Manchester Attack: article by Qari Asim MBE

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Imam Qari Asim MBE wrote an article published in the Times today.

The everyday acts of integration that show why ISIS will not win

Extremists want British Muslims to feel like outsiders

As a British Muslim, I am repulsed by the carnage caused by the Manchester Arena attack. The attacker, Salman Abedi, has a Muslim name but his vile attack neither represents Islam nor Muslims - just as the murderer of Jo Cox MP did not represent Yorkshiremen. 

Abedi has shown that he had no regard for God or humanity.  Killing an innocent person is one of the gravest sins in Islam. We Imams have unreservedly condemned this attack and joined other faith leaders in remembering the lives of the victims.  This Friday, services in mosques across the country will host prayers of peace and of solidarity. We will re-state our resolve to fight extremism. 

Those who pray at my mosque in Leeds seem to me a fairly typical snapshot of Britain’s 3 million Muslim citizens. And I can see how they are already undermining and repudiating the extremist ideologies that I am preaching against - because it’s just part of our everyday lives in Britain. That includes the thousands of Muslims who take an active role in our society but also the everyday things like getting together with our neighbours.  Even simply voting in the General Election is forbidden according to the extremists – yet we have been encouraging our young people to register and have their voices heard.

The ideology of ISIS says that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot live peacefully together in a society like Britain’s – and just by doing that, we show that they are wrong. By standing together, working together and living together, we show why ISIS will not win.

We Muslims will continue to condemn and disassociate ourselves from the acts of terrorists. But theologically dissecting the twisted ideology of ISIS is not enough. Counter-narratives do have an important role to play in re-engaging those already susceptible but ‘Don’t be an extremist’ is too passive. We need a positive call to action - a clear articulation of a shared identity and sense of belonging. The response by people in Manchester to this week’s cowardly attack gave a taste of what that could be - proud, inclusive and resilient.

Of course, that means we need to pay attention to the places where communities become segregated or cut-off – whether that’s because of a lack of contact with people from other backgrounds or because some people don’t want them to be part of our shared society. Integration must start with a sense of equal citizenship that is available to us all. Our strength as a society lies in our sense of ‘who we are’ - a shared and inclusive identity in which all feel we have a stake.

So we will continue to pro-actively challenge extremism through education, engagement and the empowerment of vulnerable young people.  The Muslim community must also define for young Muslims what it means to be a British Muslim in the 21st century, and to highlight that there are no inherent tensions between being a Muslim and being a Brit; between following their faith and the values of tolerance, justice, equality, civil liberties and rule of law. 

All terror attacks seek to deepen divisions in society and provoke hatred, suspicion, fear and anger. They want to provoke more anti-Muslim prejudice and attacks, and in this they have enjoyed some success: some Mosques have been attacked and people I know have been verbally abused or spat at in the street. They want British Muslims not to feel at home in our own country. So now it is more important than ever that we show that our hearts are bound together and we will carry each other through times of happiness and of pain.

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