BRITAIN HAS A PROBLEM with Islam. The British Muslim community is mainly comprised of Indo-Pakistani Muslims. Their mosques are dominated by radical Sunnis, representing Pakistan-based jihad movements, and Saudi-backed Wahhabis.
Britain does not want to tackle this problem directly, for a reason seldom perceived. Because the majority of the radical clerics in Britain are from the Indian subcontinent, race as well as religion is a factor in public perceptions of the issue. The U.K. authorities don't mind cracking down on radical Islam, but they don't want to be accused of discrimination against South Asians.
That is why in the wake of the London bombings last July, British media focused its attention on marginal Arab radicals rather than the extremist ideology in mosques attended by immigrants from Pakistan. Much of what appeared in British newspapers in the wake of the bombing was not only factually incorrect--an attempt to blame the bombings on sects in "Londonistan" that have no real influence--but also professionally inept because it ignored Pakistani jihadists.
British authorities have managed to trip over their own feet several times since then, but the worst botch came recently when the British Home Office announced that, at a cost of almost half a million pounds, "moderate" Islamic intellectuals would tour Britain in a "roadshow" to counter the radicals. It's a fine idea. But to whom did the British authorities turn for this delicate mission? A raiding party of fake moderates, some of whom have alarming records of advocating jihadism. The speakers included:
* Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Islamist intellectual who has been barred from entry into the United States. Ramadan has been praised as a moderate by Time magazine and others, but he has been treated with greater realism in Arab media, including the Beirut Daily Star, which noted that Ramadan has "has failed to condemn Palestinian suicide bombers" and that he defended Qatar-based Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a notorious extremist who has also supported suicide terrorism, on a British television talk-show. The Star further quoted Marc Gopin, director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, who said "after closely examining Ramadan's works and positions" he was " 'disappointed in Ramadan's approach' to the crises in the Arab and Muslim world . . . Gopin added [that] Ramadan's message did not provide a real approach to fundamental Islam that would make it 'more peaceful, nonviolent and pluralistic.'"
* Tariq Suweidan, from Kuwait, has also been excluded from the United States. Suweidan preached at a meeting of the Hamas-front Islamic Association for Palestine in Chicago in 2000, "Palestine will not be liberated but through Jihad. Nothing can be achieved without sacrificing blood. The Jews will meet their end at our hands."
* Hamza Yusuf Hanson, formerly Joseph Hanson, who, in 1991, gave a provoking speech about why "Jihad is the Only Way," at an International Islamic Conference held at the University of Southern California. That group is the local unit of the Islamic Circle of North America, a front for the al Qaeda-allied Jama'at-i-Islami movement in Pakistan.
* Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, who is also known for his radical proclivities.
British media, beginning a week ago with the Observer, noted that elementary research on the unsavory records of these "moderates" has caused chaos in the Home Office. There are many more serious and authoritative Muslim scholars in Europe (and America) who could champion moderate Islam among British Muslims. Trying to answer the wild radicals by trotting out allegedly-tame radicals, will only make matters worse.
Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.