LONDON — A day after the detention of eight Muslims by anti-terrorist police, leaders of the country's 2 million Muslims issued a letter Wednesday calling on believers in Britain to shun extremism and political violence.
The statement, signed by the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, was sent to imams, scholars and all other leaders of mosques and Islamic organizations and institutions throughout Britain. The instruction was to be read out at the country's 1,000 mosques Friday.
The council said the letter had been in the works even before Tuesday's arrests and seizure of half a ton of potentially explosive ammonium nitrate, the largest counter-terrorism raid in Britain since just after the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States.
In the letter, the council instructed Islamic leaders to "provide the correct Islamic guidance ... especially to our youth, as to our obligation to maintain the peace and security of our country." They also were asked to "observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community."
"We will not tolerate terrorism," Secretary-General Iqbal Sacranie said.
At the same time, however, the council criticized some news reports related to Tuesday's arrests, particularly headlines about an "Islamic bomb plot."
"This kind of sensationalized reporting has done immense damage to British Muslims as well as to community relations," the council said. It urged Muslims not to "be daunted or intimidated by an Islamophobic propaganda."
Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking in Parliament, said the board's letter was "particularly welcome" at this time.
"The U.K. and its interests abroad remain a terrorist target," he said. "The threat affects every family in this country, Muslim and non-Muslim alike."
The arrests this week, like previous detentions of Britons accused of cooperating in terrorist actions, has caused a certain measure of soul-searching in the country's Muslim community. Some mainstream Muslims have called for curbs on radical groups that they say are tarnishing the image of Islam in Britain.
The radicals -- many of whom came to Britain from other countries -- are alleged to recruit and proselytize among young Muslims, especially those disillusioned about their prospects.
Yasin Rehman, the head of the Council of Mosques in Luton, a suburb north of London with a large population of Pakistani origin, decried groups such as the London School of Sharia, which he said was actively seeking converts to extremism.
"Islam does not allow extremism or radicalism in any form," Rehman said Tuesday on BBC.
Anjem Choudary, a spokesman for Al Muhajiroun, a Sunni Muslim organization whose website calls for the worldwide domination of Islam as an ideology, denied in the same BBC broadcast that his group was involved in violent activity.
Meanwhile, police said only that the eight people taken into custody were being questioned at a high-security police station in London, and they released no new information about the alleged plot.
Ansar Khan, the father of Ahmed Khan, 18, and uncle of Omar Khyam, 22, and Shujah Khyam, 17, confirmed to BBC that the three were arrested in the town of Crawley, near Gatwick Airport, south of London.
Khan said the men were innocent. He described his son as quiet and a good Muslim. He said he had warned him against being overly influenced by the local mosque.