At first sight, his hair and neatly trimmed short beard hint at professional styling at an expensive men's hair salon in London. His sports jacket could have come off the rack on Saville Row, and his open collar shirt might be a pricier Izod. In the background are well-stocked bookshelves, and they, together with his benign demeanor, suggest the career of perhaps an assistant director of the Royal Shakespeare Festival, or a market analyst, or a symphony conductor. There is a certain rugged air in his manner; one might guess that perhaps he participates, in his free time, as a fully kitted Cavalier or Roundhead during reenactments of battles of the English Civil War of the 1640's.
This is Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, 52, the new secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain and chairman of the East London mosque. He has a Ph.D. in physics from King's College London (according to the Daily Telegraph; the BBC News profile, however, claims he is a behavioral specialist with a PH.D. from the same school), and a management degree from the Open University. Before earning those he trained as an engineer in the Bangladeshi air force.
He was born in Bangladesh and emigrated to Britain in 1979. He is the author of several books, among them Race, Religion and Muslim Identity in Britain, Building Muslim Families, and The Greatest Gift: A Guide to Parenting. He was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 2003. He is active in various other Muslim civic councils and groups, and was president of the Islam Forum Europe. According to BBC News, he is also on the organizing committee for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
He is influential in British "social" politics, getting phone calls from Downing Street, politicians, and other quarters on Muslim matters. He is credited with helping multiculturalist, anti-British George Galloway win a seat in Parliament by urging East End Muslims to vote. "We want to help fight hooliganism," he told the Sunday Telegraph, "drugs and broken families; we want the British to become better neighbors. Muslims can give and teach Britain so much: looking after the elderly, enduring marriages, respect, strong faith, no alcohol."
And no short skirts, premarital sex and cohabitation, either. He echoes the moral agenda of the staunchest Christian Republicans in the U.S. Bari is ostensively patriotic. When British football teams play, he and his family "always fly the flag."
All in all, Bari appears to be the elusive "moderate" Muslim sought by those who believe that Western civilization and Islam can coexist peacefully.
"I joined the air force because I was good at school," he said during a Daily Telegraph interview (June 6, 2006) shortly after his election to the Muslim Council. "A few years after my training in Britain, I realized I was a better academic than a pilot. I got a scholarship to do a Ph.D. in physics at King's College London. I taught in Haringey - that was tough. But I liked it here: the cool weather, the easy nature of the British. This is my home."
A droll enough observation.
"Our religion teaches us to be good neighbors and friends. Any group or religion has one or two people who are bad. But now we are all seen as the enemy." And on September 9 he told the Sunday Telegraph, "There are a few bad apples in the Muslim community who are doing terrible acts and we want to root them out. We want to isolate the bad people and put them in the dock. But we all have to work together to do that."
"Work together." Also an innocuous observation, except that it imputes a separatist premise that puts Muslims at odds with the rest of Britain. But, separatism is not on Bari's mind. As the Muslim Council's new secretary-general, he will maintain that organization's opposition to racial and religious profiling at airports and the government's anti-terrorist legislation, and continue its call for a law that would ban incitement to religious hatred. (Which, in practice, would mean a law that muzzles critics of Islam, whose words might cause Muslims to express their hatred in demonstrations and violence. Muslims, of course, could continue to excoriate non-believers with impunity, as they do now, all over the world.)
"His aim," reports the Daily Telegraph interview, "will be to encourage Britain to adopt more Muslim ways, as well as to encourage Muslims to be good British citizens. He thinks that non-Muslim Britons would benefit from having arranged marriages and espousing stronger family values; they would also do well to stop drinking and gambling and to follow many of the teachings of Islam."
And become half-caste Muslims? What a scheme for incremental submission to Islam and Sharia law! The grinning mask of Janus is beginning to come into focus.
What bothers Bari most is what he calls the "demonization" of Muslims in Britain. He told the Telegraph that he sensed a mood of "anxiety, frustration and, especially among young people, anger." "The young are the dynamic section of society and there are many issues facing young Muslims - including alienation, deprivation, frustration, and, in a small section, there is extremism," he told the BBC.
One would like to pose this question to Dr. Bari: If Muslims have caused such a magnitude of death and carnage over the last five years, sanctioned by the Koran in a declared war against Western civilization, wouldn't it be logical to "demonize" Muslims? When Nazi Germany blitzed Britain in WWII, wasn't it logical for Britons to "demonize" Nazis?
"He did not understand why 'the whole of our diverse [Muslim] community' was being targeted," reports the Sunday Telegraph. Bari said, "When the IRA was blowing people up, the entire Catholic population of Britain was not demonized, so why is it happening to the Muslim community?"
Such a diverting, fatuous query deserves a retort. The entire Catholic population of Britain was not demonized because the IRA had no totalitarian agenda, nor had the Catholic Church in Britain. The IRA was waging terrorism - on military music schools, on the Household Cavalry on parade, on commuter trains, on Protestants and Catholics alike, in Ireland and in Britain - in order to end British rule in Northern Ireland. I am certain that Dr. Bari knows this, but has counted on no one else making the distinction between the separatist aims of the IRA and the one-way assimilation agenda of British Islam.
Bari blames the news media and the police for "contributing to the rise of Islamophobia." If Islamophobia is on the rise, can anyone not a Muslim be blamed, especially if the murders and carnage are committed in the name of Islam?
The partnering tragic mask of Janus now pops into view. "If that demonization continues," Bari told the Sunday Telegraph, "then Britain will have to deal with two million Muslims terrorists - 700,000 of them in London. If you attack a whole community, it becomes despondent and aggressive."
Come again? Who is attacking whom? Who is being aggressive? In the name of what creed? Is that a threat? Or a promise?
Of course, Bari had something to say about Pope Benedict XVI's recent citation from a medieval text about the nature of Islam, in which a 14th century Byzantine emperor asked a Persian Muslim: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
The September 16 edition of the Daily Telegraph reports Bari saying, "the Pope was regurgitating the words of a bigot."
"One would expect [the Pope] to repudiate the Byzantine emperor's views in the interests of truth and harmonious relations between Islam and Catholicism," he said.
No evidence of dissemblance there.
Well, there you have it. Both masks of Janus. There are no reports of what "moderate" Dr. Bari has to say about the violent demonstrations, death threats and promises of retribution against Benedict and Catholics in general by all those "alienated, frustrated, and angry" Muslims in Britain and abroad. All of which serve to second Emperor Manuel II Paleologus's "bigoted" motion that Islam is not so much despondent as aggressive. Bari's silence is deafening.
Never mind what the behind-the-scenes managers and stagers of all those "spontaneous" demonstrations around the globe say or think (the ones who apparently have stockrooms full of infidel national flags ready to burn, and prepared placards and banners in English ready to hoist and wave for the cameras). It would be interesting to hear how "moderate" Dr. Bari would suavely answer these questions: Why is Islam so bothered by an infidel telling the truth? Does not Mohammad advocate spreading Islam by the sword? Or is it Benedict's (or Paleologus's) characterization of Islam's means and ends as "evil" and "inhuman" that has riled all those "good neighbors and friends"?
Do Muslims protesteth too much?
To iterate: While the Koran repeatedly urges the faithful to kill infidels who do not submit, Muslims are feigning indignation, claiming that the Pope's indirect identification of that fact is an insult worthy of murder, the destruction of Catholic churches, and a special jihad against Christians.
No killer likes being labeled a killer. Misunderstood, perhaps. Frustrated. Angry, or oppressed, or deprived, or a victim of imagined persecution, or despondent, or temporarily insane. But never a killer, even if he confesses to killing.
It would be difficult to find a more perfect instance of why Islam is closed to reason, and why it cannot be open to civilized "dialogue," something Pope Benedict's statement was intended to initiate. Every inconsistency or contradiction in Islam, if revealed by a non-believer, would be rebuffed by Muslims, as well as any truth - such as the ongoing jihadist infidelicide - that conflicted with Islam's posturing as a "peaceful" creed ready to coexist with other creeds.
Dr. Bari doubtless would deny that "radical Islam" is a redundancy, but he would agree with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who during an ABC interview on September 19th, asserted that Islamic fundamentalist "extremism" is "the perversion of a great religion." And, he was probably heartened by President Bush's remark, during his address to the U.N. the same day, that the U.S. "is not at war with Islam."
Pardon me, Mr. President, but, yes, it is. At least it is with Islamic totalitarianism. And Dr. Bari is one of numerous soft-soapers who can help make that horror possible. One must wonder how many of his disingenuous ilk are active in the U.S.