From Dewsbury to Tunisia – Do “We” have a Problem?

Britain has had a truly challenging and wholly distressting June 2015.

In early June, Britain heard the devastating news that a 17 year old from Dewsbury, Talha Asmal, had gone to Syria some three months earlier and become Britain’s youngest suicide bomber when he blew up a vehicle fitted with explosives in northern Iraq. Later, we heard that three Muslim mothers with their nine children, aged between 3-15 years old, had fled from Bradford to Syria to join ISIL.

On Friday 26th June, the lives of innocent civilians were snatched away by terrorists across 3 continents with attacks taking place in Tunisia, Kuwait, Somalia and France. The fact that these horrific attacks were committed on the Islamic Sabbath, Friday and in the sacred month of Ramadan – a time of sincere devotion and reflection for Muslims across the world – shows the terrorist’s complete disregard for God and for humanity.

The taking of innocent life, irrespective of race, religion and creed remains the ultimate crime in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) says of individuals like suicide bombers that they will remain “in the fire of Hell forever and ever“. These terrorists, through their actions, have once again shown that they are the enemies of Islam, the enemies of humanity and the enemies of universal values of peace, justice and compassion.

Despite the fact that Islamic ideology and the terrorists’ deluded, poisonous ideology are completely contrary to each other, there seems to be a common misconception that Islamic theological ideas are the root cause of turning a young person from West Yorkshire, Europe, the Middle East and Africa into a suicide bomber or militant jihadist.

This misconception prevents us from looking at the root causes of radicalisation; it points us in the wrong direction when looking at how to prevent such terror. There are countless millions of devout Muslims across the globe. There are hundreds and thousands of young British Muslims who live, pray and contribute to British society. If Islam was a violent religion, they would have all turned into radicals and terrorists. This proves that unless all the factors leading to radicalisation are critically analysed and solutions are sought to deal with those factors, simply focusing on Islam or repeatedly asking Muslims to do more will not achieve a sustainable solution. It is not the religion that creates terrorists; it is the politics, political dominance and financial gain that are producing them.

Whilst Islam and terrorist groups such as ISIL have nothing to do with each other, the sad reality is that numerous besieged cities across the Muslim world are now wrapped in a fog of absolute terror and afflicted by devastating and horrific massacres; there are no words that can describe what has been lost in those cities and countries.

Historic junctures such as these offer an opportunity to ask critical questions of ourselves. Why are so many new extremist groups arising and using the name of Islam to materialise their ill-thought aims? Who are the people indoctrinating young individuals to join ISIL, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Taliban and so on? What steps are being taken to prevent young people being wrongly indoctrinated? Is it a lack of tolerance amongst some so-called ‘leaders’ that is either turning the new generation into violent individuals or turning them away from Islam? Is it an inability to create great intellectual and cultural creativity on the part of religious leadership which results in the emergence of self-styled “shaykhs”?

There are so many other questions that the religious and political Muslim leadership must ask itself. These questions are not asked to beat the religious leadership with a stick, but rather to explore the causes of radicalisation. Just as the Western governments and critics must probe the causes of radicalisation beyond religion, Muslims must also examine key reasons for radicalisation beyond focusing on Western foreign policy. Only then can “We” (meaning collective humanity) assess whether “We” have a problem and work towards finding solutions to those problems.

People of this world – religious or secular- must learn to manage differences and embrace diversity in religious, social and political ideology. Learning to tolerate and accept ‘the other’ must be the way forward. Lack of tolerance and respect towards others, disregard for religions, pluralism and cultural differences are all breeding hatred amongst young people.

As people across the globe mourn the loss of lives in Tunisia, Kuwait, France, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and many other countries, the extremist terror, the indiscriminate violence is intolerable, despicable, and unacceptable. It is the responsibility of all of us, all human beings, to We must stand up and defend each others’ lives, liberties and freedoms. We must denounce together, with the same determination and courage, all the evils we see.

By Qari Muhammad Asim
Senior Editor – Imams Online
Senior Imam – Makkah Mosque, Leeds

Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of ImamsOnline.

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