. But in May elections, the younger Muslim voters, expressing anger over the Iraq war, were a major factor in cutting Labor’s majority in Parliament.

There are four Muslim members of Parliament, all Labor, but Muslims in opposition parties are gaining ground, and the Labor Party is no longer assured of the Muslim vote.

Attempts to contact radical London-based Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed were unsuccessful. The sheik eulogized the September 11 hijackers, praised the Madrid bombings and recruited young Muslim militants to fight overseas.

But the sheik’s assistant, Anjem Choudhary, told The Washington Times by telephone yesterday: “I have no comment whatsoever on today’s events. I’m not sitting with Bakri.

“We have become quiet and retired since the dissolution of al Muhajiroun,” he said in reference to Sheik Bakri’s organization, which was disbanded in October 2004.

Condemnation of yesterday’s attacks was widespread among mainstream Muslim leaders.

Ahmad al-Dubayan has directed the London Central Mosque since arriving from Saudi Arabia five years ago. Saudi King Faisal was the main financial backer of a mosque whose land originally was donated to the Muslim community by King George in 1944.

“These bombings target innocent people — and one of the bombs went off at a station used mainly by Muslims,” said Mr. al-Dubayan, referring to the Aldgate station.

He, too, hinted that Muslim leaders had been failing to educate youths sufficiently in the ways of moderate Islam.

He told The Times: “We now believe we share responsibility with the British government for educating our young people on what true Islam means, and the true meaning of living in a democracy.”

Youths gathered in the mosque complex’s courtyard agreed that the bombers were wrong, but one — a 20-year-old who said his name was Abu Albani — said the actions would be “good for Islam.” That, he explained, was because, just as had happened after September 11, many non-Muslims would become interested in what the religion was about and would convert.

Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, appealed for calm while also condemning the bombings.

“The Islamic Human Rights Commission utterly condemns this attack, but now we appeal that there should be no further victims as a result of reprisals,” Mr. Shadjareh said, adding he was “very concerned about a backlash” against British Muslims.

A previously unknown group calling itself the Organization of al Qaeda Jihad in Europe claimed the attacks on a Web site and said they were carried out “in response to the massacres carried out by Britain in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

• Seth Rosen and Tom Carter contributed to this article from Washington.

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