BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: Panorama  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Panorama Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Ask Dr Naseem
Dr Naseem
Ask Dr Naseem

Dr Naseem, the lay Chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque, answered your questions on the issues raised in 'Koran and Country'. Click on the link below to watch the forum.

Video56K

Since shortly after the terrorist attacks on the USA a Panorama team filmed within the Muslim community in Birmingham.

In the programme, Vivian White reported on reactions within the community to the events of the last month.


Transcript:


Newshost:

Dr Naseem I will start with a question from Saad Idris from Cambridge: One of the points that came through quite clearly from the programme was that most Muslims are not yet convinced that the present war is not one waged against Islam. What more do you think could the British Government do to convince them of this?


Dr Naseem:

If you look at the number of people who took part in a march on Saturday, there were 50,000 people and mostly they were non-Muslims. So it is not right to say that it is only Muslims who are not convinced of the reasons for bombing Afghanistan. There are a lot of non-Muslims who also share the same feeling.

I think the reason is that from the very beginning the legal norm that a person is presumed to be innocent unless proven guilty was disregarded and we took the opposite view that a person is guilty unless proven innocent. From day one the finger was pointed at Osama bin Laden and the Taleban. All this time, we and people who are like-minded, have been asking for evidence to be produced. The evidence that Mr Blair produced was only 70 statements - that does not constitute evidence. I have quoted Anthony Scrivener QC remark when he said that it is a sobering thought that we need much more evidence to prosecute a shoplifter than what is needed to commence a world war.


Newshost:

So you are not convinced - you still want to see more evidence. I turn now to a question from Edwin Odom from Canada: I don't understand why there have been no "high priests" or mullahs coming forward to condemn and disown the terrorists. Why can't the mullahs be more visionary in their leadership instead of focusing more and more inwardly on perceived attacks on their religion?

This is a point that has come up again and again. Margaret Thatcher raised this point a couple of weeks ago. Also Ian from Guildford asks: Do you condemn the attacks and why are we not hearing more people in authoritative positions in the Muslim community coming out and condemning these attacks?


Dr Naseem:

I always wonder when this point is brought up in what state of isolation these people live because it is quite evident from the reports of the last few weeks that there was not a single Muslim organisation which did not condemn it. We have condemned it singly, we have condemned it jointly with people of other faiths. We have observed a three minute silence with the rest of the country. So I do not know what else they want. But if they choose to ignore evidence or if they are isolated that is a problem they have with themselves.


Newshost:

So this is a misconception and information perhaps not getting through?


Dr Naseem:

I think it is something of that sort. They have to look at the reasons why they have missed all of this because this was not a single instance - every Muslim organisation, every mosque leader has condemned this.


Newshost:

Nigel from Worthing: Was the attack on the USA on September the 11th an attack against the Christian world? If not, then why is the attack by the USA against terrorism a strike against the entire Muslim world?


Dr Naseem:

I am not privy to the minds of those people who perpetrated this crime so I cannot answer for them as to what their intention as. Unless that fact is known, one cannot answer that question. It is not something which will be supported by Muslim leaders or Muslim religious scholars. So we are not part of that kind of attitude.


Newshost:

So you don't see this attack as an entire attack against Muslims?


Dr Naseem:

We do not think it was an attack on Christianity. We respect what has been said by Mr Bush and Mr Blair - although their actions may not agree with what they are saying. But we respect their views and we have not taken the point that it is intended to be an attack on Islam.


Newshost:

Andrew Steele in Nepal asks: The international media, most notably CNN and BBC World has, despite attempts to balance, been consistently reporting on the crisis in the Middle East from a very pro-Western and therefore pro-Israeli stance. Do you agree with this and do you agree that such media has helped to present a negative image of the Muslim world?


Dr Naseem:

I do agree with the questioner's thoughts.


Newshost:

Other e-mails have come through saying that what is that's happened. Brendan from Belper, UK asks: Why do Muslims hate Britain and the USA so much? Others have suggested - is it a case of America's foreign policy? Why do you think there is this hatred?


Dr Naseem:

Let me answer the first part. I don't know where he gets that impression. We do not hate Britain, we do not hate America or American people or British people. We do not agree with American policy and British policy on certain matters. So I think everybody has got the right to differ if they do not agree with the point of view. So that doesn't amount to hating the people. The very fact that we are here proves to the contrary that we love the place - that is why we are here.


Newshost:

Chuckie from Surrey asks: If it's true that there are British Muslims who end up fighting against the US or British forces in Afghanistan, they should never be allowed to return to this country ever again. What is your reaction to such statements from fellow British citizens?


Dr Naseem:

I do not know what minority of people will be taking that course. I doubt very much if anybody will be going to Afghanistan to fight with the Taleban. Even if they intend to, it is practically impossible for them to do so. If they do so, it is quite within the rights of the British Government to refuse entry if they think that is what they have done.

What I would say is that the law of the country must be followed to the letter and spirit in every matter and it should not be selective.


Newshost:

But the programme hinted that there may well be young people who might try and go out there and that is why this question is being asked.


Dr Naseem:

When we talk about the possibilities and human beings, one cannot categorically admit or deny any possibility because there are all kinds of people in this world. So I am not in a position to say that this is going to happen. I can only say, to the best of my judgement, this is not likely.


Newshost:

Alba in Scotland asks: Are you proud of the comments made in the programme of those young men who say they would go to Afghanistan and fight UK troops?


Dr Naseem:

I have answered that. Unfortunately, we do not control the media. When the Panorama team was there, it could have apportioned relative time to people who represented an organisation or institution. But unfortunately in this instance time was given disproportionately to people who presented themselves before the cameras and there were definite attempts by people who wished to get into the limelight and express their views. We couldn't stop them.


Newshost:

Sue from London asks: Why aren't Muslims calling for Bin Laden's extradition?


Dr Naseem:

Because for the simple reason the case against Bin Laden has not been proved. We haven't seen that evidence to link Bin Laden with this. On the face of it, it doesn't seem probable that one person could have that much power, that much influence, that much control over the means of communication to be able to do such a thing. I always ask people to put themselves in Bin Laden's position and think if they can do all these things without being noticed and without being stopped.

Bin Laden is not a religious leader. The Muslim world does not know anything about him. He is not a religious scholar, he has not written a single pamphlet. So all the information is coming from CIA-inspired sources. To the best of our knowledge, the CIA is an institution which enrolled him and sent him to Afghanistan to fight the Russian Army. So they may know about him - we know nothing about him. We do not acknowledge him as a leader of the Muslim people and we do not acknowledge him as a religious leader.


Newshost:

Damian Pemberton in Oldham asks: By not ensuring that the voice of ordinary Muslims is heard by the Taleban to be condemning Bin Laden, don't you think that the ordinary Muslims have the blood of the Afghans on their shoulders?


Dr Naseem:

I think it is the other way around. We did not bring the Taleban into power - America did. So the blame, or whatever it is, to be apportioned should be given to America and not to Muslims because we had no part in bringing the Taleban to power.


Newshost:

Tom from St. Albans, UK asks: Why is it that when it comes to apportioning blame for the events of September 11th, blame is individually focused on the terrorists, rightly so, yet when terrorists who are Muslims are attacked it is considered as an attack on all the Muslim communities?


Dr Naseem:

We do not look upon it as an attack on the Muslim community. It may appear so. It is a lapse on the part of the political leaders who have given that impression. In our mind, we are not convinced that those people who perpetrated this attack were actually Muslims.

If there were four planes involved - say for the sake of argument - there were 150 people on each plane, that means there were 600 people on those four planes but we have no information about the rest of the party except the 19 people which were picked out with foreign names and they were said to be the culprits. How they reached that conclusion is not known to us. A fairer method would have been if we had all the profiles of all the passengers then we would have been in a better position to say how did they reach that conclusion that these 19 were the guilty party. Out of those 19, six are known to be living alive and well. Then the CIA put across the argument that these people stole their identities - the whole thing doesn't seem to make any sense to us.

Take for example Atta's story. He is supposed to be Islamist and at the same time he is said to be getting drunk and visiting discos. Now these two things do not match. Now these people from the way they acted seem to be very accomplished in whatever they were going to do. Now such a person would not take a manual with him to the airport to refresh in his memory on how to fly a plane. Then if they were so secretive and so well organised they would not leave the evidence in such a blatant way that anybody could pick it up.

From that we move on to another story, that Mr Atta is supposed to have left instructions and very conveniently he left all the evidence in his flat. Now people who conspire in this way are not in the habit of acting in this way. Thirdly, he left a will leaving instructions that women should not bathe his body. This evidence was again left very conveniently in a car in Boston. Now if he was intending to do the kind of thing he did, there is no likelihood of his body being left to be washed.


Newshost:

Aisha from London asks: Dr Naseem, I hope people like yourself, influence the political parties who appear determined to prolong the war campaign. I watched the Panorama programme last night and couldn't help thinking that it was a dangerous programme and had the potential to misinform. I felt it was badly timed and could only confuse people more about Islam. Are we confusing the issues around Islam?


Dr Naseem:

I don't think so. I think the programme was a fair attempt - it may have its flaws - but in general I think it was a fair attempt to represent the Muslim point of view. Whether people have taken a different view or it has stimulated Islamaphobic kind of thoughts that is more deep-rooted than in need of a programme such as this. Because Islamaphobia is very deep-rooted in the British psyche, because of different factors and we take it as a fact of life. We are not perturbed by it. There is a need for more dialogue and more coming together and that will create an understanding rather than attacking each other without trying to find the solution for this.


Newshost:

Scott in Newcastle-upon-Tyne asks: It was the refusal of the Taleban to co-operate which places your fellow Muslims in the firing line. Why no criticism of them, are they beyond reproach?


Dr Naseem:

The reasons the Taleban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden were the same as I mentioned earlier - they were asking for evidence.

What we do in Britain - there are people who have sought asylum here who were convicted in their parent countries and we do not hand them over to their countries. So it is the same attitude that the Taleban have adopted - they are asking for evidence and this evidence is not forthcoming.


Newshost:

E. Clark from Whitby asks: I love our multi-cultural society. Some of my closest friends are Muslims so when I see Muslim children rejoicing at what happened to their own people - they are English after all - you can't have it both ways. They were playing right into the hands of the National Front.


Dr Naseem:

If he is referring to the pictures from Palestine where people were rejoicing at the tragedy of what happened on 11th September. Now according to our information that picture was taken in 1991 at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So that does not relate to the incident on 11th September at all. CNN was sent a protest about this but they have not done anything about it.


Newshost:

Dr Naseem, where do we go from here?


Dr Naseem:

I think we need to have more dialogue between ourselves. If the communities start talking to each other there is a reasonable chance that we will understand each other much better. At this time we are staying more within ourselves and not giving ourselves a chance to understand our neighbour. I think that is what we need to do.

Koran and Country


Panorama specials

SPECIAL REPORT
Links to more Panorama stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes