Amjad Bashir: There is no conflict between being a good Muslim and being a good Briton – and we must not let Daesh or anyone else try to create one

The peace vigil in Manchester's Albert Square.
The peace vigil in Manchester's Albert Square.
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I WRITE these words with huge sadness in my heart after yet again a terrorist atrocity has been committed on British soil.

I WRITE these words with huge sadness in my heart after yet again a terrorist atrocity has been committed on British soil.

After once more innocent blood has been spilt, this time the young lifeblood of so many children and teenagers.

And as the finger of suspicion points at Islamist terror – “home grown” as the glib phrase goes.

The fact that for the first time the North of England, my own broad neck of the woods, has been targeted only adds to the heartache and dismay.

The perpetrator is dead, though we can expect he had some form of support network. They and their sympathisers will even now be taking to the Internet to claim that this act of utter barbarity and depravity was committed in the name of Islam, the religion I am proud to call my own.

Let me tell them now: Don’t ever claim this was done in the name of my God. If you do, you abuse the religion, you abuse its true followers and you abuse the Almighty.

These people were probably led to this breathtaking perversion of Islam’s true meaning and direction through the influence of preachers of hate many, many miles away.

For however strong our military defences, our intelligence and our counter-terrorism forces may be, our weak flank remains the openness of the internet and its facility for spreading poison, especially into young minds.

The insidious messages of those who live to hate will build up a false sense of grievance and a misplaced perception of victimhood.

Of course these wild and twisted views existed before the internet was ever conceived - but then they circulated slowly and narrowly and in remote seclusion, mainly away from Western society. Their exchange was a local retail trade, almost a cottage industry in some backward states; but now their transmission is instant, wholesale and global. The broken dam seems impossible to plug.

And what streams from it is an utter corruption of Islam – wrong on theology, wrong on scripture, wrong on redemption.

The Holy Quran does not offer one crumb of justification for what happened in Manchester on Monday night. On the contrary it condemns the taking of innocent life and forbids any violence against the defenceless - even a defenceless enemy.

Muslims, of course, are entitled to take up arms to defend themselves if they or their family are under attack or oppressed. But if girls, boys and families having fun at a pop concert can be characterised as attack on Islam or an oppression of Muslim rights, then I have been reading a very different holy book.

Islamists and their apologists will be claiming now that Muslims in Brtiain are an oppressed minority and thus entitled to strike out in self-defence. They should take a good look around them.

As Muslims in this country, we are treated equally. As a boy, I was among the first Pakistanis arriving here in the 1960s and we were welcomed with respect and understanding.

We are equal citizens in a plural society. We have absolute freedom to follow our religion, to pray, to build mosques. Public buildings have prayer rooms and ablution facilities for us to use. When we need it we have equal access to the health service, to social care, to welfare.

These are greater rights than we would enjoy in many Islamic countries - and they try to call this oppression! Come off it - please.

All Muslims believe in an after-life, but if the perpetrator of Monday’s atrocity was sold the myth that his suicide belt was a ticket to martyrdom and paradise, he is as gullible as he is wicked.

He will be learning now that there is no heaven for him and certainly no 70 virgins. He has damned himself twice over - as a suicide and as a murderer of innocents.

So how do we prevent more young British Muslims being radicalised as he was? The lessons are hard to draw when grief is so raw.

But we must start by redoubling our efforts to weed out extremist Islamist content from the internet. Governments are doing their best, but they will need more help from the likes of Google an Facebook.

Then we must all be vigilant in our own homes. As parents, we must take responsibility for knowing what material our teenagers are accessing on their computers and devices, and the kind of discussions they are having with their peers and others.

Finally, we must continue to focus hard on intelligence - and our communities must play their part. We must report our slightest suspicions wherever they arise, and be sure that no-one among us turns a blind eye out of misplaced loyalty or a corrupt sense of victimhood.

There is no conflict between being a good Muslim and being a good Briton – and we must not let Daesh or anyone else try to create one.

Amjad Bashir is a Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber.

REVELATION: Mateusz Klich in action. PIC: Tony Johnson

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