Friday 26th June. A truly distressing day, where we saw the inexplicable loss of innocent lives across 3 continents in incomprehensible ways. Our first thoughts, as always, go to the victims and their families in this most difficult of times; our prayers are with them.
Inevitably, we see the barbarism of Islamic extremist ideologies take credit for these atrocities and see the reputation of religion and its followers further damaged once again. What is even more difficult to comprehend is the fact that these atrocities have taken place in the holy month of Ramadan – a time of sincere devotion and reflection for Muslims across the world.
The scenes of shock, despair and sadness we have seen in Tunisia, France and Kuwait prove once again that the perpetrators of such crimes have neither honour nor compassion. Condemnation to this attack does not simply come from a ‘this is not Islam’ standpoint but more emphatically comes from the basis of humanity. The taking of innocent life, irrespective of race, religion and creed remains the ultimate crime. The frequency at which lives are lost in a contemporary world, paints a grim image of a fractured world full of hate, anger and oppression.
With the inevitable pressure and scrutiny placed upon Muslims to respond in light of these attacks, the focus now for Imams and Scholars should be one of opportunity and urgency. British Imams undeniably distance themselves from the actions of extremists but they must now endeavour to focus their energy on coming together to show solidarity against sectarian division and understand the need for constant examples of positive Islam in action. Only through the promotion of positive Islam can we hope to eradicate the power and presence of toxic mindsets such as ISIL and their ilk.
What Imams must also be vigilant about is the sharp rise in anti-Muslim sentiment that follows atrocities such as today. The actions of extremists simply serve to reaffirm the mindset of those on the extreme right that Islam and all its beliefs are evil and an affront to civilised existence. The role of the Imam becomes ever more crucial under these circumstances. British Muslim leadership cannot allow hate and violence to fuel more hate and violence. Imams must work in partnership with others to facilitate dialogue that seeks to break down barriers and increase our understanding of each other.
If this does not happen, we must ask ourselves where this cycle of hatred will take us. As we come towards the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide and we look towards the plight of Rohingyas and Uighurs, we see ominous signs of history repeating itself. The sentiments, the use of language and the dehumanisation all facilitate an environment that will lead to persecution and decades of pain. We must take heed of the lessons of history and work to prevent such evil manifesting.
For now though, let us remember those that have lost their lives in today’s attacks and pray for their families.
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