I have witnessed with horror young men of my faith and my nationality – Islam and British, respectively – issuing threats to the country that I adopted over more than two decades ago after finishing my medical graduation in Lahore, Pakistan.
I worked for NHS for nearly 20 years and have been in private practice in Harley street London. Thanks to the opportunities offered in this country to me that today I have strings of business interests and I am living a comfortable life. I cannot be thankful enough to this country and its people as how generous and welcoming they have been to me and my family. I regularly go to Pakistan and was indeed a lawmaker in Punjab Assembly until two years ago but London is my home now and as a family we feel disoriented anywhere else in this world. This is also the story of most of the British Muslims who number near 3 million now.
The first and second generation Muslim and ethnic immigrants to Britain have shown loyalty and commitment to this country, have hugely contributed to the progress of their adopted country but have been cognizant and thankful of what this country has done for them but a tiny minority of British bred and born youth have shown that they are radically confused, not only about their true identity, but the version of Islam, that they have come to like, is alien to what a vast majority of Muslims in this country and elsewhere believe in.
While watching fellow British Muslims issuing dire threats to my country, I have thought hard and fast as how things have come to this pass and what has gone wrong with some British Muslims who have effectively turned guns on their country – Britain – and what has motivated them to go to such extents.
There has been rapid rise in extremist Islamist ideology in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks on the US.
Britain is home to those too who have gone to participate in the war in Syria but why Britain should consider them enemy and why those few Muslims should even think of harming the UK?
The foreign policies of some of the western countries might have contributed a bit in the nourishment of hate-filled ideology as hawks were allowed unchallenged to espouse the clash of civilisations between Islam and the west without realizing that a vast majority of Muslims like me are peaceful, educated and just getting on with daily ordeal like any other human in the west.
At the same time, extremist jihadist ideology became a fashion in some Muslim societies and nothing was done by the Islamic countries to effectively robust and challenge this hate-filled ideology amongst some quarters who ironically started believing in ‘either with us or against us’ – considering a Muslim is pious and acceptable and non-Muslim is liable to be punished for the great cause of violent jihadism.
This nihilistic ideology has brainwashed some British Muslims that there is no point in believing in anything that the west has to offer. The western systems and values, they have been told, are depraved and inferior. There is a far more superior code of conduct and way of life to believe and that system of life must be established through the barrel of gun and violence. It is in this context that a lad from Britain – who has not known any other country other than Britain – tells chillingly in his propaganda video that he is fighting alongside militants in Syria and will return to the UK when he sees ‘the black flag of Islam’ hanging over Buckingham Palace.
Extremist clerics for a very long time were allowed – in the name of free speech – to incite violence by advocating that their ultimate aim is to get the black flag of Islam flutter atop 10 Downing Street. The likes of banned Al-Muhajiroun and their offshoots continue to preach that on the streets of London and elsewhere. Such language is dangerous because it has easy appeal to so many impressionable minds.
This narrative needs to be countered. It is very simple that if 3 million of us wanted to live in a caliphate, we would not have chosen to live here. Even those calling for a Shariah state don’t believe in their hearts of hearts that such a utopian state will ever come into being.
Several jihadists had travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the aftermath of 9/11 to practice their faith in pure Islamic surroundings. What they actually witnessed on the ground made them wiser for it and they have reformed, many of them now openly speaking against the puritanical version of Islam.
But the actual fight has to take place within the hearts of the Muslim communities here. It’s a sad reality that the successive governments have not paid enough attention towards the Muslim communities, who lag behind in every field and who need greater attention than almost any other community. The ghettos that have been allowed to mushroom across the length and breadth of Britain have become breeding grounds of an extremist narrative.
Imagine the heartache of that Cardiff hardworking father whose son appeared in suicide pledge videos and brought shame to him and the communities. An overwhelming number of over 400 Britons who are believed to have taken part in jihad activities abroad do pose a threat to all communities.
Our government and security services need to put in place an effective plan that could deal with the root causes of the jihadist problem in this country. It may appear that there are no easy answers to this problem but the solution will come from amongst the Muslim communities who are the key stakeholders and who should be empowered to integrate and to root out the elements brainwashing their children into believing more in death than in life.
Here comes the duty of people like me who have same faith, same colour, same background but completely opposite thinking. People like me have a lot to lose and a little effort can revert the mind of such an extremist to realise what this beautiful country and people have offered in the form of security, opportunity and education, and life can be so beautiful that those would rather prefer living than thinking of suicide. We need to reach to the mums of misguided youth as mother is the first school.