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EDITIONS
 Monday, 23 December, 2002, 10:38 GMT
War on terror 'threatens' UK Muslims
11 September attacks on New York
Some Muslims suffered abuse after 11 September
A large majority of Muslims living in the UK consider the war on terror to be a war on Islam, according to a BBC survey.

And more than half of those questioned for BBC Radio 4's Today programme believed Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network should not have been blamed for the 11 September attacks.

Muslims have replaced communists as the West's bogeymen

Multi-culturalism expert Anshuman Mondal

While 11% believe further attacks on America by al-Qaeda would be justified and 8% said such an attack on Britain would be justified.

But, more than two thirds of the 500 Muslims polled by telephone over the weekend said they felt patriotic about Britain.

Of those surveyed by ICM, 37% said they had suffered more hostility and abuse since 11 September.

'West's bogeymen'

Many fear war with Iraq will bring more of the same.

Some 84% wanted the government to have the approval of the United Nations and Parliament before any action.

Multi-culturalism expert Anshuman Mondal, from Leicester University, told BBC News the poll showed Islam - "within a global context" - was now seen to mean solidarity with Muslims in Palestine and Iraq.

"Muslims have replaced communists as the West's bogeymen," he added.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, head of the London-based radical Islamic group al-Muhajiroun, was unsurprised by the poll's findings.

"We always believed that this is a war against Islam, there is a hidden agenda against Islam, and that is really manifested on many occasions." he told Today.

Asked whether he agreed with 8% of those polled who believed al-Qaeda would be justified in attacking Britain, he said: "I believe so".

But he did not claim to represent the Muslim community in the UK.

Shahid Malik, a member of Labour's national executive committee, described the comments as "outrageous" and "garbage".

Step forward

Speaking on the same programme, he argued there could never be any justification for terrorist attacks.

Mr Malik said 8% was relatively a "large percentage", but he believed that if those people thought more about their response they would know they were "speaking nonsense."

However he agreed the majority of British Muslims do believe the war on terror is a war against Islam.

"I personally don't believe that it is a war against Islam, but if you look at it dispassionately and coldly, the way that it's manifested itself, it seems to be targeting Muslim countries."

The prime minister was showing encouraging signs by calling a meeting of Palestinian leaders in London next month, but "unfortunately, Tony Blair doesn't rule the world, George Bush does", he said.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Robin Aitken
"A mistrust of the media may explain some of this"
  Muslim representatives debate the findings
"There's a perception which will be hard to shift"
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