LONDON: Thousands of Muslims held a rally in London on Saturday in protest against extremism.
The event in Wembley arena was led by Mohammad Tahirul Qadri of Pakistan, who gained recognition outside the Muslim world after he published a detailed fatwa against terrorism and suicide bombings last year.
“I want to address those who are lost, who have a total misconception of jihad. I want to send them a message — come back to normal life. Whatever you’re doing is totally against Islam,” he told the audience, which included families with young children and students.
Some Islamic scholars, including Mr Qadri, have warned that a power vacuum in North Africa and the Middle East could lead to militant and extremist groups gaining ground in upcoming elections caused by the so-called Arab Spring.
“If these elements come into power, it will be a big disaster,” Mr Qadri said. He said his message is primarily aimed at people who are on the edge of being radicalised — not those who had already been “brainwashed”.
His organisation, Minhaj-ul-Quran International, said the event was attended by some 12,000 people and was broadcast to several countries.
Members of the audience said there was no easy way to persuade groups such as Al Qaeda to give up violence. “People are looking for a cause, and the path of violence is the easiest one to take,” said Memoona Naushahi, a 20-year-old university student from Bradford in northern England.
The message of the conference “may reach only people who want to hear it”, she added. But Naushahi and others participants said that promoting a uniting voice such as Mr Qadri’s is a step in the right direction and can spread the right message.
Britain has been involved in some large international terror plots. On July 7, 2005, four suicide bombers killed 52 people in synchronised attacks on London’s subway system.