by Dr. Tilak S. Fernando from London

Ever since the British role in supporting Iraqi war, warnings have been repeatedly coming from terrorist factions of the Muslim world that Britain's days were numbered and London would pay the price for supporting George W. Bush. Warnings also pin pointed London Underground Railway as a prime target. Consequently UK political pundits warned the British public how vulnerable London would be for a terrorist attack but assured that London was ready even for a 'poison gas attack! But on 7 July what did we see? Terrorism coming to the very doorstep of Central London with ferocious suicide bombs blasting and killing the innocent and bringing about a total chaos to the capital with a staggering estimated overall loss of 3 billion.

Within double quick time the British police managed to identify four perpetrators as Muslim youths who were born and bread in the UK. Three of them were named as 22-year-old Shehzad Tanwer, a 'talented sportsman and student', 18-year-old Hasib Mir Hussain, a model pupil who became ' religious overnight' and 30-year-old Primary school teacher Mohammad Sadique Khan. As detectives were busy hunting for the fourth who was on 'on the run' and a fifth, also a British-born Pakistani and an International mastermind based overseas with suspected links to two of Osama Bin Laden's planners, new fears emerged that up to 50 more British-born men were ready and willing to carry out further outrages. Effectively Scotland Yard commissioned more than 2,000 officers and the hunt for these terrorists is under way.

This undoubtedly has brought the 'Muslim factor' into the centre stage for argument in Britain. Daily Mail was partially critical in their editorial in condemning the Head of the Muslim Council Sir Iqbal Sacraine for his comments that: " We believe our youths are said to have been involved in last week's horrific bombing'. The Mail pointed out that such statements coming from the top of the Islam community as 'less than forthright reaction'. Also a statement by the Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission Massoud's statement that, 'the criminality of anyone should not be associated with their nationality, ethnicity or religion' was criticised as 'deeply worrying equivocation when it comes to challenging the evil forces behind the London atrocities.'

British media in general has been expressing their message loud and clear in saying that 'ultimately it is only the Muslim community itself that can stamp out Islam extremism and the great majority of Muslims must confront factors which will mean silencing the imams who preach their bigotry. To do this it was suggested that it requires great maturity by the Muslim leadership, which needs to worry less about a Muslim-as-victim mindset but to concentrate more on providing strong direction for the Muslim communities.

This is the first time suicide bombers have targeted their own fellow citizens in the UK. Now that the worst fears have been realised by Londoners when four young British born Muslim men, appeared to be utterly normal, intelligent, educated at British schools with degrees and born to middle class families and raised in tension-free environments were able to hide their fanatic religious ideologies and turn into lethal weapons to kill and maime their fellow Britons, it has opened up a truly appalling panorama right before the public at large.

As the never ending post-mortems discussions are taking place on a daily basis in the British press and on radio and television the focal point for debate has been the 'Muslim factor'. One Muslim member of parliament voiced: 'It is only by breaking out of the inward-looking defensiveness - bred by a cocktail of racism, economic deprivation and the cult of multiculturalism which has encouraged our ethnic minorities not to integrate - that British Muslims can play their full part in the life of this nation. Ultimately it is only the Muslim community itself that can stamp out Islamic extremism. No matter how good the intelligence, how effective the police work, they count for little against the kind of attack we witnessed last week."

Quoting the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick that ' Islam and terrorists are two words that do no go together', words of the Parish priest of the church near where the bus was blown; " We must name the people who did these things as criminals or terrorists and we must not name them as Muslims', and the radio and television dealing upon 'the need to avoid blaming Muslims' for what happened rather than addressing the hard questions to the community that cry out to be asked, critics say in doing so they all have been taking the cue from the Muslim community itself, which seems to be in the deepest denial. They further say that while 'such actions have certainly condemned the atrocity in the strongest terms, but in the very next breath, its leaders have effectively washed their hands of it by repeating a mantra that anyone claiming to be Muslim who commits such an act is not a proper Muslim, because Islam is a religion of peace'.

On BBC TV's Newsnight programme Irshad Chaudhury, a leader of the Leeds Muslim Community commented: 'The four bombers were 'not Muslims at all', that people had to be taught that Islam was a religion of peace and that the term ' Jihad' had been coined by the media and was not even in Islam'. The critics interpret such reasoning as alarming statistics, which turns both logic and morality on their heads. They support their argument by stating that ' far from being adherents of a religion of peace, huge numbers of Muslims worldwide support Al Qaeda - 65 per cent of the population in Pakistan, 45 per cent in Morocco and in Britain where the vast majority of Muslims are opposed to terrorism, according to an ICM poll carried out for the Guardian newspaper, some 13 per cent of a Muslim community 1.6 million support it. Considering these numbers as horrific, it is said that Muslims have been presented not as the community, which must take responsibility for this horror, but as its principal victims.

The British government is going to bring in a Law against incitement to religious hatred. Critics say this is all in order to appease the Muslim community that seek to outlaw altogether the drawing of any association between Islam and terror. It is said that definitely, this law is not designed to prevent extremist British imams - who are only a minority from disseminating their bigoted hatred of the West.

Critics suggest that ' this madness has simply got to stop. Publications advocating violence should be banned. Charities funding terror should be proscribed and their assets seized. Imams preaching violence should be prosecuted or removed from the country. Extremist websites should be shut down and those who log on to sites providing blue prints for bomb making should be arrested. But above all the responsible Muslim community and its leaders - who are the majority -must come out of denial and unequivocally condemn the extreme interpretation of Islam that is twisting the minds of the minority of zealots in its midst.

Extracts - Courtesy M. Phillips- Daily Mail.