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U K Muslim leaders say anger at Iraq war undimmed

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, July 6 (Reuters) Prime Minister Tony Blair's refusal to accept that the war in Iraq has alienated Britain's Muslims is fuelling anger in the community and making further attacks by militants more likely, Islamic leaders say.

A year after four British Islamists killed themselves and 52 commuters in suicide bomb attacks on London's transport network last July, Muslim leaders say the government has done little to counter home-grown extremism.

''If anything the situation has deteriorated one year on from 7/7,'' said Anjem Choudary, an outspoken leader of Al-Ghurabaa, a group born out of the disbanded radical Al Muhajiroun organisation which praised the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

''Another 7/7 is more likely in the climate in which we live today than it was a year ago.'' Britain is home to about 1.8 million Muslims, nearly 3 per cent of the population, and the vast majority were horrified by last July's bombings.

In the aftermath, Blair and Muslim leaders promised to work together to try to root out extremists and prevent further attacks.

Many Muslims, including moderate voices, say Blair has failed to tackle the main problem -- his foreign policy and, especially, the war in Iraq.

''The government seems to always detract from the foreign policy thing, they don't want to make it an issue,'' said Sulaiman Moolla, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies which has a 90,000-strong membership.

''It's like they're in denial to be honest. If you truly want to understand, you don't live in denial.'' In a videotape released after his death, the 7/7 leader Mohammad Sidique Khan said he had acted because ''your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world''.

However Blair has always insisted Iraq was not responsible for radicalising the men who carried out the attacks, conscious of the fact the war was unpopular and opposed by many Britons.

AN EXCUSE ''We must reject the thought that somehow we are the authors of our own distress; that if only we altered this decision or that, the extremism would fade away,'' Blair said recently.

He argued that foreign policy was used as an excuse by those seeking to justify a warped version of Islam.

Both moderates and radical British Muslims say it is an issue that must be confronted.

''(Iraq) has been a great concern for Muslims. It is an ongoing concern, especially the situation in Palestine, Chechnya. These impact on the psyche of young people,'' said Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the moderate Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Britain's biggest Islamic group.

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