Tag Archives: Muslim Council of Britain

London Bridge is Falling but its people rise in love not hate

London Bridge is NOT Falling!

It’s a beautiful day outside but it was an ugly night. The terrorist incident overnight in London brought out the best in the many and the worst from a few. Three perpetrators are now shot dead. Seven innocents (at this time) are counted among the dead and nearly 50 in hospital, several critical including a number of police officers. Whilst “London Bridge is Falling” may have trended on ISIS channels, #HopeNotHate, #LondonIsOpen and #SofaForLondon did here.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Hope and Hospitality

Most of London resorted to opening their homes in response, a taxi driver tried to run down one of the attackers, a policeman lies in hospital injured during the 8-minute long initial and immediate response to prevent further carnage. The London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and several politicians called for “normality” and not changing our way of life.

Khan is emblematic of London’s diversity, its first ethnic minority and Muslim Mayor. I lived in central London for 7 years and it’s a place of community and cohesion despite its differences. The Blitz spirit lives on 77 years later, though the Londoners who embody it are more diverse but no less united against attacks on their open city.

Emily Thornberry, shadow foreign secretary said we need to:

“defend the essence of London as a multicultural and multiracial city.”

It’s a spirit, well – a beverage, that saw some hurling pint glasses at their attackers and others fleeing the scene pint in hand! Others fighting back including a Spaniard with a skateboard and a Romanian man with a crate.

Immigration and Integration

The political campaign and election on 8 June must go ahead, as democracy is part of our culture that needs defending. Needless to say, some will be calling for clampdowns on immigration, increased surveillance and security, and Muslim bans, like Donald Trump has. What we need is not necessarily less immigration, but more integration, more community, less conflict. I live in Norwich, a city whose response to hate is community and cooperation. Our security should be intelligence-led, not driven by fear.

More Love, less Hate

Back in 2012, Norway suffered an extremist attack on its young people. No, not an Islamist terrorist, but a far right xenophobe, Anders Breivik. There are many kinds of terrorist – but the response to them all should be along the lines of their Prime Minister:

“Our response is more democracy, more openness, and more humanity…We will answer hatred with love.” – Jens Stoltenberg

Hate and Islamophobia

Whilst messages of hate and hope circulated on social media, Katie Hopkins called for the incarceration of “the lot of them”, deportation, and even blamed the attacks in mock humour on food deprivation during Ramadan fasting. Who are this “lot”? All Muslims? When the IRA used to bomb London we didn’t round up all the Irish!

That’s the language of Donald Trump’s white and right Christian America, who nonetheless just returned from visiting Saudi Arabia and like the UK exchanging arms contracts worth billions.

Faith and Ideology

Friday, I was invited to a Shabbat meal at which another ideology’s desire to kill a people of an alternate belief was discussed, today many will go to church and pray. Yesterday evening Sikh Gurdwaras opened to people in need during the terror attack, as did many Londoners. Faith or no faith, nationalism or internationalism, it’s the actions and adherents of extremist ideologies, the interpretations and “twistings” of beliefs that lead a few to latch hold of isolated texts as justification to kill and maim. Those texts only excuse fighting if “oppressed” or denied freedom of expression of Islam – take away the oppression and the justification of military jihad is gone.

“if anyone saves a life it should be regarded as though he had saved the lives of all mankind.” – Quran 5:32 (but see interesting context and alternate interpretations and its Jewish origins here)

The fact that last night’s terrorists wore fake suicide bomb vests makes me think these were “inspired by” ISIS rather than orchestrated by.

The issue remains that they recruit, radicalise, foment extremism. They are able to celebrate terror on social media with virtual impunity. Free speech should never include hate speech and incitement to violence and terrorism. But even if we stop that, terror preaching behind closed doors wouldn’t stop. The funding of terror needs to stop too.

“Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons. That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith.” – Muslim Council of Britain

Practising Muslims in Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain condemn these attacks each time, so we can be clear this is not Islam attacking the West. 

“There will always be particular groups which take views that are different from the mainstream but what is clear over the weekend is the extraordinary level of condemnation by every significant Muslim leader we know and every significant Muslim body we know.” Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Kabul should be indicative of that too, with 100 killed in the last few days there during Ramadan and a funeral, Muslims are the majority victims of extremist Islamist terror. They are waging war within Islam more than they are waging war outside of it. The violence is as much sectarian and territorial as it done “in the name of Allah”, a claim opposed by the majority of other Muslims. 

“Kabul has just suffered one of the bloodiest weeks in years, leaving its streets devoid of life and its residents gripped by fear – and feeling unprotected.” – Al Jazeera

Historically, Christians killed Christians in the name of interpretative differences, empire and territorial gain. They also targeted Muslims in the past and as recently as Bosnia. The story is repeated across most religions and ideologies. Settling differences by destruction not constructive dialogue.

True Muslims, yesterday, were praying and fasting not killing and maiming. They were celebrating Ummah – the “community” of its faith, not the extremism of its terrorist false prophets who seek to divide and destroy by preying on the vulnerable with the promise of heavenly gain after earthly jihadist carnage. 

“Yes, there are evil Muslims who have carried out acts of terror, which are totally un-Islamic. The sooner we stop giving any credence to these evil people by attaching the label of the religion to their evil the better it will be for us, because by giving them that label we are giving them a platform that they seek to legitimise their evil ways.” – MCB

Practice peace, preach peace, encourage love not hate. Engage and educate!

Discriminate too – YES, yes discriminate between terrorists and people of faith, don’t tarnish all people with the same brush. Hate against Muslims rose five-fold after Manchester. Let it not deteriorate further.

Origins of Terrorism

The reasons people become terrorists are complex and though they include taking a cut and paste approach to the out of context and out of time scriptures of a religion, they also include revenge for bombings on family members by Western interventions in the Middle East.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. – The Bible, John 8:7

It is undeniable that Saudi Arabia, Iran and others have contributed to the rise of extremist ‘Islamist in name’ terrorism, but also that the USA encouraged Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein in the past, then invaded Iraq, Afghanistan etc; the West including Britain bombed Libya and Syria – the primary recruiting grounds of recent terror attacks.

Using military might to crush terrorism by creating more collateral damage victims only recruits more terrorists who’ve lost a brother, mother, daughter in a less-than-precision bombing raid.

A better way?

I don’t have answers, but what is clear is that returning hate for hate and bomb for bomb is not working. It is only perpetuating and escalating.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” – Einstein

You don’t solve an issue or many conflicts in any permanent way using the same weapons with which they are being waged. There is no lowest common denominator to which we must sink, it’s not a race to the bottom and basest instincts of people. We need a higher level of consciousness and rising above with which to end the recruitment to humanity as its most hopeless when it seeks to take the lives of others in the name of any ideology of hatred. 



Syria & Islamic State – To Bomb or Not to Bomb, is that the Question?

Bombing Syria & ISIL Perpetuates Terror

Don't Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015 photo by Katy Jon Went
Don’t Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015

Thousands continue to protest and take to the streets to oppose bombing Syria, seeing such a move as disastrous and more likely to endanger the lives of Syrian civilians, and further radicalise and foment future terrorism in Europe by Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL/Daesh). Hundreds and thousands of sorties and bombs by over a dozen nations over months and years did not prevent the attacks in Paris last month.

Update: On 2 December the UK Parliament voted to extend the Iraq bombing campaign to Syria but with no ground soldiers commitment or thought to future outcomes, rebuilding, Assad etc. Admittedly Hilary Benn, did give an excellent, almost convincing speech, but too many questions remain unanswered, avenues unexplored… and the UK has already carried out questionable drone strikes killing two British ISIS fighters – predating and without Parliamentary mandate.

Indeed, a majority of the country probably oppose the action according to polls, and Benn was out of touch with the majority of Labour Party supporters who are against action. Polls in the Telegraph had 59% for, in the Independent 59% against. At least there’s no “dodgy dossier” this time, but could we, in ten years time, be facing a similar enquiry into why we went to war, or even why we may still be at war, given that Cameron has suggested this could be lengthy, even many years.

Many see a bombing campaign as the obvious response to the attacks in Paris two weeks ago – precision, of course, because it is not like we want the human and financial expense of “boots on the ground” who can minimise civilian “collateral” losses by checking who they are targeting first. Presidents Hollande and Obama have called for ISIL to be  destroyed. Many echo that reaction. But, it is just that, a reaction, not a strategic response.
Don't Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015 photo by Katy Jon Went
Don’t Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015

War on Terror only increases Terrorism

Others recognise that after 14 years of responding to Middle Eastern turmoil by declaring a “War on Terror” we have actually multiplied rather than diminished terror. The 3,000 killed on 9/11 are now a drop in the ocean compared to the tens and hundreds of thousands who have died in the Middle East or fleeing it.

“The military actions of Western nations recruit more people to the cause than they kill. Every bomb dropped is a recruitment poster for ISIS, a rallying point for the young, vulnerable and alienated. And every bomb dropped on Syrian cities drives yet more people to flee and seek refuge in safer countries.”The Quakers in Britain

Thirteen countries are already bombing Syria, Canada is considering pulling out, the UK of joining in. One more nation will not solve what a dozen have already failed to do.

Don't Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015 photo by Katy Jon Went
Don’t Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015

Bombing Syria and anywhere else, for that matter, only increases tension, radicalises countless more fighters. In barely a decade ISIL has grown from a few hundred to a 100,000 fighters on the back of Western intervention and against more moderate interpretations of Islam. “In the month after the bombing began, 8,000 joined Isis alone.”

“I know Isis fighters. Western bombs falling on Raqqa will fill them with joy” – Jürgen Todenhöfer

Terrorist acts on domestic soil need to be treated as criminal rather than military acts. Declaring them a war only intensifies the pseudo-legitimacy of their cause and identity, making them think that they are now a force to be reckoned with.

“One thing I have learnt is that this western intervention never helps, it only makes matters worse. So much worse. These interventions only pour petrol on the fires of Middle East unrest.” – John Prescott

Bombing Syria – A “failed strategy”

Lt General Mike Flynn was Obama’s senior JSOC intelligence officer and head of the Defense Intelligence Agency until last year. He has described dropping bombs from drones as causing more harm than good and a “failed strategy.”

“What we have is this continued investment in conflict… the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict. Some of that has to be done but I am looking for the other solutions… history will not be kind to the decisions that were made certainly in 2003… We definitely put fuel on a fire… Going into Iraq, definitely… was a strategic mistake.”- Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, former Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

A mistake that the West seems to want to perpetuate, as Einstein may have never said, but Nick O’Brien, Chair of Norwich Stop the War, quoted in a rally on Saturday, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” Whilst the origin of this quote in clouded in mystery, another of Einstein’s may be even more apt, namely, that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In other words, bombing the bombers won’t solve anything other than create more bombmakers. Every bomb casualty or innocent victim creates loss and anger among relatives leading to further rationale for joining ISIS.

“The US… has been bombing Syria for over a year. Since September, France has been involved alongside them, although other members of a coalition put together last year, including Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have effectively withdrawn from bombing. Yet now both Russia and France have experienced severe terrorist attacks. Are we saying they have no connection to the raids? Far from making us safe, as politicians contend, they are likely to make us more vulnerable.”  – Lindsey German, Stop the War

Bombing Syria, as with elsewhere in the Middle East is both a failed and inadequate strategy. Even those prepared to bomb Syria, admit it will not be enough and will require foot soldiers as well, something people are more reticent to commit to.

It is also dangerous and complex with more than two sides. There are factions within factions, militias, rebels, Assad’s forces, vested interests of Russia, Turkey and others, not to mention a dozen other Western allies and limited Middle Eastern nations already involved.

“Politically, it is a grave step. Britain is about to enter a confused battlefield on which Russia, the US, France, Turkey, Iran, assorted Arab states, ethnic foes and rival sects are all fighting for different causes while Syria and Iraq disintegrate.” – The Sunday Times

Anti-War Protests across the UK

London saw the largest no to bombing Syria, anti-war rally, with thousands blocking Whitewall. Dozens of other cities held rallies. BBC and Guardian/Independent journalist Joel Gunter posted this image of at the London protest:

On Sunday another threat to the planet – climate change, saw protests and marches around the world ahead of a climate summit in Paris on Monday. Except in the French capital where such a large gathering had been banned on security fears or pretexts after the Paris attacks. Instead, people donated thousands of empty pairs of shoes to stand where people otherwise would have.

Don’t Bomb Syria Rally in Norwich

Norwich on Saturday saw around 100 people show up on a bitingly cold day to hand out leaflets to the public and hear from half a dozen speakers including local Muslims, Quakers, Labour and Green Party activists. One leafleter spoke to four servicemen who were supportive of the protest. A heckler interrupted by saying “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and then everyone realised that he was actually agreeing with what was being said.

 Don't Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015 photo by Katy Jon Went
Don’t Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015

Speakers included Dr Ian Gibson – former Labour MP for Norwich North, Nick O’Brien – Chair of Norwich Stop the War, Lesley Graham – Quaker peace activist, Jan McLachlan – Norwich People’s Assembly, Adrian Holmes – Green Party, Muhammad Ameen Franklin – Muslims of Norwich.

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South issued this statement on the possibility of bombing Syria. He is a former TA soldier who served in Afghanistan, and BBC journalist.

“I understand there are occasions when military force is necessary. Therefore, I will not rule out supporting the use of military force against ISIL. However, the use of such force must not be an end in itself.
If there is one thing the ‘war on terror’ has shown, it is that military force alone is rarely the answer. We’ve been engaged in this ‘war’ for 15 years with with no end in sight. It has cost millions of lives, trillions of dollars, destabilised an entire region and arguably spawned a series of global, jihadist terror networks.”Clive Lewis

A Muslim Voice

Muhammad Ameen Franklin speaking at Don't Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015 photo by Katy Jon Went
Muhammad Ameen Franklin speaking at Don’t Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015

The speaker from the Ihsan Mosque in Norwich was warmly received and welcomed to applause. As with nearly 400 mosques and UK Muslim organisations who issued an unequivocal statement in the media on 18 November to “condemn the Paris attacks unreservedly”:

“The barbaric acts of Daesh (or ISIS, as they are sometimes known) have no sanction in the religion of Islam, which forbids terrorism and the targeting of innocents…. The aim of attacks like those inflicted on Paris and other cities across the world is to turn communities against each other. As Muslims, Britons and Europeans, we must stand together to make sure they do not succeed.”

The Norwich mosque also issued a statement on the atrocity in Paris, calling them “brutal murders”, not deaths or killings that might arise in a conventional war.

“we want to make absolutely clear not only our complete abhorrence of the outrages perpetrated in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere by this small group of well-organised and ruthless killers, but that the religion of Islam does not countenance such actions in any way whatsoever. Moreover, not only is their action a crime, but there is prima facie evidence of such serious flaws in their apprehension of Islam as to call into question whether they should even be considered Muslims.”

It isn’t about race, faith, or nation state. Any political, religious or nationalistic ideology can be taken to extremes. Treating other’s lives as collateral in any cause is the inhumanity in any ideology.

“It’s not about Islam, or indeed any religion – each has been there with its own extremisms, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Biblical Judaism, even Buddhism and Hinduism, and Sikhism. As John Lennon sang – “Imagine … no religion”. But then there’s the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos and Polpots, of this world. Roman pagans trying to wipe out Christianity, Communist extremism. It is the extremism they have in common, not faith or race.” – Katy Went, Imagine all the people, living life in peace

Each religion can be twisted to apparently justify slaughter, but that comes from man’s inhumanity to man, not faith per se.  Equally, most faiths can be quoted from to encourage love, mercy and kindness.

Backlash from Bombing and Terrorism

The important thing, now, is to avoid the backlash. If increased bombing of Syria goes ahead then there will be a backlash in terms of home grown and exported terrorism by those who see Britain’s involvement as Western interference, imperialism, and immorality. The other backlash is that against refugees and asylum seekers, particularly as one of the French terrorists was alleged to have gained access to Europe as a refugee. Thirdly, and an already happening reaction in the US, France, Britain and elsewhere is one that targets existing resident Muslims, those more or less happily already domiciled. Often, a kickback response to the visible presence of a mosque or headscarf, in total stereotyping ignorance of the variety of Islamic opinion and interpretations and indeed, the majority opinion in the UK, as expressed by the Muslim Council of Britain, that “almost all” Muslims “abhor terrorism”, though “even one person harbouring sympathy for the Daesh death cult is one too many”.

Don't Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015 photo by Katy Jon Went
“Refugees Welcome” Don’t Bomb Syria Rally, Norwich, 28 November 2015