By Qari Muhammad Asim – Senior Imam at Makkah Masjid, Leeds.
On Wednesday 7 January 2015, two masked gunmen attacked the Paris office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring several others. The massacre is absolutely despicable and has been condemned by Muslims and others across the globe.
We stand with French people in this tragic hour: our thoughts are with the families of the victims
The satirical magazine has attracted controversy in the past when it has published caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
According to the AFP news agency, the gunmen shouted: “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad”. This is absolutely ridiculous and an insult to the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him). Our Prophet does not require avenging. Forgiveness and compassion defined our Prophet Muhammad, not violence and revenge. These extremists show complete disregard for the compassion and care displayed by the Prophet throughout his life. Islamic sources include many instances where the Prophet (peace be upon him) had the opportunity to take revenge upon those who wronged him, but refrained from doing so.
He taught man to exercise patience in the face of adversity: “The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.”[Bukhari] Fanatics have betrayed the Prophet and Islam by claiming that they have killed the journalists to take revenge for the Prophet (peace be upon him).
If the gunmen did shout “Allah-u-Akbar” when killing people in Paris, such gunmen are an insult to Allah and affront to human dignity. They are acting against prophetic behaviour and therefore we must distance ourselves from such evil and cowardly actions.
Islam cherishes human liberties and freedoms, including freedom of speech, and does not allow us to take anyone’s life, no matter how much we disagree with their views or actions. Any difference of opinion or grievance must be dealt with through legal channels and the democratic means that are prevalent in our society.
Islam and Muslims are allowed to flourish in the West because of freedom of speech, conscience, press and religion. To attack those freedoms is to jeopardise Muslims freedom in the West and bring Islam into disrepute. Inevitably, this attack will incite anti-Muslim hatred and encourage a backlash against Muslims. Anti-Muslim hatred is already on the rise in the West. 3 mosques being burnt in Sweden in the last week and an 18,000 strong anti-Islam protest march in Dresden Germany on 5 January is evidence of growing anti-Muslim sentiments.
We also hope that this barbaric incident is seen as the cowardly evil action of two fanatics that it is, and not as a representation of Islamic values. Terrorists’ use of Islam to justify their evil actions should not be used as a stick to beat Muslims with. This is not a war of Western Values v Islamic Values as the victims of such attacks almost always include Muslims. A 42-year-old Muslim policeman, Ahmed Merabet, is one of the two officers killed in this attack.
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) did not preach violence to be a solution to a problem. Never in history has hatred or violence resolved any issues permanently and it will not do so in the future.
Violence begets violence. The cycle of hate and counter-hate, violence and counter-violence needs breaking. We must not let acts ofhatred or terrorism divides our communities. We urge people to have mutual respect of each other’s values and in order to live together in a peaceful and civilized manner.