British values do not conflict with teachings of Islam

imgID146352864.jpg.galleryTHE new Commission for Countering Extremism has been set up to fight opposition to fundamental British values including respect and tolerance for those with different beliefs.

As the founder of a charity that works to build a more peaceful and cohesive society, I have been bringing people together across religious divides since 1990. So why am I concerned about the creation of an organisation that is intended to play a key role in tackling those whose views threaten to tear society apart?

My parents taught me that Islam is a simple religion. It means ‘submission to God’ (‘Allah’ in Arabic), and those who accept this way of life wholeheartedly are called Muslims. We believe our religion is not a new one – it started with Adam, who was the first man. He was followed by 120,000 more prophets, including Moses, Jesus and finally Muhammad. All of them preached the same thing: submission to the will of Allah.

We believe in five things: that there is only one God and that Muhammad was the last prophet; praying five times a day; fasting for one month of the year; giving part of our wealth to the needy; and, if financially and physically able, going on pilgrimage once in a lifetime.

In addition, and this is critical, my parents taught me that I needed other essential qualities in order to be a Muslim – not necessarily a good one but simply qualifying for the name! These are trustworthiness, truthfulness, standing up for justice and equality between men and women, complying with the law of the land, respecting other people’s beliefs, loving children, honouring and looking after elderly parents and neighbours, and being loyal to any country you call home. These principles are central to the way of life of any true Muslim.



Schools urged to help tackle Islamophobia

_99574283_cathaysislam1Young Muslims in Wales say they have been frequently stared at in public, called “terrorists” at school and been told by strangers to take off headscarves.

It comes as schools have been urged to raise awareness of Islamophobia.

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales Sally Holland is focusing on the harm caused by religious hate crime.

Muslim pupils have shared their experiences to help shape resources for the classroom.

The most recent UK Government statistics showed a 29% rise in hate crimes in England and Wales.

Religious hate crime increased by 35% between 2016-17, during a time when a charity in Wales said teachers from 13 of the 22 local authorities reported incidents of racism in the last year.

Ms Holland said: “I’ve spoken to young Muslims from across Wales who’ve told me that they’re often scared in their communities, that they’ve directly experienced abuse at school, and that they’re tired of the way Islam is often portrayed by the media, and the effect this has on the views of their non-Muslim peers.”

Young Muslims’ views have helped shape the new resources for teachers to use in the classroom.


If we asked young British Muslims what they think about extremism, we might actually be able to tackle the issue

britishmuslimyouthJust this week we saw another young British Muslim, 22-year-old Salman Abedi disgracefully murdering young children, those of whom were his own peers, in an arena in Manchester.

This is not the first time that young people have turned to violence and terrorism. Whether it has been 17-year old Talha Asmal in Dewsbury or the young girls from Bethnal Green who, unbeknown to their parents and peers, concocted a plan to join Isis in Syria. It has all been seen before: “loving, kind, caring” teenagers who all of a sudden become murderers and members of a death cult. Young people that, in the end, vowed to evil methods to express their grievances.

Yet, how many ordinary young British Muslims have we consulted about this issue? Have their voices really been heard on this issue that primarily affects them? Of course, many of those groomed by radicalisation have accepted an ideological pathway that pits themselves against the rest, no matter how inhumane it might be. But could Salman Abedi’s Libyan heritage have been a grievance, caused by a failed British intervention destroying Libya and leaving a power vacuum filled by extremists, as claimed by one of his friends on Radio 4? Could an open dialogue have prevented such a drastic conversion?




‘Our response to hate’: Muslim and Christians’ moving reaction after Britain First stormed bookshop accused of promoting jihad

uk shopDozens have spoken out in support of a bookshop invaded by members of far-right group Britain First, who accused the store of selling literature that promotes Islamic Jihad to children.

Footage published by Britain First showed leader Paul Golding and deputy leader Jayda Fransen alongside ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson storming into the store.

They confront a volunteer working at the shop and accuse him of selling extremist literature, which he forcibly denies, Birmingham Mail reports.

The son of the owner of the store, who did not wish to be named, told the Mirror the ‘invasion’ by Britain First was due to an isolated incident where a book, Bringing Up Children in Islam – which was said to encourage parents to “keep alive in the children the spirit of jihad” – had been sent to the store as a sample and appeared for sale in error.

He said the book had been picked up and put on the shelves by accident,and was not meant to be put on sale. He insisted there were no other books like this in the store.

Christians and Muslims have spoken out in support of the store in Alum Rock, Birmingham, after seeing the footage posted online by Britain First when they confronted staff.

Britain First call themselves a Christian organisation – but their actions drew the ire of the community.

Posting on Twitter, councillor Mariam Khan wrote: “Amazing Easter Sunday spent visiting Islamic bookshops on Alum Rock Rd with Christian neighbours from local Church. Our response to hate.”

And social commentator Waheed Saleem said the West Midlands Police van was visible on the road after an “unwelcome visit” by Britain First.



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.”



Crime-fighting London Jews claim model for Muslim cooperation

afp-crime-fighting-london-jews-claim-model-for-muslim-cooperationLondon (AFP) – The unusual sight of crime-fighting Orthodox Jews pounding the streets of a tough London neighbourhood after dark has captured the attention of grateful locals, but their ongoing protection of local Muslims has seen their profile go global.

The work of the 25-strong “Shomrim” even caught the eye of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who praised the neighbourhood patrol group’s “remarkable courage”.

Members of the Haredi Jewish community in Stamford Hill formed the group — named after the Yiddish word for guards — in 2008 in response to high crime levels.

Police initially feared vigilantism but now cooperate closely with the volunteers, who helped in 197 arrests last year and even apprehending the area’s “most wanted burglar”.

It is Shomrim’s role in helping protect the area’s large Muslim population, however, that has secured its place in the community and garnered international praise.

The group was called upon by local councillors in Hackney, north London, following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists in the British capital in 2013.



Interfaith dialogue requires us to embrace difference

_66643923_muslims_in_churchEarlier this month, a prayer service held by Muslims was conducted in a London church. This week, the local vicar apologised for the “great consternation” and for “any offence” caused. The event and its aftermath, however, goes far beyond the actual service itself, and shows how many people in the West view Muslims with suspicion.

The Anglican Church is today fortunate to have Justin Welby as its head as Archbishop of Canterbury. It was under his stewardship that a Muslim addressed the Church of England Synod late last year. Fuad Nahdi, a Kenyan-Briton, eloquently engaged in a discussion with Mr Welby on the suffering of religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, noting that Muslims had suffered greatly at the hands of ISIL.

It is ironic that a few months later, as part of the response to Muslims praying in the Church of England building in London, others from within the church would respond with such vigour.

Indeed, Fr Martin Hislop of St Luke’s in Kingston said: “At a time when Christian men, women and children are being slaughtered in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Nigeria and elsewhere … it is a scandal and an offence that a clergyman of the Church of England should embrace an act of Islamic worship in a consecrated building.”

Fr Hislop is no doubt within his rights to reject the use of a Church of England building for any type of religious worship outside his own. Not all religious traditions will admit the validity of other faiths.

Nor will all traditions uphold the notion that tolerance necessarily means the holding of religious services within consecrated buildings of other religions.

Indeed, not all faiths have that notion of consecration at all. While Muslims might point to the Prophet Mohammed allowing Christians of Najran to carry out their religious rituals in his own mosque, not all have the same viewpoint – and it would be unlikely that Christians might do the same today. Indeed, while the United Arab Emirates encourages the construction of churches for its Christian residents, not all countries in the GCC do the same.

However, this episode in London goes far beyond notions of religious tolerance and interfaith cooperation.

Such relations do not require some kind of multi-faith unity. Indeed, some might argue that genuine interfaith relations requires the recognition that religions are unique and different.