It seems lately that the only voice of Islam which is heard, comes from terrorist organisations. It’s time that ordinary Muslims spoke out and defended the truth
With extremist groups such as ISIS, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram claiming their actions to speak for Islam, the voice of the majority of Muslims who condemn these actions also needs to be expressed more widely.
Recent terrorist attacks
The 26th of June marked a devastating day in recent history; labelled by the mainstream media as ‘Bloody Friday’.
In Tunisia 38 victims, including 30 British tourists, were killed during an attack on a local beach. The self-proclaimed IS (Islamic State) acknowledged gunman Rezgui, currently the only known attacker, as having allegiance to the terrorist organisation.
There were also emerging reports on the same day of militant extremist Islamic group, Al-Shabaab, killing 30 people in an African Union military base in Somalia.
In another attack, a Shia mosque in Kuwait was bombed during Friday prayers. Shias have been the most prominent target for ISIS following the removal of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and Kuwait happens to be home to one of the largest Shia minorities in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The aim of ISIS
ISIS made its plans clear three days prior to the attack calling for those aligned with the movement to launch strikes during Ramadan. Spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani released a speech in June claiming it would lead to ‘greater blessings in the afterlife’.
ISIS, also known as ISIL, is a terror organisation which has frequented the news a lot recently. This organisation is self-proclaimed – in spite of the active condemnation of the United Nations, various governments, and mainstream Muslim groups worldwide – as being a Caliphate and Islamic State. In declaring these things it claims to be the overarching religious, political and military authority over all Muslims worldwide.
There were 120 Members of Parliament who signed the letter declaring that the term ‘Islamic State’ used by media outlets only adds to the idea of its legitimacy as a terrorist group. In particular the BBC decided to review its use of the phrase. In an interview Prime Minister David Cameron stated on BBC Radio 4:’I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State because it’s not an Islamic state … What it is, is an appalling, barbarous regime … It’s a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme will recoil every time they hear the words ‘Islamic State”.
Despite the condemnation by Parliament to use the term ‘Islamic State’ when referring to ISIS, many prominent broadcasters continue to use it. This is much to the disappointment of those who strongly disagree with the association of this particular militant group and a system of governance under Sharia law.
In the name of Allah
After the incident in Tunisia – a country with a 99 per cent Sunni Muslim population – citizens responded by actively condemning the terror attacks. It emerged early on in the investigation that beach crews and hotel staff had been willing to take bullets for the guests in the hotel, by joining hands and making a protective barrier. The BBC published a collection of interviews with residents of the hotel who actively thanked the staff for their act of bravery.
The day after the attack, the BBC published a photo of Tunisians donating blood to help victims. Furthermore a Facebook post published by Brotherhood in Islam shows photos of two brothers from Sousse in traditional Islamic clothing placing flowers and apology notes at the scene of the crime.
In an interview with the Guardian, Mohammed Dabbou, beach craft manager of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, said bluntly: ‘I wanted to kill him. My Qur’an, my prophet Muhammad, they say that I must protect these people who are my guests. This is the real Islam, not this terrorism. That’s why I said [to the attacker] “kill me if you want”‘.
These responses are remarkably similar to the words expressed in the #notinmyname campaign following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris; and prior to that, in the murder of David Haines and kidnapping of Alan Hemming. A Twitter campaign was originally launched by British Muslims who used the hashtag to speak up – either to defend Islam and say sorry or to actively explain why they have no need to apologise.
Within the UK there are steps being taken at a governmental level to prevent extremism in jails and universities. The Counter-Terrorism Act requires local councils to make checks on the use of their public buildings, internet filters and any unregulated out of school settings. Prison governors will also be expected to conduct cell-sharing risk assessments and induction interviews. As stated in the guidance: ‘[c]ontact with prisons’ chaplaincy should take place, particularly for those whose initial assessments cause concern … The chaplain’s initial assessment should seek to establish longevity and knowledge of faith and look for any indication that the prisoner endorses extremist ideology or supports terrorism’.
Nazir Afzal makes a prominent point that in the midst of these atrocities the leaders and role models within Islam have remained largely silent. Despite having 13 Muslim MPs in the UK, including 8 women, they each care to speak more for their constituents than their faith. In addition ‘Imams, with a few excellent exceptions, don’t see their role as anything more than prayer and looking after a building’. It’s clear these voices matter. It is the outspoken views of religious authorities and collective campaigning of everyday Muslims which has the power to deter and dissuade individuals from joining more extreme or radical movements which they think speak the truth.
There is no obligation for anyone to feel the need to defend their religious beliefs. Yet, however unfortunate, it seems that whoever shouts the loudest is heard the most.