Blair Seeks Alliance With Muslims Against Extremism
Prague, 16 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair today urged a coordinated effort with Muslims to fight what he called "an evil ideology."
"And what we are confronting is an evil ideology," Blair said. "It is not a clash of civilizations. All civilized people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle, and it is a battle of ideas and hearts and minds both within Islam and outside it. This is the battle that must be won."
Yesterday, British Muslim leaders said it will not be easy to eradicate extremism from within their communities. But Blair -- who called Muslim violence a mockery of true Islam -- said his government will be stepping up its efforts at stamping out extremism, both in Britain and around the world:
"Next week, I and other party leaders will meet key leaders of the Muslim community," Blair said. "Out of it, I hope we can get agreed action to take this common fight forward. But I also want to work with other nations to promote the true face of Islam worldwide."
Blair added that defeating Islamic extremism is the only way to ensures success in the democratic transformation of Muslim countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
His speech came as British investigators are focused on finding out who was behind last week's four suicide bombings, which killed at least 55 people and wounded hundreds more.
Investigators have identified all four suspected bombers. Three of them are Britons of Pakistani heritage who lived in the city of Leeds. That city is also where a British-educated Egyptian biochemist used to live. Magdi el-Nashar was arrested in Cairo yesterday. He is reportedly being questioned in connection with the bombings in the presence of British agents.
El-Nashar has a doctorate from Leeds University and reportedly taught chemistry in the northern English city.
Egypt's Interior Minister is quoted as saying that el-Nashar is not suspected of having links to Al-Qaeda.
El-Nashar denies any wrongdoing. His brother, Mohamed Mahmoud el-Nashar, told reporters in Cairo that his brother could not be guilty.
"My brother came from London very happy, and he was looking for a new flat and wife, and he was only thinking of his study," el-Nashar said. "He is a very normal person."
British newspapers quote police as saying that several kilograms of potentially dangerous chemicals were found in a raid on el-Nashar's rented house in Leeds.
London police chief Ian Blair said authorities are trying to determine whether any of the four suicide bombers -- who ranged in age from 18 to 30 -- had ties with Pakistan-based cells of Al-Qaeda.
In an interview with BBC Radio yesterday, Blair said the inquiry is focusing on finding the organizers of the attacks. He confirmed that police are pursuing a Pakistani connection. At least two of the bombers are believed to have traveled to Pakistan.
Two senior Pakistani intelligence officials said yesterday that authorities are looking into a possible connection between one of the bombers and a man arrested for a 2002 attack on a church near the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.
Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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