Religious leaders unite in condemnation of Finsbury Park attack

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Muslim leaders have reacted to the attack in Finsbury Park, north London, with shock, condemnation and calls for security at mosques to be stepped up. Many also said the backdrop of the attack was rising Islamophobia.

Support also came from Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders.

The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack near the Muslim Welfare House. Harun Khan, the MCB’s secretary general, said: “It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia. Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date.

“Given we are approaching the end of the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid, with many Muslims going to local mosques, we expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency.”

Muslim communities wanted “transformative action … to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia”, he added.

The Muslim Association of Britain said it unreservedly condemned “this evil terror attack” and called on police to increase security in mosques.

It demanded politicians “treat this major incident no less than a terrorist attack. We call on the government to do more to tackle this hateful evil ideology which has spread over these past years and resulted in an increase of Islamophobic attacks and division of our society, as well as spreading of hate.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

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)

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?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT 

 

I Am a Member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Not a Terrorist

23haddad-master768TORA, Egypt — I write this from the darkness of solitary confinement in Egypt’s most notorious prison, where I have been held for more than three years. I am forced to write these words because an inquiry is underway in the United States regarding charges that the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization to which I have devoted years of my life, is a terrorist group.

We are not terrorists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s philosophy is inspired by an understanding of Islam that emphasizes the values of social justice, equality and the rule of law. Since its inception in 1928, the Brotherhood has lived in two modes: surviving in hostile political environments or uplifting society’s most marginalized. As such, we have been written about, spoken of, but rarely heard from. It is in that spirit that I hope these words find light.

We are a morally conservative, socially aware grass-roots movement that has dedicated its resources to public service for the past nine decades. Our idea is very simple: We believe that faith must translate into action. That the test of faith is the good you want to do in the lives of others, and that people working together is the only way to develop a nation, meet the aspirations of its youth and engage the world constructively. We believe that our faith is inherently pluralistic and comprehensive and that no one has a divine mandate or the right to impose a single vision on society.

Since our inception, we have been engaged politically in the institutions of our country as well as socially to address the direct needs of people. Despite being the most persecuted group under former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule in Egypt, our involvement in the Parliament, either in coalitions with other political groups or as independents, is a testament to our commitment to legal change and reform. We spoke truth to power in an environment full of rubber-stamp parties. We worked with independent pro-democracy organizations against plans to hand the presidency to Mr. Mubarak’s son. We also worked closely with an array of professional syndicates and labor unions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Whose extremism? Using the phrase ‘Islamic extremism’ — or not.

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Donald Trump is very clear on the subject: If President Barack Obama doesn’t use the words “radical Islamic terrorism” to discuss the brutal killings in Orlando, “he should immediately resign in disgrace!”

Most Republicans seem to agree that it’s essential to link Islam to the tactics and goals of extremists and terrorists. Nebraska’s Republican Sen. Benjamin Sasse (no fan of Trump) to Obama: “You’re wrong. Telling the truth about violent Islam is a prerequisite to a strategy.” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted that Obama “shows a total disconnect from the problems we face in confronting/defeating radical Islam.” GOP strategist Ed Rogers wrote that the president’s refusal to refer to “radical Islam” was “a remarkable display of arrogance and tone-deaf rhetoric.”

Hillary Clinton has decided to do an end run around the issue. “Radical jihadist, radical Islamism, I think they mean the same thing. I’m happy to say either, but that’s not the point.” For her, the challenge is to go after the perpetrators of hateful crimes without tarring an entire religion — or being distracted by a rhetorical sideshow.

Let’s say Trump and his allies are right — that it’s important to label the religious underpinnings of those who seek to kill innocents; that when a killer calls on religion to justify his actions, let’s identify that religion for all to see.

But can we really stop with Islam?

Take Robert Dear, the deranged man who in November took a semiautomatic rifle into a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo. He killed three and wounded nine. His motivation? To be “a warrior for the babies.”

Dear is not just an extremist: He is a “Christian extremist.” He called his anti-abortion activism “God’s work.” He dreamed that “(w)hen he died and went to heaven, he would be met by all the aborted fetuses at the gates of heaven and they would thank him …” He sprinkled his confession to the police with Bible phrases.

To understand Dear, don’t we have to understand the Christian teachings this Christian extremist believed he was upholding?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Orlando Shooting: Talking Points

Men hug during a vigil in a park following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando Florida

Men hug during a vigil in a park following a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando Florida, U.S. June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri – RTX2FURO

A site called “ReThink:  Media for Security, Rights and Democracy” has just published a page of “talking points” that can be used to counter the simplistic Islamophobic blaming that has already begun to fill our airwaves.  It’s important that people of conscience give this kind of thoughtful response to the distortions.

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Talking Points and Resources

  • This terrible attack is rightly called a ‘hate crime.” No hate crime can be tolerated against any community, ever. All of us must stand together in denouncing prejudice directed at any group.
  • All Americans, and indeed all people, should be able to live their lives without fear of being targeted for their sexual preference, their faith, or the color of their skin.
  • The LGBTQ community has stood side by side with the American Muslim community during challenging and difficult times.  We stand together against hatred, violence and demonization of entire communities, and we honor the experiences and work of  LGBTQ Muslims, who are living at the intersections of their LGBTQ identities and Islam. Today, we stand in solidarity with them and the entire LGBTQ community. [Credit: Adapted from Muslim Advocates statement]
  • The gun used in this horrific shooting was an AR -15, the same weapon used in the tragedies at San Bernardino and Sandy Hook. This is a pattern that cannot be allowed to continue. There have been 134 mass shootings this year alone. We need to come together as Americans and put an end to this ongoing tragedy.
  • Religious, civic, and political leaders of every variety should stand together to denounce prejudice or violence that is directed at any group. Politicians who seek to exploit this tragedy demonstrate that they are not fit for leadership in this country, and their exploitation should be renounced. Our strength is our unity.
  • Whatever warped justification the shooter may have claimed, his actions are a hate crime. He alone bears responsibility for this terrible crime. His family, his faith, and his community do not. Every religious tradition explicitly condemns the killing of innocent people, but murder knows no faith.

FULL LIST FOUND HERE 

I’m a Muslim, not a terrorist. So why did the NYPD spy on me for years?

elshinawy_240x180_61454638842A couple of weeks after I began lecturing on Islam at New York City mosques, something strange happened. Acquaintances and congregants told me they’d been approached by law enforcement officers who asked about me and my talks. Soon after, I began to notice suspicious people in the audiences. One gentleman stood out — he was the most frequent attendee, but he regularly fell asleep while I spoke.

It was 2003. I was enrolled at Brooklyn College, studying English literature. I’d grown up in New York and loved the city. But I’d also seen the way Muslims were discriminated against, particularly after Sept. 11, 2001. In the year after the attacks, hate crimes spiked tenfold. I wanted to encourage Muslims to stay strong in their faith in spite of these assaults. I spoke on theology and visiting the sick, on skepticism and the sinful pursuit of instant gratification, on the gravity of injustice and the vastness of God’s mercy.

I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I consistently rejected violence and terrorism in my lectures. Still, for a decade, I felt like I was under surveillance, pursued by shadowy law enforcement officials seeking out a crime that didn’t exist.

In 2013, my fears were confirmed. I found out from an Associated Press investigation that I was a victim of the New York Police Department’s aggressive surveillance of Muslims. After 9/11, the NYPD began to track large swaths of us. Officers secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorist organizations, then spied on imams and recorded sermons. The department conducted at least a dozen of these “terrorism enterprise investigations” since 2001, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing and minimal oversight from judges. No charges were ever brought as a result of the activities of the so-called “demographics” unit.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST