Barnabas Edit: Muslims take a stand over Islamist violence; they need our support

November 12, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world


African troops have driven al-Shabaab out of parts of Somalia

African troops have driven al-Shabaab out of parts of Somalia

November 08, 2013: As shocking acts of Islamic terrorism continue to fill our news bulletins, it is extremely heart-warming for me to see that Muslim leaders throughout the world are now speaking out against those who are using violence in the name of Islam.

In one recent incident, an Islamic sheikh named Yusuf from Garissa, Kenya, challenged the radical preaching in the mosque he had been attending – and nearly got himself killed for his courage. The radicals waited for Yusuf to come to prayers one evening and shot him, leaving him for dead. Thankfully he survived, but his suffering shows how risky it is for moderate Muslims to stand up to extremists.

Recent atrocities by Islamist militants, including the siege by al-Shabaab on the Westgate shopping centre in Kenya, the suicide bombing at All Saints Church in Pakistan and the murder of British soldier Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich have drawn severe criticism from moderate Muslim leaders.

Following the Westgate siege, in which around 70 people lost their lives – non-Muslims were singled out while those who could demonstrate their Islamic faith were spared – many leading Kenyan Muslims condemned the attack.

Al Amin Kimathi, convenor of the National Muslim Human Rights Forum, described the terrorists’ actions as indefensible and reprehensible.

Adan Wachu, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims, said that the wanton and indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women and children goes against all Islamic teachings and tenets. He said that the county’s religious leaders were working together to counter violent extremism:

We are convinced beyond doubt that the attempt to sow seeds of discord between Muslims and Christians will fail miserably and that we shall remain united.

Moves against al-Shabaab are also being made in the group’s own breeding ground ofSomalia, where the militants have been fighting to establish an Islamic state.

In an unprecedented step, Somali Islamic scholars issued in September a fatwa denouncing the group. At a conference in Mogadishu convened by the Somali government, which is itself strongly Islamic, around 160 Somali religious scholars condemned al-Shabaab’s use of violence and concluded that it was not a legitimate Islamic organisation.

The fatwa said:

  • Al-Shabaab has strayed from the correct path of Islam, leading the Somali people onto the wrong path. The ideology they are spreading is a danger to the Islamic religion and the existence of the Somali society.
  • The Somali government is an Islamic administration; it is forbidden to fight against it or regard its members as infidels.
  • Al-Shabaab, an extremist group, must atone to God and must cease its erroneous ideology and criminal actions.
  • It is forbidden to join, sympathise or give any kind of support to al-Shabaab.
  • It is a religious duty to refuse shelter to al-Shabaab members, who must be handed over to Somali institutions responsible for security.
  • It is a taboo to negotiate on behalf of al-Shabaab members in custody or release them from jail.

Somali officials have a religious duty to protect the Somali people from the atrocities of al-Shabaab. The Somali public also has an obligation to assist the government in its security operations against al-Shabaab.

Somali analyst Mohamed Abdullahi told the BBC’s Newsday programme that the fatwa, issued by so many prominent scholars, is likely to sway opinions on the ground but is unlikely to change the path of the group’s leadership.

Changing the minds of average al-Shabaab “foot soldiers”, as it were, is nevertheless as important as reforming the group’s leaders, because without the former, the latter will not have the capacity to enact their destructive plots.


All Saints Church was the site of the worst-ever attack on Pakistani Christians

All Saints Church was the site of the worst-ever attack on Pakistani Christians

Following the worst-ever attack on Pakistan’s Christian community, the bombing of All Saints Church – which has now claimed over 100 lives, as many of the wounded have succumbed to their injuries – many Pakistani Muslims condemned the incident.

Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, leader of the country’s Ulema Council, a body of leading Muslim scholars, said that killing innocent people violates the tenets of Islam:

It is an extremely shameful attack which has shamed all Pakistanis and Muslims. There is no room for such terrorist acts in Islam.

Ordinary Pakistani Muslims have also demonstrated solidarity with their Christian compatriots by joining human chains around churches in a movement organised by Pakistan for All, a group that campaigns against attacks on minorities.

Similar steps have been taken by Iraqi Muslims to show their support for the country’s beleaguered Christians.

Marking the third anniversary of the deadliest attack on Iraqi Christians since the 2003 US-led invasion, both Sunni and Shia Muslims gathered on 31 October outside the church in Baghdad that was besieged by an al-Qaeda front group in 2010.

They lit candles and held up banners appealing for Christians to stay in the country. Abbas Hassan said, “The Christians are the people of Iraq, for thousands of years, and Christianity is one of the oldest religions in Iraq. We invite them not to leave Iraq because all Iraqis share their pain.”

Violent attacks on Christians by Islamist militants have driven hundreds of thousands to flee the country.


It is no small matter for moderate Muslims to take a stand over Islamist violence. They are putting their own safety at risk, as being Muslim does not protect them from becoming targets.

In fact, the threat to a number of prominent British Muslims who condemned the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby is so great that they are now under police protection.

Mohammed Shafiq, the founder of the moderate Muslim Ramadhan Foundation, Uama Hasan, a senior researcher with the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, Ajmal Masroor, an imam and broadcaster, and film-maker Mohammed Ansar were threatened in a video by al-Shabaab. “Woolwich: an eye for an eye” calls for Muslims to follow the example of Drummer Rigby’s murderers and kill those perceived as enemies of Islam.

Despite the threats against them, the Muslim targets have remained resolute in speaking out against violent extremism.

After being told by police that his life was in imminent danger from the terrorists, Ajmal Masroor posted on his Facebook page:

I shall continue doing what I believe is right and true despite threats and I shall speak out loud and clearly against extremism and terrorism no matter how many threats I receive. Ultimately the extremists would run out of steam and the terrorists would fizzle out, but moderation, fairness and truth will always prevail.


While I am extremely encouraged by the many brave Muslims who are speaking out against Islamist violence, actions speak louder than words and it is time for moderate Muslims everywhere to heed the call of Aijaz Zaka Syed, a Muslim commentator on Middle East and South Asia affairs.

In an article for Gulf News, he called for a more robust response to Islamic violence from “the so-called sensible majority” of the world’s Muslims, who, he says, “insist whenever something like this happens that it has nothing to do with Islam and the perpetrators of these shameful acts cannot be Muslims,” adding:

We may go on righteously protesting that this has nothing to do with faith. But like it or not, such reasoning does not cut it. The world judges us by who we are, not by what we claim to be. If we stand for peace and salvation, our lives must attest to it and our actions must show it. It is as simple as that.

The same principle is of course true for Christians as well. It is no good our wringing our hands over the persecution of our brothers and sisters but not doing anything to effect change.

One thing that Christians can do is support these brave Muslim leaders who are taking a stance against the violence that is claiming the lives of so many Muslims and non-Muslims. We can support them with our prayers and our friendship and by lending our voices to their courageous campaign.

– dr patrick sookhdeo

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