British news recently revealed that during a visit to Blackburn in 2005, Dr. Barham Salih, The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, had said that the extremism in the Blackburn mosques he saw would not be legal in Iraq. This caused a bit of ruckus, especially from the Muslim side.
Asian Image wrote an article about how Salih could not possibly have been to an extremist mosque in 2005, and insinuating that he must have been affected by anti-Iraq protests. They then brought an interview with Salih in which he clarifies his remarks (see below). Salih did not mean to imply that all British Muslims were more extreme than Iraqi extremists. Just that some of them are. And that he sees no reason for the Muslim community to isolate itself from the mainstream British one.
In a different interview, Salih says things much more clearly:
Mr Salih said his comments had been taken out of context but warned, "Unfortunately, some extremists have abused freedom of expression in democratic societies to preach violence and isolation."
Since Asian Image think freedom of speech should be limited when it insults people, they would of course agree that preaching violence and isolation are completely off limits.
In his response to the row, Dr Salih said: "It has come to my attention that comments I made at an informal meeting regarding extremism among the Muslim community in Britain have been taken out of context and misconstrued.
"As a Muslim, it is my duty to speak out when injustices are committed against Islam. My statements must not be taken out of the wider context of the efforts of millions of Muslims world-wide who are concerned about acts of hijacking of their faith by extremists. Iraq has been a victim of terrible acts of violence that are perpetuated in the name of Islam and hence our priority in Iraq to combat violent extremism."
Dr Salih, who has lived and studied in the UK, said the "overwhelming majority" of British Muslims were law abiding and true to the tolerant spirit of Islam, but said intolerance and fanaticism were a "major threat" to world peace. Muslims and other people of faith have a duty to confront extremism and protect the true values of tolerance and peace enshrined in our faith."
British Muslims should retain their identity but not use this as an excuse to become isolated from society, he said. "There are extremists who want to keep the Muslim communities isolated from the wider world and preach hatred. It is our duty as Muslims to confront such distortions of the true values of Islam."
Describing his visit to Blackburn, Dr Salih, who used it to urge people not to vote against Mr Straw because of the war in Iraq, added: "I had the good fortune to visit a mosque in Blackburn three years ago and I am grateful for the gracious hospitality shown to me there.
"I was heartened to hear of the Imam preaching tolerance and inclusiveness. It is crucial not to discount the good work of many community leaders in Blackburn and other parts of the United Kingdom. My statements were not meant in any way to discredit their work."
Sources: Asian Image 1, 2; ic Wales (English)
See also: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister: English mosques are more extreme