LONDON — The trust that binds citizens of free societies together was violated last week when suspected Islamist terrorists set off a wave of bombs at the height of London's morning rush hour, killing more than 50 people and injuring 700.
This tragedy follows at least 17 other bombings worldwide linked to Al Qaeda since 2002, according to Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who compiles data on the subject. The planning and execution of last Thursday's bombings indicate that Al Qaeda continues to function efficiently. For the perpetrators of London's attacks to escape the notice of the world's most formidable domestic counterterrorism service before the strikes underscores their resolve and cunning.
Al Qaeda's success in mutating from a centralized terror conglomerate into an amorphous ideology with local, homegrown cells in target countries challenges the big-power thesis of taking the war to the enemy before the enemy arrives on our shores. Most disturbingly, however, Al Qaeda's success defines the central failure within moderate Islam to identify, control, and stamp out its extremists. The enemy, it appears, is already among us. This is why the London bombings represent a milestone for moderate Muslims. They can either stand up now and fight Islam's radical fringes from within or sit haplessly by while Western governments do it for them.
Verbal condemnations and choreographed press releases against terrorist acts, as Britain's Muslim leaders produced last Thursday, are not sufficient.
Real action is needed - and fast.
America's Muslims largely failed to rise up to their citizenship responsibilities after the 9/11 attacks, often choosing instead to play the role of aggrieved victims. Their voices in America's body politic are now marginalized as a result. Indeed, that moderate Muslims everywhere do not take meaningful steps to weed out Al Qaeda's dangerous roots in their communities is a stunning failure of leadership and lies at the heart of the increasing distrust secular societies have for all Muslims.
Britain's Muslims have an opportunity to set an important example by elevating the duties of citizenship above fears of looming civil rights violations.
What to do? The action plan for moderate Muslims is uncomplicated if the political will to combat Islam's extremists from within takes hold. In Britain, three steps would be effective:
• Forbid the use of mosques and other religious institutions to discharge bigotry and hatred. As France has done, Britain should require imams to pass competency exams. Radical preaching must be replaced with knowledge of how the Koran relates to daily life within Britain's secular traditions. Any imam failing to comply should be shown politely to the departure lounge at Heathrow Airport. Those who pass must accept their citizenship responsibilities to become resources for authorities seeking data on criminal elements residing in Britain's Muslim communities.
• Open Britain's Islamic charities to greater financial scrutiny to identify those that fund terrorism. Charities should limit foreign donations to 10 percent of operating budgets and certify that the remaining donors are British citizens who give from taxable, transparent income sources. Stopping the flow of money is key to dismantling Al Qaeda's franchise strategy, where one or two foreign "masterminds" oversee attacks with foreign money and logistical support.
• Form community watch groups made up of Muslim citizens to reclaim Islam from terrorists - groups that are committed to contributing useful information to authorities. Britain's tolerant political environment has transformed it into a haven for militant Islam. Communities joining together to compile and analyze data on Muslim fanatics for use by British authorities in official proceedings is the best way for moderate Muslims to prevent the state's antiterror apparatus from appearing biased or being used inappropriately. It would also be the surest sign that British Muslims take their citizenship as seriously as their religion.
It is hypocritical for Muslims living in Western societies to demand civil rights enshrined by the state and then excuse their inaction against terrorists hiding among them on grounds of belonging to a borderless Islamic community. It is time to stand up and be counted as model citizens before the terror consumes us all.
• Mansoor Ijaz, chairman of New York-based Crescent Investment Management LLC, negotiated Sudan's offer of counterterrorism assistance to the Clinton administration in 1997. A version of this commentary appeared this week in the Financial Times.