Exactly nine years after the 7/7 bombings, community leaders in Leeds today said everything possible was being done to discourage the city’s young Muslims from going to fight abroad.
Concern has grown that British Muslims are leaving the country in numbers to take part in conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
But on the ninth anniversary of the London bombings – when three terrorists with links to Leeds were involved in the murders of 52 people – leading Muslims in the city said concerted efforts were being made to prevent the emergence of a new generation of religious extremists.
Qari Asim MBE, imam at Makkah Mosque in Hyde Park, led a group of more than 100 imams nationally who signed an open letter urging British Muslims to stay out of foreign conflicts. He said: “It’s a huge concern in the Muslim community that some British Muslims are being radicalised and falling prey to extremist divisions which is why the mosques are doing all they can to make a loud and strong statement.
“If British Muslims who go out to Syria think they are taking part in a holy war, they are wrong.”
Leeds came under the spotlight in the wake of 7/7 when it emerged three of the four bombers came from the city.
Ringleader Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, a married father-of-one and teaching assistant, was raised in Beeston. Graduate Shehzad Tanweer, 22, was born in Bradford but lived most of his life in Beeston. Student Hasib Mir Hussain, 18, grew up in Holbeck.
Coun Asghar Khan, who has been a Beeston resident for 34 years, said: “There was a sense of shock and horror when we found out. Beeston has come out of the shadows now. We have learned a lot from 7/7 and don’t want to see anything like that again.”
He said young Muslims were being left in no doubt about their responsibilities: “We should abide by the law of this country – you can protest in lawful ways. The imams are giving clear messages that you should not go to Syria and that is getting out.”
Chief Supt Paul Money, commander of Leeds police, said: “We can never afford to be complacent about the influence of extremism or the threat from terrorism.
“It is vital that the police and local people continue to work together to build strong and resilient communities that are capable of resisting those who seek to divide them.”