Reaction, Reform and Respect

The horrendous murders in Paris earlier this month once again demanded that Muslims should condemn this, and explain these evil and heinous crimes. As a British Muslim, I know all religions teach love and care, and to live peacefully and harmoniously with neighbours; they teach tolerance and forgiveness and a deep sense of accountability before a mighty creator.

This is expected from their followers, and Islam is no exception. The Islam I learnt certainly taught me this. Religion can easily be abused, however, and violence committed in its name. This is not about Islam but about socio-political and economic issues. I hope that our fellow Brits will soon be able to dissociate such barbaric attacks from Islam.

Terrorism is a crime like other crimes. By giving it a religious connotation we bestow special status on it, that it does not deserve. Some people make the accusation that “Islam is inherently violent and intolerant”, but this view has no basis; one needs to just look at the teachings of the religion and see that it preaches the common good, human welfare and invites humanity to a loving God.

Another charge against Islam is that it is outdated and in need of Reformation; in other words, make it better by removing errors. Perhaps the kind of Reformation that Christianity went through in the 16th century, where doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church were challenged and led to the formation of many Protestant sects. I believe Islam does not need this kind of Reformation. However, it does need revival. Muslims need to learn and understand true Islam and its beliefs and practices; moreover they must embrace its moral, social and spiritual values. Islamic teachings are flexible enough for all cultures, which is why Islam has spread across the globe from the Far East to the depths of central Africa and as far as Moscow and Washington. The five pillars of Islam are non-negotiable, but its other teachings are flexible to make it is suitable for all times and places.

The depiction of the prophet in cartoons is unacceptable to Muslims, just as Parisians found the remarks by Fox TV about ‘the no-go zones for non-Muslims in Paris’ unacceptable. In fact the mayor of Paris intends to take a legal action against them. Why? Because it is damages their reputation, it can ruin tourism and community relations. If our cities’ reputations are so vital and sacrosanct, then what is the problem of making a personality that is central to someone’s faith, life and very existence sacrosanct?

I like what the Pope said about freedom of speech. He gestured to Alberto Gasparri, one of his aides, and said with a smile, “I believe you cannot react violently, but if Mr Gasparri, my great friend, says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch – this is normal. You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faiths. You cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit.”