LONDON — Thursday’s coordinated terrorist attacks that killed at least 49 people have underscored competing forces within Britain’s Muslim community: a minority that advocates violence against Western targets, and those who want to coexist peacefully with Britain’s multifaith, multiethnic society.
Since the bombings, the media and Muslims have been at pains to explain that most of the country’s 2 million Muslims are peaceful. “The Muslim community in Britain has a long history and is enormously diverse,” says Anas al-Tikriti, a member of the Muslim Association of Britain.
But the attacks are turning attention to the increasing numbers of young British Muslims who are rejecting their parents’ traditional culture in favor of a radical and expansionist Islam. This strikingly Western version of Islam combines an independence of thought with a contempt for established traditional scholarship and a theme of teenage rebellion.
“Getting involved in radical Islam is an emotional thing rather than a rational decision,” says Abdul-Rahman al-Helbawi, a Muslim prayer leader. “And it’s not a matter of intelligence or education – a lot of these radicals in Britain are very well-educated.”
In Dalston market in north-east London on Thursday, “Abdullah,” a Muslim watch-mender and evangelist, was in a pugnacious mood.
“We don’t need to fight. We are taking over!” he said. “We are here to bring civilization to the West. England does not belong to the English people, it belongs to God.”
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