Charlie Hebdo — Clarifications and Questions

It’s been an incredibly stressful week for Muslims around the globe. The horrific shootings that took place in Paris last week seem to have dominated the news agenda. Despite 2000 people being killed in Nigeria, and Muslims killed and driven out of their homes in CAR, the 17 lives lost in Paris seems to be what everyone wants to talk about. When I say everyone I mean non-Muslims. Muslims are pretty fed up of the hypocrisy, Mehdi Hasan sums it up pretty well in his piece this week. The backlash since the shootings has been extortionate. From mosques being vandalised in France to people like Rupert Murdoch (perhaps one of the most powerful people in the world) stating Muslims are collectively responsible — Muslims are really feeling the brunt of this. We’ve heard condemnations from many Muslim scholars and organisations but what does it all mean and what are we really thinking? Here are some clarifications that I feel need stating.

  1. Murder is a sin. It is haram (not permitted) in Islam. Blasphemy is a punishable crime in Islam. But the punishment can only be carried out within a legitimate Islamic state, after a fair trial has taken place and only then by the appointed executioner. The shootings were unislamic on so many level. For a start France is not a Muslim country nor does it have Islamic laws. Secondly a normal citizen is not under any circumstance permitted to go and murder people they believe have committed blasphemy. I hope I’ve cleared that up? So if you hear Muslims condoning the shootings then they are ignorant of Islamic teachings and have let their emotions run away with them.
  2. Just because I think Charlie Hebdo is a blasphemous publication, doesn’t mean I want the writers/cartoonists dead. I hate the rubbish that Charlie Hebdo print in the name of satire. I AM NOT Charlie. For me Charlie Hebdo represents racism, Islamaphobia, anti-semitism and vulgarity. 
  3. The Prophet Muhammad NEVER responded with violence to anyone who hurled abuse at him verbally or physically. Examples of how he dealt with haters are can be found here.
  4. Depictions of any prophet of Islam are not looked at favourably. I have blogged about the reasons why. To explain further, the Prophet Muhammad is as important to us as a parent. He is our role model, we emulate him and live our lives by following the Quran and using his examples as our moral compass. He was kind, humble, patient and tolerant. From how to eat to how to pray, his example dictates a Muslim’s daily activity. To then go and insult, make crude jokes about him, you can begin to see why Muslims would get upset. Upset, frustrated and provoked are some of the feelings you would feel if somebody kept mocking and insulting your loved one over and over again. Out of 1.8 billion Muslim some will lose their mind and commit violence. Not justified but it should explain why we get so upset. Also note not all Muslims care, some do and some don’t. We are a diverse bunch. The cover of Charlie Hebdo after the shootings showing an upset Prophet Muhammad stating ‘you are forgiven’ and ‘I am Charlie’ didn’t offend me. The actual depiction may offend some people — the image shows Prophet Mohammad with beady eyes and a big nose. Not flattering but then caricatures never are.
  5. There is no such thing as true freedom of speech or expression. In Germany, it is a crime to deny the holocaust, in France pro-Palestinian marches were banned this year after so many Palestinians were killed by Israel, and in the UK a man was convicted for burning a poppy. There are many examples. Many things are distasteful and offensive and editors make decisions every day about what they should print and what they shouldn’t. They don’t want to offend anybody deliberately, which leads to my next point. 
  6. We are British, and the one thing British people don’t like doing is offending. We maintain a stiff upper lip if we don’t like anything. That’s not to say we should always be politically correct, but be mindful of people’s sensibilities. Why is that such a bad thing? Why should we seek out to offend a minority? What is one going to gain out of it? It’s not British and it’s not clever. Perhaps the French don’t have this in their culture? This is not a curtailment of freedom of speech. As journalist and novelist Will Self said on Newsnight — ‘Freedom of speech is a right, and with every right comes responsibility.’ Absolutely spot on, just because we are allowed to make disgusting jokes about somebody, does that mean we should just for the sake of it, without thinking about how it will affect thousands of people?
  7. The media has really whipped up a frenzy with the continuing news coverage of the Paris shootings. Giving attention to terrorists is what they want and we are giving them exactly that. Who were the killers? Were they just evil men who hated the West or was it more to it then that? Finding out what drove them to commit such a dreadful act is important and relevant. Writing them off as evil enemies of freedom is not helpful. The root cause of their actions must be examined. Their background and their upbringing all count.
  8. Stop asking Muslims to apologise. The more you ask ordinary Muslims to apologise the more cheesed off they’re going to get. Christians weren’t asked to apologise for Christian fundamentalist Anders Breivik who killed 77 people so why the double standard? The impression I’ve got over the years is that if I don’t say anything as a Muslim it means that I condone it. Where does this logic come from and why does it apply to Muslim crimes only? 

I’m going to leave it there for now and hope to have a weekend free from terrorism talk. More next week!

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    Boris Johnson Has Lost The Plot

    The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wrote in his column for the Telegraph that he thinks children of ‘radical Islamic extremists’ should be taken away and put into the care system. Right Mr. Mayor what a lovely idea, but what in your mind constitutes a radical extremist?

    Read whole article

    What does it mean to be British?

    It’s a tough question, and one that’s been on the news agenda for a while now. Before the attacks that took place on 7/7, I had never thought about this question. Recently though, with a stream of programs designed to challenge the idea of ‘Britishness’, the question is in the public arena.

    I’ve always referred to myself as a British Muslim, there’s nothing else I can be. I was born in England, my country defines me just the way my faith does. My ethnicity is Pakistani, so of course this influences a lot of the more trivial things, like types of clothes, cooking, music etc.
    The way I think, the way I speak is all because I’ve been brought up in this country but within the framework of Islam. My faith has grounded me with a strong moral compass and what I’ve realised is in the last few years is that being British is very close to Islam. When Damon said this in ‘Make Bradford British’ last night on channel 4, it was even more apparent. Being British is not about getting drunk and going out on the pull on a Friday night. Being British to me means family, community, charity, etiquettes and manners. Damon, who is your typical English lad from Bradford, said Islam is very similar to the British values his grandparents used to tell him about. Like in every society there are negatives, and unfortunately the fact that the culture of binge drinking and promiscuity is normal shouldn’t cast a shadow on all the good things in British society.

    When I first met my husband I thought he was a ‘coconut’. This is a word used by Asians to describe people who aren’t in touch with their Asian roots-brown on the outside, white on the inside. As I got to know him I realised that he may not be very ‘Pakistani’ but he has all the traits that a good Muslim should have, and these are also very English traits. Being generous, charitable, honest and compassionate are more important in Islam than having a beard or the length of your trousers or how many times you go to the mosque. Something that a lot of Muslims seem to forget, sadly.

    A lot of Muslims have felt distant and segregated from the rest of society, since the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The concept of brotherhood and unity is a strong one in Islam. Every Muslim is your brother and sister, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. When my country Britain invades Muslim countries on a false premise, it hurts. When civilians die, it really hurts, regardless of them being Muslim or not. Nick Clegg said this week, being in Afghanistan is safer for us and is safer for the Afghans. But not for those six soldiers who were killed. We still don’t know what they died for, what any of the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis have died for. Wasn’t the war initially to find Osama? It then turned into a mission to liberate the Afghan people. The same happened in Iraq, went in for one reason, and then the agenda changed to suit political needs. All this makes a lot of people angry, not just Muslims. But it’s things like this that have created barriers between Muslims and non-Muslims. I’m not saying that barriers didn’t exist before but I feel it more now, and that’s a sad thing.
    A Muslim criticising foreign policy does not make them any less British than anyone else who disagrees with it. I love Islam and I love Britain, and it’s completely possible to do this, as they ARE both fully compatible.

    9/11 Ten Years On

    Everybody likes to recall what they were doing on 9/11. It is a day in history that has truly changed the world. If you can’t remember what you were doing that day, you may as well have been living on Mars.
    I have spent the last ten years going through a whirlwind of emotions. From shock, to guilt, to denial, to sadness.
    I’ll be honest, the day the hijackers flew the planes into the twin towers in New York city, I remember a few people, chuckling. Not realising the severity of the attack, some Muslims were secretly smug about the fact that the Americans have been attacked on their own soil. It was nothing to do with Islam the fact that they felt this, it was because people felt that it was about time America experiences some destruction too, given what some of the Muslim world had been going through. The next few days following on from 9/11, nobody was smiling, as the death toll went into thousands. If anybody knew that so many people would die, I don’t think those initial feelings would have come into play. I don’t think even the hijackers anticipated such success. The fact that Muslims were being blamed for this attack as a whole rather than a few loopy extremists was hard to bear, and still is.

    Since then, Muslims have been trying hard to separate themselves from the ideology that breeds these terrorists. Because the fact is, it is a minority who have these ‘extreme’ thoughts. The Muslim world is over 1 billion strong, how can it possibly be blamed for the action of nineteen so-called Muslims?
    Since 9/11 the growth in groups of ‘Islamists’, ‘Muslim extremisms’, ‘Jihadis’, call them what you like, has increased enormously. This growth can only be attributed to the resulted action taken after 9/11. The ‘War on Terror’ was detrimental to Muslim civil society. It might have been called the ‘War on Islam’, that’s what it certainly felt like. Attacking Afghanistan and Iraq has been the cause of much of the terrorism carried out in the name of Islam since 9/11. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, and understanding why 9/11 happened, America lead by George W Bush undertook a war which has caused more fatalities than the event it was being avenged for. In the search for Osama Bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan then became an operation to ‘liberate’ Afghans. Following on from that Iraq was invaded based on fabricated intelligence stating it was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Then it was to remove Saddam Hussain, and then the cause became ‘liberating’ Iraqis. The American government talks about it’s successes in both regions. What an insult to the families of those soldiers who have lost their lives. What a slap in the face on the thousands of Iraqis who have lost their family members. Children and women, no one has been spared. Just the amount of depleted uranium shells lying around caused by the Gulf War and the current Iraqi war has left a generation of Iraqis with deformities and disabilities. The worst thing is that Muslims are being killed by other (so-called) Muslims in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Pakistan, who had little to do with anything has lost thousands of civilians from bomb blasts, suicide bombings and drone attacks from America. Are you with us, or against us? This was the impossible question that Pakistan had to answer. By being ‘with’ America, Pakistan has suffered such loss and destruction, and created a breeding ground for terrorists. Terrorists who want to destroy their own country and kill their fellow citizens. In Islam it is not permitted to kill anyone let alone another Muslim. So how do these terrorists, commit these acts in the name of Islam? Many have little choice. Many young men are drawn into these groups because they are poor and have no other aspirations in life. Similar to gang culture amongst black youth in London, joining an extremist group gives young men a sense of belonging, rebellion and averting their energy into something they think is positive. Of course they are not sold the ideology of violence as an extreme ideology. They are sold it as ‘jihad’. ‘Jihad’ meaning ‘struggle’ and not holy war, which is often how it is translated. It is certainly true that all Muslims are obliged to perform Jihad. I.e. they are asked to ‘struggle’ to become a good Muslim, to spread the word of God by doing good deeds. Sometimes that means rising against oppression and injustice. This is what the recruiters of these groups use to brainwash young men. That and a promise of entrance to heaven and of course those blasted virgins that we hear about so much. And if they actually go the whole hog, and blow themselves up, they are often promised that their family who are left behind will be rewarded money and safety afterwards. This perhaps is the biggest incentive for suicide bombers, rather than those virgins or hatred for the West. There were no such thing as suicide bombings in Pakistan prior to 9/11. Those people who talk about success, and how everything has been worth it because Osama Bin Laden is dead, are severely detached from reality. Osama Bin Laden is one man, and what he’s left behind is a warped ideology that only the desperate and bored share and want to be a part of. We’ve seen from the Arab spring, that change can come in the Arab world in the form of peaceful protest from the people themselves. Unfortunately this has also lead to yet another invasion led by NATO into Libya, freeing the Libyans from Gaddaffi. What this invasion will turn into, only time will tell.

    All I want to say today is, that the harm that 9/11 has caused to Islam is immense and irreversible. Today we shouldn’t just mourn the tragedy of losing 3000 or so lives in New York, but also the thousands of lives lost as a consequence of military action as reprisal for 9/11. I hope God guides these terrorists who think they are doing God’s work, but are infact tarnishing Islam and making ordinary Muslim’s lives difficult. I pray that America thinks hard about their foreign policies, because at this rate the future is looking very bleak.

    The Beauty of Ramadan

    Here we are, almost at the end of Ramadan. A holy and spiritual month for Muslims all over the world. The one time in the year where you know Muslims everywhere, regardless of their race, culture or creed will be fasting.
    Fasting is not just about abstaining from food or drink between sunrise and sunset, but is about adopting a flawless character enriched with kindness, compassion and charity for fellow human beings, all because of our devotion to God.
    There are many things Muslims are required to do, but fasting is one of the obligations which is personal, between God and oneself. Only God will know if you really have abstained from eating, drinking, sex, backbiting, swearing and lying. Yes fasting is not just about food and drink. It encompasses behaviour, language and attitude. And certainly it’s not easy, because when you are hungry we can quickly become agitated and lose our temper. So yes Ramadan is truly a test for all Muslims. How much can we do for God, and how much reward can we receive from our actions?
    The unity that is shared amongst most Muslims during Ramadan is something that we could do with all year round. Conflict between different types of Muslims is so trivial in Ramadan, as everybody should know, Muslims – Sunni and Shia are all striving for the same thing, to please God and to gain his mercy.

    If only it was Ramadan every day.

    Distressed

    Today I am feeling distressed, disturbed and frankly tired. I’ve read two different news stories today to do with Muslims and even though the first is a positive one, the analysis that I’ve heard of it was negative. Let me elaborate.

    The first story was about the ‘Islamification of Britain-Record numbers embrace Muslim faith’. Judging by the title it seems derogatory, I really dislike the word ‘Islamification’, to begin with it’s not even a proper word. When I think of ‘Islamification’ I think of BNP and EDL members holding up posters demonstrating STOP THE ISLAMIFICATION OF BRITAIN. Anyway it resonates negatively in my mind. Having said that the article is a positive one for me as a Muslim to read, even though the terrorist connotations are antagonistic, but how can a newspaper write about the Muslim faith without dropping in the words ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’? The article says that many thousands of Britons have converted to Islam and the majority are women.
    Some of the inflammatory things I’ve heard are that young Muslim boys prowl and seek out non-muslim girls so they can convert them, as conversion is highly regarded in Islam. Or that the women who convert are vulnerable or people are rebelling against the system and becoming Muslim, as Islam is the new nemesis for the West.
    Has it occurred to the critics that the reason that there are now thousands of converts in Britain, could be because these individuals have seen the beauty of Islam? The justice, the humanity and the peace in Islam? Not the Islam that is portrayed in the media or the Islam represented by a small minority of misguided ignorant extremists. Could it be because these individuals have chosen to reject some of the negative aspects of British society which encompasses drinking and promiscuity? And embrace Islam which shares many of the core British values such as tolerance, charity, equality and humanity.

    The second story actually made my stomach churn. The Times exposed a culture of silence that has facilitated the sexual exploitation of hundreds of young British girls by pimp gangs. 57 men were convicted for crimes like rape, child abduction and indecent assault of which 53 were Asian, mostly British Pakistanis. And to add salt to the wound, 50 were Muslim. As you can imagine I was shocked and horrified at this, for many reasons. The first thing is why emphasise these men were Muslim? Why is it when there is a white criminal, they are called a white male but when it’s Pakistani man, they’re are referred to as a Muslim man. I cannot stand this double standard and what makes me so cross is that there is nothing ‘Muslim’ about any of this. Crimes like these are certainly not permissible in Islam. Whether the crime is against a Muslim girl or a non-Muslim girl, it is definitely not acceptable within the realms of Islam. So why associate Islam to these hideous crimes?
    Secondly the question in my mind was WHY WHY WHY? Why is the incidence of Pakistanis so high in this area of crime? And British Pakistanis at that. Those who have been born and brought up in the British education system and have more than likely been exposed to the opposite sex white and non-white. It really doesn’t make much sense to me. It could be because there are generally more white girls in England than Asian girls. Secondly Pakistani men probably perceive white girls as an easy target as they are more likely to drink, and be out more in the public arena than Pakistani girls. What other reasons could there be that these men are Pakistani and the girls are white? I can probably say with confidence that majority of Pakistani men find the idea of being with a Caucasian woman very attractive but that doesn’t mean that they will all go out and rape them. What is it intrinsically about Pakistani men that have led them to commit such atrocities? I don’t have much of an answer except that I am slightly embarrassed that I am of the same community and hope these men are punished severely for the crimes. If this is really a problem like some child protection agencies and police forces say then it needs to be investigated and the root cause needs to be uncovered.

    All in all I’m feeling depressed and without hope. The reputation of Islam as a religion of peace has diminished. The only stories in the media are negative ones but unfortunately the media isn’t wholly to blame. The actions of certain so-called ‘Muslims’ are so terrifying, so horrendous that the rest of us really have little chance of being heard. We are to blame for not being politicised enough, for not behaving like ambassadors to Islam as we should. Despite how wonderful our scriptures may be, we can only be judged by our actions. And I hope that the future for Muslims in Britain and all over the world is not as bleak and grey, as I feel right now.

    Panorama

    Having just watched tonight’s Panorama, I feel compelled to write. If you missed it, it was called ‘British school Islamic Rules’. In a nutshell it showed how some Muslim schools are affiliated with Muslim organisations and speakers that endorse slightly extreme values. Also the program highlighted how there are hundreds of after school and weekend classes that take place which teach the Saudi curriculum.

    First of all let me ask this question-what was the purpose of this program, other than sensationalism? In this climate of terrorism, Islamaphobia, heightened sensitivities, why produce such a program? The narrator mentioned in the beginning that there were many open faith schools which invited people to come and find out about their school and there were many others that were the opposite. He mentioned that there were many Jewish and Christian schools he found on the internet that were insular and closed their doors to outsiders. In particular there were Christian schools which were very hostile towards Islam. However the Muslim schools caught his eye. Why? Why are Muslims always sidelined? When is there going to be a Panorama about the other faith schools that he found to be so insular and ‘in their own world’ as he described?

    One of the main points of the program was to highlight how Muslim schools may be discouraging integration between muslims and non-muslims. This could be the case, however according to the Ofsted and BSI reports of all the Muslim schools shown, they were all shown to strongly promote tolerance and understanding towards all other religions. I believe that teaching tolerance and integration is most definitely the way forward to eradicate some if the islamic radicalism we’ve seen in this country recently and any schools that are guilty of anything but, need to be investigated. However this did not seem to be the case as none of the governing bodies reported this.

    I don’t agree that Muslim speakers who discourage integration should be talking to school children. Anything to do with ‘non-believers’ or the ‘kuffar’ should not be taught in any school. Living in this country amongst all different races and cultures, the subject of believer and non-believers should not be the main focus of an Islamic education. THAT is what is slightly disturbing about some speakers that this program highlighted.
    The other perplexing find was the content of the Saudi curriculum. The textbooks that are published under the Saudi government have a lot to answer for. I cringed when I saw what some of them said. One of the textbooks for 13 year olds, likened Jews to monkeys and pigs. Now this is completely inappropriate for a student living in Britain. There is no need for it, there is no advantage of being taught this. And yes it is anti-Semitic. The narrator was correct to be concerned about some aspects of the Saudi curriculum and this definitely needs to be addressed-this should not be taught here. What the Saudi government teaches it’s own nationals is their business but what they teach abroad is a different thing all together.

    The one thing that did make me cross though was that in one Saudi textbook it said ‘Zionists want to take over the world’ or something of that nature, to which the response of the MP who was being questioned about faith schools said ‘we will not tolerate anti-semitism’. How is that anti-semitism!?!? It’s not insulting the Jewish faith or Jews. It’s about ZIONISM, a completely different ideology to the Jewish faith. Even though the difference between the two has been blurred out by zionists, slowly infiltrating the view throughout the world that a criticism of zionism is a criticism of Judaism which is anti-Semitic. No anti-Semitism should not be taught in any school, but that was not anti-Semitism.

    I’m all for casting out extremists at the grass roots in the quest to tackle radicalism, but when it comes to faith schools I would like schools of all faiths to be scrutinised in the same way. There are extremists bred from all religions, not just Islam.