British Muslims must do more than just condemn

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Cabinet Minister Sajid Javid is himself of Muslim heritage. He takes the issue of Muslim protest against Islamist violence to the next level by insisting condemnation alone is not enough – Muslims must do more. But what?

Our country has repeatedly experienced terror. We react to the barbarity by expressing unity and defiant hop. We do this in the belief that if we stand together terror can be defeated. But with three terrorist attacks in as many months it’s time to face some hard truths. As Theresa May recently said in Downing Street: “Enough is enough!”.

We have seen all too often that there are some people in our country who reject our shared values; who are born here, raised here, have the same opportunities and advantages enjoyed by the rest of us, yet they choose to betray us by turning on their fellow citizens in the most brutal way imaginable. We talk about the actions of a “poisonous few”, but the reality is that the problem may be more significant in size than we think.

It’s only human to wish to pull together at times of tragedy; to believe that our hope can stand up against hatred; but if we only talk about standing together in our communities we risk ignoring the divisions that are corroding our society.

After any terrorist attack a lot of well-meaning people line up to say it has nothing to do with Islam. That the perpetrators are not true Muslims – they are, of course, right! But speaking as a Muslim myself, we need to ask ourselves some searching questions.

As British Muslims, we rightly condemn terror attacks but we must go further. It’s not enough to merely condemn. Muslims must also challenge. This will take courage. All communities must also feel confident enough to expose the perpetrators of the ideology of extremism, wherever they come across in their community.

This may be uncomfortable because it goes against the grain of community solidarity in light of an uncomprehending society who often miss-understand us. People may feel embarrassed about making a judgment-call about the behaviour of a fellow Muslim, but we can no longer shy away from those difficult conversations – both among ourselves as Muslims and also with the police.

There’s no avoiding the fact that the perpetrators think of themselves as faithful Muslims and identify as “Muslim” (submitted to God). But they carry out their attacks — ignorantly, offensively — and in the name of Islam, they only partly understand. That’s why, although we all share the responsibility for tackling terrorism, there’s a special, unique burden on the Muslim community.

I should be very clear on this. I’m not for one second saying that Muslims are in any way responsible for terrorists. Around the world Muslims are fighting on the front-line of the battle against extremism. It would be absurd to say the actions of a tiny handful in any way represent a peaceful, religion that is the guiding light for more than a billion people.

I call it a ‘special burden’ because the terror won’t be stopped on a battlefield or by negotiation. Lasting peace will only come when young Muslims who grow up in the West, realise that this is not their fight and opt to have no part in it. Only then will they turn their backs on the preachers of hate.

Source: The Times, June 2017

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