I’m a British Muslim man of the same age as the London and Manchester terrorists – and I know why we turned out so different

khuram-butt-jihadis-next-door-abzI am the same age as Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber, and almost the same age as the recently named London Bridge terrorists; I also profess to be of the same faith. Thankfully, these are the only two things we have in common. As well as studying medicine at university, I currently serve as the president of the UK Ahmadiyya Muslim Students Association. I spend a lot of my time working to organize interfaith dialogues and peace conferences. So how exactly did we turn out so different? And could knowing the answer to this help reduce the numbers of young people being brainwashed into extremism?

The primary answer to this is education. Even in childhood, I always asked questions about my religion – and as I grew up, I had access to imams and elders ready to answer them. I was free to challenge them, to ask the toughest and most sensitive questions about the most “controversial” aspects of Islam.

Through this process I learnt that Islam teaches there is no compulsion in religion, that taking even a single life is equivalent to killing to the whole of mankind, and that saving a life is equivalent to saving the whole of humanity. I learnt that the concept of jihad is not about spreading religion through force, but about struggling against one’s own evil desires in order to reform oneself and become a pure-hearted, decent individual.

I learnt that the Prophet Mohammed taught that loyalty to one’s nation of residence is part of one’s faith, reinforced by the fact that at least once a year at our religious functions we publicly make the pledge to serve our country whenever required. I learnt about the role of charity in Islam, and what the Qur’an calls the “steep ascent” – the true means of attaining nearness to God: “It is the freeing of a slave, or feeding in a day of hunger, an orphan near of kin, or a poor man lying in the dust.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

The battle for the soul of British Islam

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Fresh arrivals to any country feel blind and weakened: they seek jobs, housing and familiarity. Newcomers yearn for memories of their old nation state – Italian olive oil, south Indian dosas or Turkish kanafeh. Laws that appear foreign, and values that were never particularly strong at home, are slowly adopted through experience and navigation. Faith provides a shelter from tumultuous change.

In recent years, in no regard has the narrative about immigration and values proved more volcanic than in addressing the role of Muslims. Three new books attempt to cast a light on modern Islam’s contract with the West. Letters to a Young Muslim is a collection of missives written by the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia to his elder son, Saif, now aged 16. The author, Omar Saif Ghobash, was six years old when his own father, the UAE’s first foreign minister, was shot and killed by a teenage Palestinian assassin at Abu Dhabi International Airport in 1977. The intended target was the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad’s foreign minister, who was visiting the UAE; the 19-year-old gunman was later executed.

Ghobash’s book is part memoir and part instructional guide to the liberal values he would like to see flourish in conservative Islamic societies. He gives special prominence to educated imams, higher education and a greater tolerance of antithetical views. In the 40th-anniversary year of his father’s death, Letters to a Young Muslim is also a synthesis of grief and purpose. As he writes, “For me . . . it has been impossible to leave my father behind. I have carried his memory with me through the years, always imagining what he might have said to me, or done in my place.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW STATESMAN 

Muslims and Christians team up to help homeless

muslims-and-christiansFaith groups are working together to care for street sleepers and other vulnerable people in the run-up to Christmas.

Muslim and Christian groups in Britain are joining forces to help the country’s homeless and other vulnerable groups during the Christmas period.

Organisations including Muslim Aid, the Al-Khair Foundation, Streetlytes, and churches across the English capital of London are expanding their efforts by providing meals and shelter packs to rough sleepers.

Their aim is to make sure those most in need are protected from cold weather and hunger during the holidays when many shops and services are closed or operating at reduced capacity.

More than 100 homeless people attended a Christmas dinner event organised by the groups at the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.


READ MORE: UK families open doors to refugees


Alongside the seasonal staple of Turkey, volunteers dished out servings of South Asian dishes such as biryani.

“As Muslims, Islam teaches us that we can’t go to bed on a full stomach while our neighbour goes hungry,” said the Al-Khair Foundation’s Syed Hussain, as he managed a stall stacked with containers full of food.

“We’re working with people of all different backgrounds to show that Muslims care and we want to solve the problems facing everyone, not just our own.”

Streetlytes volunteer Chris Hatch, a Presbyterian priest, explained that while many of those working to help the homeless were religious, the project was not “inherently faith-based”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

Muslim-owned restaurant offers elderly and homeless free meals on Christmas Day so ‘no one eats alone’

muslim-christmas-restaurantA Muslim-owned restaurant in London is offering a three-course meal to
homeless and elderly people on Christmas Day so that “no one eats alone”.

Shish Restaurant, in Sidcup, is asking local residents to spread the word of its offer and has put up posters saying “We are here to sit with you” on 25 December.

The restaurant urged people to share its plan through social media – where the initiative was widely praised.

Vicky Lanfear wrote on Facebook: “This is the most selfless gesture I have ever seen and they should be recognized as a pillar of the community.”

Suzannah Harris added: “What a lovely gesture; a restaurant that gives something back instead of merely seeing Xmas as a time to cash in. Will definitely visit in the new year if ever in the area.”

Linda Leach wrote: “There is still kindness in this world. Amazing people.”

The gesture also received a positive reaction on Twitter, where one user posted: “A wonderful gesture. Now that’s REAL community spirit! God Bless them.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

‘Good Muslims’ or ‘Good citizens’: how Muslim women feel about integration

UK muslimsA great many things have been said about Muslims as UK citizens, mainly by non-Muslims. The prime minister, David Cameron, believes that if more Muslim women became proficient in English, for example, it would help beat extremism and terrorism. Meanwhile, Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, says that UK Muslims “See the world differently from the rest of us”.

Phillips also presented a controversial Channel 4 programme called What British Muslims Really Think, which put across the message that Muslims are more conservative than the majority population and don’t want to integrate into wider society.

The debate is often highly intemperate – and both Muslim and non-Muslim voices alike have suggested it contributes to further stigmatisation of an already marginalised and disadvantaged Muslim population. In this highly politicised climate, the relationship between Islam and citizenship has also come under scrutiny by Citizens UK, a charitable voluntary organisation with churches, mosques and unions among its members.

In July 2015, Citizens UK launched its Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life headed by conservative MP Dominic Greave. Greave somewhat unfortunately framed the Commission’s work as aiming to “help tackle extremism”.

The commission is holding a series of public hearings throughout the UK, asking Muslims to speak about barriers to their participation in society but also asking how “the Muslim community” can improve its participation. Although commendable for speaking with and soliciting views from Muslims around the country, there is also a problem with the approach chosen by Citizens UK, in that it only focuses on the Muslim population. In a febrile political atmosphere, it risks legitimising the isolation of Islamic faith and the prejudiced idea that Muslim citizens in Britain are uniquely problematic and a “one-voice” community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM UK ECONOTIMES 

Sadiq Khan Is Elected Mayor of London

SUB-JP-BRITAIN-master768LONDON — Sadiq Khan, a son of a bus driver from Pakistan, was declared the winner of London’s mayoral election on Saturday, becoming the first Muslim to lead Britain’s capital at a time of rising Islamophobia in the West.

The victory of Mr. Khan, a former human rights lawyer and a Labour member of Parliament, makes him one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the West. It was also his party’s biggest boost in a series of elections on Thursday in which Labour further lost its grip on Scotland, once a stronghold, and clung, in some cases just barely, to seats in England and Wales.

Mr. Khan won with 56.8 percent of the vote, versus 43.2 percent for Mr. Goldsmith. The results were not final until Saturday morning because in London’s system voters are allowed a first and second preference, and Mr. Khan had not won an outright majority in the first round.

London, a global center of finance, is hardly representative of Britain: About a quarter of its residents are foreign-born, and an eighth are Muslim. And Mr. Khan is not the first Muslim to win a prominent office in Europe: Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, has had a Muslim mayor since 2009, and a Muslim Conservative lawmaker, Sajid Javid, is the British secretary of state for business.

Nonetheless, Mr. Khan, 45, won a striking victory after a campaign dominated by anxieties over religion and ethnicity. Britain has not sustained a large-scale terrorist attack since 2005, and its Muslim population, in contrast to France, is considered well assimilated. But an estimated 800 people have left Britain to fight for or support the Islamic State. Dozens of assaults on British Muslims were reported after the Paris terrorist attacks in November.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

An ‘Unholy War’ against Muslims?

The Anglican communion has produced a number of thoughtful reflections on Christian-Muslim relations  a through their UK- based “Christian-Muslim Forum.”   This is one of the pieces the forum produced reflecting on religiously-motivated violence.

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One of the terrible features of our world is how globalisation can bring the worst of international conflict to our doorsteps. Lee Rigby, a British soldier wearing a ‘Help for Heroes’ shirt, was murdered by a man who claimed to be acting in retaliation for attacks on women and children  in ‘Muslim countries’ (though people have religion, not countries).

An innocent man died in a peaceful part of London. A religion – which explicitly tells its followers not to start wars or attack the innocent – was wrongly implicated in this attack. This connection between religion and murder was comprehensively condemned by numerous Muslim organisations, some of them represented in Woolwich a week later. It took very little time for these organisations to respond, mourn for the victim, show solidarity with his family and the local community, call for peace and show us what Islam should really look like.

Nevertheless, almost immediately there was a backlash against British Muslims and mosques around the country. We know that the Woolwich attackers had not come from the local mosques – they were not welcome there. The Muslim community and the mosques were not connected with the murder of Lee Rigby. Yet individuals and extreme Right organisations began to target Muslims, mirroring the inhumane actions of those who have hijacked Islam for violent purposes: violence against women, hate-filled messages, fire bombing places of worship and burning down an Islamic centre in Muswell Hill, north London. We have seen similar attacks against Christians in Nigeria and Egypt. We reiterate that violent attacks are neither Christian nor Muslim.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM FORUM BLOGSITE