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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 November 2005, 11:46 GMT
How Islam got political: Beyond 9/11
By Mukul Devichand
BBC Radio Four's Analysis programme

World Trade Centre ruins after the Al Qaeda attack
The growth of political Islam is one of the most important ideological events of the past century.
In these features, BBC Radio Four's Analysis programme charts the growth of this ideology - and its stunning effects around the world, including Britain.
Islam is a faith and code of conduct for over a billion people worldwide. But for some, Islam is also a political project. On these pages, you can read and hear the history of political Islam's development.

Koran and Country: How Islam got Political is broadcast on BBC Radio Four on Thursday 10 November at 8pm.

In Osama Bin laden's eyes, the attacks of September 2001 were a tactical and strategic victory: he believed he had humbled a superpower, killed thousands of so-called 'infidels' and triggered a military campaign that Al-Qaeda was able to portray as a "war against Islam."

It was an attack achieved through very few resources, but an immense amount of ideology driven by both politics and religion.

But most Muslims saw it as a disaster - raising questions in the minds of non-Muslims as to what Islam stands for.

But what role has all of this played in the political development of Islam in Britain?

Until Al-Qaeda eventually claimed responsibility, some clung to the hope that Muslims were not really behind the attacks. Others felt shame, embarrassment or resentment at the suggestion that 9/11 had anything to do with their religion.

Four years on, this resentment still shows in a palpable rise in Muslim pride and politicisation verging on anger. Radio Four's Analysis programme spoke to students in London to get a sense of how they feel about these events.

Ideological fusion

Until a few years ago, it would unusual for British Muslims of South Asian origin to be aware of Arab political Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. World events have changed that and there has been a growing exchange of ideas among British Muslim groups over their politics and identity in the West.

Muslim Brotherhood member Kamal Helbawy founded the Muslim Association of Britain eight years ago.

It's an important affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain, the umbrella group that has met regularly with the government and which followers of Mawdudi were instrumental in setting up.

The MAB, which has a heavy campaigning emphasis on Palestinian issues, was a key group campaigning against the war in Iraq and helped mobilised thousands to march in London.

But the ideas of political Islam seriously worry other British Muslims, such as the more orthodox followers inspired by Sufism.

The media and politicians have asked tough questions about the political face of Islam in Britain: what for instance do its adherents have to say about suicide bombings by Palestinians, irrespective of their view of such acts elsewhere?

Then there's the question of Iraq. The vast majority of British Muslims oppose the war, but many immediately believed that the government's failure to listen to them directly led to the London bombings on 7 July.

Terror in Britain

The release later in the summer of a recorded video message by Mohammed Siddique Khan, the bombers' presumed ringleader, made it clear the attacks were intended as retribution for western policies in the Middle East.

Does this mean that more violent attacks on the West by Al-Qaeda-inspired extremists are now inevitable? That's certainly the view of Europe's counter-terrorism experts.

But some Muslim activists here in Britain believe the solution lies in giving Muslims a greater political voice.

Today Muslims who have never read or possibly even heard of Mawdudi and Qutb have now become increasingly conscious of their Muslim identity and their membership of the 'Ummah', the concept of a global Muslim family.

And in one sense, that's down to political Islam.

But for Ghayausuddin Siddiqui, who met Mawdudi and supported the Iranian revolution, it's now time for Muslims to build bridges.

"The road [political Islam] has put us on is a road to destruction, marginalisation and social exclusion," Dr Siddiqui says.

"I think today, as a result of this approach, Muslims do not have any friends. We are against everybody and we do not realise it."

"It's a great challenge and I think the time has come that Muslims wake up and challenge these dangerous ideas."


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