السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَرَحْمَةُ اللهِ وَبَرَكَاتُهُ
It’s been some days now that the Muslim community in Britain faced their most recent test, after the murders that took place in Westminster. Around a week after the event the police have been on record saying the attacker’s motive may never be known and that he appears to have acted alone.
Despite this, in the immediate aftermath of the event it was reported as an act of ‘terror’ motivated by Islam. All manner of speculation followed, with questions about the nature of Islam and the alleged radicalisation of the Muslim community.
In that atmosphere some Muslims felt pressure to condemn the killing – often at a time when the facts are not known. It is not in doubt that killing people in this manner has no basis in Islam, and there maybe a natural desire to distance the beautiful deen of Islam from false accusations.
But many of the condemnations were more like apologetic statements driven by pressure and fear. The problem with this sort of condemnation in the public arena is that it can have damaging consequences.
Firstly, and most importantly, such public condemnations from prominent Muslims actually reinforce the idea that Muslims have something to apologise about – tacitly accepting a collective blame for these actions. Taken as a whole, non-Muslims could even think Muslims have a guilty conscience, which is why they protest their innocence so much.
This reinforces false assumptions about the underlying causes of such violence – and feed into a false narrative exploited by policy makers and Islam-haters that Islamic ideas cause violence. The Prevent strategy practically works on the basis that the more Islamic a person is, the more of a potential threat they are. So such public condemnation by Muslims becomes ammunition against their own community.
We saw this recently, just as we have seen in the past. We heard many voices defend the near-dead Prevent programme, previously described as toxic and policing thoughts, and now politicians lobby for new powers of surveillance.
At their worst, Muslims in fear of being labelled ‘extreme’ start to blame and denounce others who they accuse of being more ‘extreme’ – not merely reinforcing the false narrative, but creating unjustified blame against fellow Muslims.
Secondly, such loud condemnations distract from the real causes of destabilisation in the world: Wars, occupation, oppression, injustice and double standards. There was an obvious disconnection of the apologist from the reality of people living here, whist some muslims continued to apologise for the events of Westminster, the nation itself had moved on to protesting about Brexit. It just goes to show how some Muslims go onto autopilot apology mode even though people are demonstrating about real issues that are life changing for the people.
Thirdly, by not highlighting these factors, we fail our community who feel they have no public voices speaking on their behalf. At the same time that these four people were tragically murdered in Westminster, over two hundred innocent people were murdered in Mosul by US-led airstrikes. How many ‘Muslim leaders’ who publicly condemned the former even commented about the latter? We risk abandoning our duty to our worldwide Muslim brothers and sisters if we ignore their plight in Iraq, Myanmar, Yemen, Somali and Syria – to name but a few places. Are they to suffer in silence and die as mere statistics?
For all these reasons, condemning such actions in a way that is apologetic, unreserved and ill thought out, does more harm than good to our community.
This by no means is the first incident that will be used to mould Islam, nor will it be the last. It is vital we reflect and change our approach. Those who speak on public platforms would do better to remain silent, until they know the facts – and avoid PR – stunts and gimmicks that are meant for the cameras. We should be challenging the lazy and uncritical reporting that blames Islam and Muslims – and exposing the political exploitation of such events.
Finally, we should encourage our community to reach out to non-Muslims they know, to explain the deen of Islam – and resist the natural response to a media attack, which is to retreat. We need to demonstrate our beautiful deen is capable of dealing with the problems that are being created by secular values.
May Allah SWT guide us to what is best, keep us steadfast and save us from scoring more own goals in future.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَقُولُوا قَوْلًا سَدِيدًا يُصْلِحْ لَكُمْ أَعْمَالَكُمْ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ ۗ وَمَن يُطِعِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ فَازَ فَوْزًا عَظِيمًا
“O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak straightforwardly. He will [then] amend for you your deeds and forgive you your sins. And whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained a great attainment.” [Surah 33:70-71]
Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain
5th Rajab 1438/ 2nd April, 2017