Imams and Scholars Share Their Thoughts Following Westminster Attack

Following the tragic events that took place in Westminster on Wednesday 22nd March, Imams and Muslim Scholars from across the UK have been sharing their thoughts and sending their condolences to the families of the victims and those still in hospital with injuries.

Imam Adam Kelwick, Muslim Chaplain from Liverpool wrote on his Facebook page,

My response to the London attack: I’m going back to Iraq.

The response of the people of Britain to the London attack has been a breath of fresh air. I have received message after message from my non-Muslim colleagues, family and friends reassuring me that they don’t buy into the “Muslims are terrorists” narrative and a fund has been set up by Muslims to support the families of the victims and has already received over £15,000. As much as possible, it seems like life is back to ‘normal’ in London and I’m sure that ISIS and the few bigoted racists we have amongst us are biting their fingertips in rage at this. At the same time, my thoughts are with the families of the victims who will likely never recovery from this horrid situation.

Then I see a link to a news report which says that 230 civilians lost their lives in airstrikes in Mosul today. 230! Two hundred and thirty! Surely that cannot be justified as “collateral damage” and can be nothing less than a war crime? The worst thing about it is that the people of Mosul are also victims of ISIS, and I know because I was there last month and heard the horror stories for the men women and children who’d fled their homes because of the fighting. We even had to evacuate the city ourselves as a huge explosion t
happened a few hundred meters away from where we were.

Now the difference between the people of Iraq and the people of London is that our government and services will give the victims full supoort and while we have all come together to help the families here, the people in Iraq have lost everything, not only have they been under the occupation of ISIS, but those who have come to ‘liberate’ them often kill more people than the terrorists themselves, as we’ve seen today.

When I was there last month it broke my heart to have to give emergency food packs to people who used to be university professors but now live in a tent in the desert waiting for handout. But it’s the least we can do. The people of Mosul are attacked by ISIS and by those fighting them. When they do leave their homes they find themselves without any help or support and many thousands are going hungry while living in a tent in a makeshift camp with their family not worrying about their lost relatives, damaged house or ruined career, but instead all of their thoughts are to where their children’s next meal will be coming from. I have decided to raise money for emergency food packs and return within the next few days – God willing – to help the people of Mosul. They are victims of the same terror which we saw on the streets of London yesterday, but with no help, no support, no homes and no food.

Please consider supporting this appeal and share with your contacts. This is my response to the attack on London. The link is here:

www.justgiving.com/MosulEmergency

Shaykh Muhammad Nizami, Islamic Scholar at Kingston Mosque wrote,

The London Attack: Saying what needs to be said.

Some time ago I wrote about my city, London. It is a particularly special city (and yes I am biased), its residents include people from hundreds of cultures and languages, and various faiths. In the world we live in, it is one of the greatest examples of a plural city, where residents largely appreciate one another. In the increasingly hostile world we live in, it is a beacon of hope for how things could be when decent and diverse people come together.

Walk through central and hear St Paul’s bells ring out, walk past Regent’s Park or Whitechapel mosques and hear the call to prayer outside. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, and everyone else in this melting pot, chose a Muslim mayor. ‘They’ attacked this Muslim mayor’s city. From one perspective, London reminds me of ancient Jerusalem, when faiths lived together harmoniously. Yes, there’s the occasional disquiet that *inevitably* comes with a diverse group of people navigating their way through their differences, but this is a strength, not a weakness. (Those who use decisive rhetoric, like the odious Tommy Robinson and co. aren’t even from here!) Thus I cannot merely condemn what happened since those who condemn tend to be onlookers: I am personally offended and angered, as the extremist (whatever his inclination) attacked us all by attacking us as a people, and our city. I mourn for the loss of those murdered in cold blood, those who left behind children and family who will never see them again. I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to all.

On a basic level, and not intending to further agenda-based political rhetoric, it *is* true that the extremist sought to attack parliament as a symbolic gesture to attack our democracy, our system of decision-making that has made London the great city it is; a system that has a Muslim as the city’s leader. This was equally an attack on Islam, not merely from the point of misrepresenting religious practice as ordained by God, but by physically attacking us all – Muslims included (I am told that British Muslims equally fled the bridge).

Besides my sincere advocacy for social unity and a sense of belonging, I feel morally compelled to make the following points. Whilst some might ridiculously make them out to be controversial, they theologically ring true and it is high time that the following be said in *unequivocal terms*. Allah says: ‘You who believe, be steadfast in your devotion to God and bear witness impartially…’ (5:8):

– We Muslims are equally the enemies of ISIS, and they are ours, they kill *all* indiscriminately and we are commanded by the Prophet to fight them and resist them. Extremists (in the theological sense) are not of us, we are compelled to theologically disassociate from them. By this I don’t mean takfir, or excommunication, that is a separate theological issue, but I mean it in the sense that the Prophet said: ‘whoever raises a sword against us is not from us’ and ‘whoever cheats us is not from us’ (Muslim). ‘Not from us’ is a social and political rejection of those who seek to harm society as well as bring the faith into disrepute – thus we will continue to reject them until they recant, show remorse, and change their ways, or alternatively until they are completely subdued and overcome. Al-Khallal records that Imam Aḥmad said about the Khawarij: “Do not sell food or clothes to them, and do not buy from them.” He also said, “The Khawarij are renegades, an evil people.”

– The command to ‘enjoin good and forbid evil’ means that it is a religious imperative that we condemn, not only imperialistic designs, but equally (if not more) the acts of those who claim God in their vile and depraved actions. Allah commands it: “Yet when they do something disgraceful, they say, ‘We found our forefathers doing this,’ and, ‘God has commanded us to do this.’ Say: ‘God does not command disgraceful deeds. How can you say about God things that you do not know?’ (7:28) Here the Prophet is ordered to respond and condemn them, and if he were asked by anybody about them, it was his prerogative to make God’s command to condemn perfectly clear. One is not an apologist for speaking the truth about God, in fact, nobody seems to be demanding an apology or condemnation. It is to do so on God’s terms. To make this a sticking point is to be driven by others, to have your narrative shaped by your antagonists – we must act how we want to act in the way God ordained.

– Whilst I’m sure they have no intention to come across like apologists, to pick *this moment* to rant about Muslims dying abroad, or the tragedies of Syria and Iraq, makes you seem like one to wider society by looking like diversionary tactics. Whether it is or isn’t is inconsequential, that’s how society sees it. It also seemingly buttresses the claims of the far-right who attempt to ‘otherise’ Muslims and portray them as separate from their own people, uncaring of their plight. YOU were attacked, at this moment speak like it.

– I have been informed of a number of idiotic messages in circulation, authored by various groups, that somehow manage to bring up the PREVENT strategy, and (seeming to gleefully) anticipate a crackdown on Muslims. People were mercilessly killed yet in their self-centredness and narcissism they make this tragedy about them. Briefly, there are two points:

1) Such groups revel in spreading misery, dejection and fear: they actually have to because it is the only context in which they become relevant. It is only at times of conflict and fear that they pipe up – peace and harmony undermine their recruitment drive. They have no religion so have little to offer beyond. After scaring people in the Muslim community they seek to lift the mantle of leadership and claim to be our champions so that we’ll acquiesce to their narcissistic agenda. They have NEVER been mainstream, never achieved anything for Muslims, and the above tends to be their strategy to acquire some relevance. Beware of such mischief.

2) The statements issued by the PM, the head of London Met Police (and others) have been particularly measured and nuanced, with the far-right and white supremacists (Alt-Right) feeling emboldened it can be very easy to fall into divisive political rhetoric. For their sentiments the Muslim community should commend them and seek to build upon them. Yes, issues such as PREVENT remain to be addressed, but as the Arabic saying goes: لكل مقال مقام (for every statement there is a place/situation), and this certainly isn’t the context to address it. There is a thing known as a self-fulfilling prophecy, an effect in which behaviour, influenced by expectations, causes those expectations to come true. By lauding the authorities for their cohesive statements that reject divisiveness (especially in the era of Trump) and illegitimate blame, we should hope that such expectations will set in motion a productive and positive future. The alternative is that the authorities show nuance and empathy with the Muslim community being targeted by the far-right and we turn around and throw it in their faces.

– We must theologically affirm the following: ANY British Muslim that violently attacks his/her own country and countrymen has acted despicably and treacherously, and God does not guide the scheming of the treacherous (as Joseph put it, see: 12:52). In no way has God legitimated killing and mayhem for those suffering political grievances, in fact, in various chapters of the Quran Allah lays down some explicit duties and responsibilities that believers have to wider non-Muslim society, as well as issuing enlightening guidance on how to positively engage and productively participate. (These are things I hope to expound on in the future.) Those who might share or empathise with the ideas of the attacker (that is if he wasn’t suffering from mental health problems – a likelihood that shouldn’t be discounted), usually those of a criminal past radicalised online by ISIS, deserve to be labelled as treacherous, wicked and unscrupulous, confronted and denounced robustly. For those who suggestively speak of attacks, such should be reported immediately – there is no space for fraternal empathy, ethnic affinity, or doubt – in the shariah it is a moral imperative to prevent harm, and there is no greater evil and harm than illegitimate killing. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that academic discussions on Jihad or political theory be turned into a witch hunt for innocent and unsuspecting Muslims!)

– We should not be caught up in tangential issues when addressing what has happened. It must be addressed robustly, and rejected outright. I will not accommodate any attempt to sideline current events so as to gloss over the type of ideology that attempts to legitimise murder, leads to it, or even tangentially legitimises the acts themselves. This was not war (and the sad inevitability of death that occurs as a result) but murder. All lives across the world are important but situations are not mutually exclusive – for those in London this event is currently most relevant given proximity and context, a principle the shariah repeatedly affirms (if you don’t know this learn about it before commenting.)

I pray Allah keep us all safe, impede the evil ones (whoever and wherever they might be), and make goodness prevail.

Imam Qari Muhammad Asim, chief Imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds, wrote:

“Today, London has witnessed horrific and depraved acts of murder. The terrorist attack was designed to maximize casualties and create terror and chaos at the very heart of the capital and at the home of British democracy.

We must be clear that those who take innocent lives are not following the teachings of any religion and have no regard for any religion or humanity. These depraved terrorists are not following a path to paradise, as the taking of a single innocent life is considered in Islam as being akin to the killing of the whole of humanity.

This vile attack is an attack on all of us, regardless of race or religion. We must stand united against such extreme, evil and distorted ideologies and work together to defeat terrorism in all its forms.

The aim of terrorist attacks such as these is to divide communities and incite hatred amongst people of different beliefs and backgrounds. We have already seen vile opportunists using the victims of the Westminster terrorist attack to spread anti-Muslim hatred. I urge communities to remain united and even more determined to eradicate all forms of terrorism.

I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives at Westminster and express full solidarity with the victims of the terror attack. I convey my sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.”

Suleman Nagdi, head of the Federation of Muslim Scholars, wrote,

We are truly saddened and shocked by the horrific events in central London this afternoon which has seen 4 killed so far (including the alleged perpetrator) and many injured. One of those confirmed dead is a police officer. As events continue to unfold we make an urgent appeal for calm and the need to avoid coming to any conclusions without the full facts having been established first.

We would like to extend our gratitude to the police, security services and emergency services for their prompt and efficient response to the attack. Today was a reminder of the debt we owe to the tireless efforts of our emergency and security services who work every minute to keep us safe.

At this most difficult​ time our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy including the family and friends of the murdered police officer and the murdered innocent bystanders. We hope all the perpetrators of this heinous crime are brought to justice and we stand firmly united with our great country in condemning and abhorring this terrible attack.

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