» Monday, July 18, 2005

London bombs/Terror

Asked about the Prime Minister’s comments that it was not right to say that the bombings had nothing to do with Islam, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said he was surprised that people were still asking about this. The Prime Minister had said since last week that we all had to recognise where this perversion of Islam came from. We had to recognise that we all had to stand together in order to deal with that, including the Muslim community. Much more importantly the Muslim MPs who had seen the Prime Minister, many of the leading figures within the Muslim community over the past few days had said that it was not enough just to condemn the bombing and that the Muslim community itself had to act. That was indeed part of the reason for the meeting with the Prime Minister and the opposition leaders tomorrow. The 4 Muslim MPs and 5 Muslim peers would also attend the meeting. Asked what the Government expected of the Muslim leaders at the meeting, the PMOS said that would become clear after tomorrow’s meeting. The important thing was that we recognised that words in themselves, whilst welcome, were not sufficient. We needed to have action within the communities in order to, as the Prime Minister had said on Saturday, take on, in a reasoned argument, the false propaganda which had been put about at a local level and at an international level. We had to challenge the extremist viewpoint. Part of that challenge was at a security level and part of that was at a political level as well.

Asked if part of our argument was highlighting that in Iraq, for instance, it was largely Muslims killing other Muslims, the PMOS said he thought that was largely recognised within the Muslim community already. What was important was that the argument was taken to those extremists who would deny that there was that argument. It was simply a statement of fact that in Iraq it was Muslims who were killing Muslims. It was a simple statement of fact that the extremists would try to use these situations, be it Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Palestine, or Israel to justify these attacks. What we had to make clear to both Muslims and non-Muslims was that that was not the case.

Asked for further details of those attending the meeting at Downing Street tomorrow the PMOS said that we had not produced a final list yet and wouldn’t before tomorrow morning. Asked if some of the less moderate members of the Muslim community would be invited, the PMOS said that we would try and have as representative a collection of the Muslim community as was possible. We should be clear however that this was about finding ways to address the issue of what could actually be done in a practical way rather than just providing more rhetoric, to take on extremists at a community level, national level and international level. Asked if we hoped to have a practical plan by the end of tomorrow, the PMOS said that what we hoped to have was a process that would lead us to a practical plan. We recognised that one meeting was not going to resolve everything but it would give us a chance to project forward how we could take on the extremists.

Asked about the Government’s reaction to the arrival from Egypt of the radical cleric Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi in to the UK, the PMOS said that he wanted to make it very clear that he would not comment on individual cases and nothing he said should be taken in that way. He would simply say on the general subject that, as he had said last week, one of the issues that we were looking at was whether people who had been excluded from other countries would be automatically referred to the Home Secretary. Equally the issue of the Memoranda of Understanding was also being looked at. These were issues that were on the Government’s table.

Asked if those invited to the meeting tomorrow might be seen as tainted by their association with the Government, the PMOS said he took the point, but that suggested that vast swathes of Muslim opinion, which was part of mainstream opinion in this country, was in some way also tainted and could not be considered Muslim. That was a perverse logic. The important thing was that we listened to the Muslim community representatives tomorrow to see what their view was about the best way of engaging with the type of thinking that led to extremist views. In a democracy you proceeded by reasoned argument and persuasion. You needed to make sure that reasoned argument took place in a way that was effective, and effective against precisely the sort of extremist rhetoric and propaganda we were talking about.

Asked if there was a possibility that focussing on the Muslim community might be seen as blaming the Muslim community for the bombings, the PMOS said no. There was an important difference between addressing the problems arising within a particular community, which the community knew best how to resolve, and saying that an entire community was to blame. We were not in the blame game. We were in the very serious business of engaging and making sure that extremism did not succeed simply because others remained silent. Therefore the argument was going on at a national and international level.

Asked about criticism of the performance of the West Yorkshire police, the PMOS said that Prime Minister believed that the police and the security services had, under very difficult circumstances, done a very professional and good job.

Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news

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