Reflection on news outlets calling an attack “terrorism” after Finsbury Park

Guardian journalist, Paul Chadwick, responds to concerns about what should be considered terrorism. He said he started calling the incident a terrorist attack early but it was not premature.

He says events can be called terrorist attacks if they involve “serious harm to random innocents, a location and/or victims with symbolic resonance, apparent intent to generate widespread fear, and a political purpose.” A political purpose means aims at pressuring government or intimidating populations, often stemming from nationalism, racism, or religious fanaticism.

He argues that journalists do not need to wait for courts and official pronouncements to call something “terrorism.” Based on witness reports, journalists on the scene at Finsbury Park decided to call the incident a terrorist attack.

In the case of the Guardian, at 2:01am, about two hours after the attack, the live blog contextualised the event by referencing recent terrorist attacks. The crime correspondent arrived on scene at 3:07am. The correspondent reported at 3:54am that counter-terrorism police were there and at 4:45 am reported that the Muslim Council of Britain described the incident as a terrorist attack. At 5:15am, Prime Minister Threresa May classified the event as “a potential terrorist attack.”

 

Suspected revenge arson attack on Greater Manchester mosque after terrorist attack

A few hours after the terrorist attack in Manchester, the door of a mosque in the Manchester area was set on fire. Police are investigating the incident as a retaliation attack.

Luckily, no one was in the mosque at the time and, while the door was damaged, the fire did not spread.

The imam of the mosque, Mohammad Saddiq, was upset that people would target an educational and religious institution and says that the mosque has not been targeted in the past.

The terrorist attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert has been condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain, Manchester’s Ramadhan Foundation, and other Muslim leaders.

“Visit My Mosque” – Muslims in Britain hold mosque open days to demystify Islam

MCB-open-mosque-dayAround 20 UK mosques opened their doors to the public on Sunday in a move to ease tensions between Muslims. The Muslim Council of Britain said that the mosques would give a warm welcome to visitors and answer any queries regarding Islam that the people in the community might like answered.

However, the event was surrounded with conspiracy after Cathy Newman claimed in her tweet that she was ushered out Streatham mosque in North London, which caused outrage in the social media questioning the event held by the Muslim Council of Britain. Cathy Newman later apologised after CCTV images contradict the Channel 4 presenter’s claims that she was “ushered out of the mosque” during Open Day held by UK mosques. The CCTV images obtained by the Huffington post showed that Miss Newman arriving at the mosque and being directed by a male congregant, but leaving alone through the courtyard. The mosque had previously denied Miss Newman’s claims, saying that her comments provoked death threats and voice mails which were reported to the police.

Cathy Newman apologised for the “misunderstanding”. She said “as the primary purpose of Visit My Mosque day was to increase understanding of Islam, I was horrified to hear the mosque I visited in error has had death threats. I’m sorry for any misunderstanding there has been. I would be happy to pay a private visit to South London Islamic Centre once again.” she said in a statement. Although she made the claims on that day, she later added that she was received warmly by the people in Hyderi mosque.

Eric Pickles writes a letter to 1,000 imams to promote ‘Muslim British Identity’ sparks criticism

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government is at the center of a new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate "how faith in Islam can be part of British identity."
Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government is at the center of a new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate “how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.” (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA/The Guardian)

A new row has erupted between the British government and Muslim organisations after the minister responsible for community cohesion wrote to hundreds of imams calling on them to do more to tackle violent extremism and demonstrate “how faith in Islam can be part of British identity”.

The letter, sent by Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, to every mosque in England, provoked an angry response from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which accused the government of peddling far-right arguments about integration. “Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?” said Harun Khan, the deputy secretary-general of the MCB.

However the Prime Minister, David Cameron, intervened, saying that the council’s response showed that it – not Mr Pickles – had “a problem”.

Speaking at lawn mower factory in Ipswich, Mr Cameron said: “It’s absolutely right to write this letter, to say we all have a responsibility to fight extremism. Anyone who reads this letter will see that what he is saying is that British Muslims make a great contribution to our country.

Lady Warsi argues that while the letter was in fact positive, the timing and actions before the letter led to its failure: “The Muslim Council of Britain was one of a number of groups over which we never reached agreement, but one which nevertheless was never formally engaged with. I’m not here to defend the council. Unlike some colleagues, I never viewed it as extreme or dangerous. My criticism, which I have on numerous occasions discussed with it, is that it continues to produce a leadership that is neither equipped to represent, nor is genuinely reflective of, the contemporary aspirations of large sections of British Muslim communities. So while I welcome Eric’s attempt to reach out, the reality is that if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then the chances of success are limited. A letter out of the blue to a mosque that is potentially affiliated to an organisation like the Muslim Council of Britain – with whom the government has refused to engage – creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic. It makes it appear as if the government is neither listening nor genuine in its intentions. And it provokes a negative response, irrespective of the true motive.”

[Full text of the letter is here.]

British Muslim Organizations Condemn Charlie Habdo Terror [Collected Press Releases]

Muslim Council of Britain

Paris Murders are a Greater Insult to Islam:

The Muslim Council of Britain reiterated its condemnation of the barbarous murder of journalists at the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.  The attack has been condemned by Muslims in France, in Europe and around the world. In France,  the French Muslim Council (CFCM) has said: “This extremely grave barbaric action is also an attack against democracy and the freedom of the press.”

Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Nothing justifies the taking of life. Those who have killed in the name of our religion today claim to be avenging the insults made against Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. But nothing is more immoral, offensive and insulting against our beloved Prophet than such a callous act of murder.  Our thoughts, prayers and solidarity go to  the families of the victims and the people of France.

Naturally, and unfortunately discussion will now fall on the right to intentionally publish hurtful material that denigrates religious figures and traditions. But however offended we may be, the ultimate denigration of our faith comes from these murderers who have unjustifiably taken life.

In the coming weeks Muslims will face the test of having to justify themselves and their place in Western society. As Muslims we are ever mindful of our Lord’s injunction to convey our true faith with wisdom and beautiful words. Indeed in the noble Qur’an we are told: ‘The true servants of the Merciful are those who walk humbly on the earth and when the ignorant address them they say: Peace.’

In addition, while Muslims must engage with fellow citizens in a spirit of dialogue and friendship, we must all come together to seek unity and defy the terrorists whose only aim is to divide us. The best defence against closed minds is for a truly open society, welcoming of all.”


 

Association of British Muslim Students

The Association of British Muslims calls for Europe to Confront Violence and Protect Freedom.

The Association of British Muslims (AoBM) strongly condemns the horrific shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that has killed at least 13 people according to the news reports. Our thoughts are with the victims of this terror attack and the families affected at this difficult time.

At AoBM, we have maintained our differences with the editorial policies of Charlie Hebdo. We always have had questions about the judgement (but not the right) of publishing images which are predictably deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory. However, at the same time we stand in support of freedom of expression and believe that there is no justification whatsoever, to take lives of people who we disagree with while exercising this right.

We note that the Quran instructs its believers to argue with the challengers in ways that are best and most gracious. The attacks in Paris symbolise nothing close to these Koranic instructions but instead represent a distortion of faith which is forgiving and open to debate.

AoBM also takes this opportunity to condemn the bomb attack in Yemen which killed at least 40 people. AoBM stands in solidarity with the people of France and Yemen and seek justice for the victims as well as the perpetrators of the attacks.

Zahid Ali AkbarHuman Rights Director, The Association of British Muslims
Paul Salahuddin ArmstrongCo-Director, The Association of British Muslims
Mohammed AbbasiCo-Director, The Association of British Muslims


Muslim Association of Britain Statement

Muslim Association of Britain expresses its total condemnation of the senseless and brutal killing of 12 French people including two police officers at the offices of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ newspapers in Paris.

MAB is shocked by the tragedy and deplores this unwarranted violence. MAB would like to state that whilst it is well-known that this controversial newspaper has previously published provocative cartoons of the Prophet (may peace be upon him), there can never be any justification for this criminal act.

MAB also believes that while the hunt for the offenders continues it would be unhelpful to make undue speculations about the circumstances surrounding this incident. It would even be more harmful if this incident would be used by extremists to increase Islamophobic attacks or rhetoric against Muslims in France, and Europe in General.

Omer El-Hamdoon, MAB President commented: “It is suffice to say this is an extremely sad day for the French and we support the British Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons that this is a ‘barbaric’ attack which he described as an attack on freedom.”

 

British Muslims Condemn Anti-Muslim Bigotry Printed in the Daily Mail

February 22, 2014

 

Leading British Muslim and interfaith organisations today wrote to Paul Dacre, the Editor of the Daily Mail condemning an article by columnist Richard Littlejohn that deployed hateful Muslim stereotypes. The column purports to criticise an individual but instead uses slurs commonly found in racist and far-right websites to make its point.

Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, the article satirises a community event that is to be held at the theme park, organised through a private group booking. Mr Littlejohn uses hateful tropes to fill his article. Mr Littlejohn jokes that the group, which will in real life have parents and children in attendance, will travel to Legoland in a coach “…packed with explosives stops in Parliament Square. As Big Ben strikes ten, driver will blow himself up”.

As a result of Mr Littlejohn’s article, far-right groups are threatening to turn up at Legoland, thus causing distress to the children present.

The letter is signed by a cross-section of British Muslims. It is in no way a defence of the views attributed to the person Mr Littlejohn criticises, but rather a challenge to our media not to accept such hateful language in our discourse.

 

The letter reads:

Dear Mr Dacre,

We write to express our condemnation of a recent article published by Richard Littlejohn in your newspaper. Entitled “Jolly Jihadi’s Outing to Legoland”, Mr Littlejohn deploys the most hateful stereotypes of Muslims to attack an individual.

Our condemnation is not about the attacks on Mr Haitham al-Haddad: he is perfectly capable of responding to the accusations put to him if minded to do so. Many of us may well disagree with the views attributed to him. Rather, we are speaking out at the insidious and hateful tropes Mr Littlejohn uses for his argument.

Mr Littlejohn may think he is humorous, satirical in fact. But there is nothing funny about inciting hatred. The language he deploys is exactly the same as those used by racists and the far-right. One needs only to peruse the comments below his article online to see the hatred against Muslims Mr Littlejohn has generated.

Would you allow similar hateful stereotypes to be used when writing about other faith or race communities?

Mr Littlejohn may suggest his words of hatred are directed at one figure rather than mainstream Muslims. This is a poor excuse. He accuses one figure of using hate speech by deploying hate speech himself.

As a cross section of Britain’s Muslim community, along with many of our fellow Britons, we state clearly and loudly that Mr Littlejohn’s article is the worst form of bigotry. This goes beyond causing offence. Your newspaper has published an incitement to hate Muslims.

So, we urge you, in the interests of decency and fairplay, to retract Mr Littlejohn’s article and to issue an apology not just to British Muslims, but to your readers and the great British public at large.

Yours,

 

 

Farooq Murad,

Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain

 

Fiyaz Mughal,

Founder and Director, Faith Matters and Tell Mama

 

Julian Bond

Director, Christian Muslim Forum

 

Steven Derby,

Director, Interfaith Matters

 

Ali Qureshi

Secretary General, Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO)

 

Maulana Sarfraz Madni,

Chairman, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board

 

Ameena Blake,

Vice-President, Muslim Association of Britain

 

Ali Master,

Council of European Jamaats (COEJ)

 

Saleha Islam

Chief Executive, Muslim Youth Helpline

 

Sufyan G Ismail,

Trustee, Engage

 

Mazhar Khan

Executive Board Member, Muslim Council of Scotland

 

Saleem Kidwai OBE,

Secretary General, Muslim Council of Wales

 

Mohammed Aslam-Ijaz,

General Secretary, Council of Mosques, South London and Southern Counties

 

Abdul Hamid Qureshi

Chair, Lancashire Council of Mosques

 

Ufuk Secgin

Chairman, London Islamic Culture and Recreation Society (LICARS)

 

Ahmed Khelloufi

Executive Director, Muslim Welfare House (London)

 

Mohammed Kozbar

British Muslim Initiative and Finsbury Park Mosque

 

Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy

Chair, Iqra Institute, Oxford

 

Shifa Shahab

Federation of Muslim Organisations Leicestershire

 

Muhammad Jinani

Young Muslim Organisation UK

 

Dr Mohammed Idrees

General Secretary, UK Islamic Mission

 

Ajmal Masroor

London Imam and Director of Barefoot Institute

 

Yusuf Al Khoei

Al-Khoei Foundation

 

Moulana Shahid Raza,

Founding Trustee, British Muslim Forum

 

Sir Iqbal Sacranie

Balham Mosque & Tooting Islamic Centre

 

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari

Author and Commentator

 

Talha Ahmad

Head of Media, Dawatul Islam UK & Eire

 

Yousuf Bhailok

Trustee /Chair. ‘Al Jamiah Al Islamiyah Darul Uloom Lancashire

 

Rashid Brora

General Secretary, Southampton Medina Mosque Trust Ltd

 

Unaiza Malik

Muslim Women’s Association

 

Muhammad Habibur-Rahman

Chairman, East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre

 

Dilowar Khan

President, Islamic Forum of Europe

 

 

The Muslim Council of Britain: http://www.mcb.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2463:pr-template&catid=40:press-release

Muslim group demands tougher response to mosque attacks

One of Britain’s largest Islamic groups has said a “dramatic escalation in violence” against British Muslims needs a much tougher response from the government. Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said the bombings of three Midlands mosques marked “the crossing of a red line”.

 

The MCB said the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in an alleged terrorist act in Woolwich, south London, in May had unleashed an increase in violence. A series of incidents had added to “a palpable sense of fear” among Muslim communities, it said.

 

“The community has patiently borne the brunt of these attacks despite condemning in the strongest possible terms the tragic murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby,” Murad said. “Despite this spike in incidences, there has yet to be a co-ordinated national effort to ensure that these sorts of attacks never happen again. It cannot be right that a minority community is allowed to be targeted in this manner.”

 

He added: “There is an urgent need for the government and police to respond with a co-ordinated national strategy so as to prevent further attacks.”

Sermons preached in mosques will do nothing to prevent child sex abuse in south Asian communities

Last Friday, Muslim leaders across the country united in openly condemning instances of child grooming and trafficking gangs within their communities. Organised by the non-profit group Together Against Grooming (TAG) and supported by the Muslim Council of Britain, a sermon delivered in around 500 mosques highlighted both the “moral depravity” and Quranic condemnation of such acts, which have no place in the Islamic faith.

There is no doubt that the intentions of the lectures were amicable, particularly in light of recent cases involving grooming gangs in Oxford and Rochdale. Yet in attempting to disassociate the wider Muslim community from such deplorable acts, they may have instead found themselves contributing to the toxic narrative often espoused by anti-Islamic groups such as the English Defence League, who argue that paedophilia and abuse are inherent within the religion. Further, while the gesture may have been widely praised by the media, it will have achieved little in getting to the roots of the problem, or preventing further such cases.

 

That’s largely because the relationship between Islam and grooming gangs is spurious at best. Some may argue that while these men were far from pious, Muslim leaders have a civic duty to address these issues. Where mosques are integral parts of local communities, they should play an active part in addressing issues that affect wider society. But we shouldn’t simply place pressure onto mosques and imams, for in reality they can do little but continue stating the obvious: that such acts are abhorrent and impermissible. In fact, a more effective way of tackling the epidemic of grooming gangs lies in encouraging the quieter voices within Asian communities – residents, community groups and local business owners – to speak out. Victims of abuse often find themselves at the mercy of the perpetrators, who are empowered simply because those around them are more than willing to keep quiet and look the other way. In fact, their silence highlights a far more complex cultural issue – notably the cult of shame and honour that forms the basis of social organisation within many South Asian communities. Indeed, it is not just the young victims of abuse that these grooming gangs were exploiting, but also the sensitivities of their cultural heritage.

 

The truth is that beyond the names of the perpetrators, Islam has little to do with these crimes. The real problem instead lies with cultural taboos and a hesitance by traditional communities to engage with such sensitive topics, which is readily exploited by criminal groups. The result of this continued silence is more victims of abuse and further hostility toward the majority of law abiding Muslims.

 

French Ex-Muslim Council founded

Le Figaro

6.7.2013

A group of former Muslims who have rejected Islam have come together in Paris to found the Council of French Ex-Muslims. The group aims to claim the right to publicly announce their disbelief and atheism as well as the right to critique their religion of origin freely. The group has currently members from over 32 nationalities, including 28-year-old Palestinian blogger Waleed Al-Husseini who was jailed in the Westbank in 2010 for  blasphemy and later fled to France.

The group state on their Facebook page that ‘they are a group of atheists and unbelievers who have due to their conviction faced threats and restrictions in their personal lives while many of us have also been arrested for blasphemy’.  They say  to ‘want to represent the voices of ex-Muslims in France who denounce the lies that every Muslim is confronted with’.

Similar groups have been founded in Britain and Germany.

Muslims unite to condemn ‘extreme depravity’ of child grooming in first UK-wide single sermon

Imams across Britain will today deliver a sermon denouncing the practice of grooming following a series of sexual abuse cases involving Muslims. The religious speech, which will be read out in 500 mosques, opens with a reading from the Koran that prohibits “sexual indecency, wickedness and oppression of others” and continues to urge congregations to report suspected cases of child abuse. It is reportedly the first time a single sermon will be delivered in unison across the UK and is organised by campaign group Together Against Grooming with the support of the Muslim Council and Islamic Society of Britain.

 

The effort comes after the convictions of Muslim men in a string of cases including those in Rochdale, Derby and Oxford, where five men were yesterday sentenced to life in prison for their involvement in a sex abuse gang. Others involved in the sermon’s broadcast at midday prayers today have been keen to ensure sexual abuse is not disproportionately linked to Asian Muslim men.