Last week’s Friday Reflections ‘End Islamophobia for a better Britain’ stirred up some controversy and upset some people, for which I am sorry. Some think I am wrongly targeting decent Brits and others say: ‘well what’s the point and what else do you expect?’ I disagree with both points of view. I am only carrying out the beloved Prophet’s (peace be upon him) order who taught us “whoever sees an evil should stop it with his hands, if he can’t do that then let him speak out against it, and if he can’t do that then he should hate it, that is the weakest faith” (Muslim). Shouldn’t I do that?
I will speak out against anyone who commits injustice, spreads hate and violence in our global village. My job as an Imam, teacher and well-wisher for everyone is to speak the truth, whether sweet or sour. I am “neither Eastern nor Western” (Al-Nur: 35), I am proud to say, ‘I am committed to my Mighty Lord.’ So, I thought I will just explain my thinking on hate and why this is a negative feeling that we must remove from ourselves. The Majestic Quran tells us how to overcome hate: “Speak kindly to people” (Al-Baqarah: 83).
The evil of hate
Have you ever asked yourself why do I hate so-and-so? Is it because you are frightened of them? Do you have no feelings for them? Since you believe they deserve nothing less or is it because you’re angry? If you could, you would use violence against them. These negative feelings are called ‘ghil’ (hate) in Arabic and the Quran teaches us a beautiful prayer to help us overcome these cynical feelings “Lord, don’t let hate take root in our hearts, Lord you are compassionate and caring” (Al-Hashr: 10). When animals are irritated or threatened, they physically attack like the snake bites and the scorpion stings with venom. But we humans are Divine representatives, we should know better. “Small, scared people hate, self-hating people hate, bullied and betrayed people hate as though it would make them large, safe and strong” (Prof Nancy Gibbs).
Islamophobes and racists tell us to discriminate and disengage. Moral leaders on the other hand promote engagement and friendship, they tell us that our opponents are not necessarily our enemies. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) taught us to give people good news and not to spread hatred.
Hope and Trust building
We need hope and prayer to tackle the sickness of this hatred that is rapidly growing in our global village. The political polarisation all over the world is frightening, the extremist right and the far left are pitching their tents against each other. This political polarisation is also fuelling religious bigotry and extremism. Hope and trust are the foundations of a harmonious society. Trust between people comes through realising common humanity and accepting our differences.
The Karimia Institute runs the ‘HumanKind’ initiative for engaging with interfaith, public and civic organisations to raise understanding about Islam, dispelling myths and collaborating with communities to promote dialogue. Over the years, the project has been successful in challenging stereotypes and misconceptions of Muslims. Through community events, interactive and engaging workshops and social media, HumanKind connects British Muslims and the public through empathy, understanding and simply getting to know one another. It also works with Muslims to develop their empathy and understanding of British society. The evaluation of this project showed that by offering an opportunity to meet Muslims and listen to their stories and experiences negative stereotypes can be dispelled.
I request Muslims to be hopeful and strong in dealing with prejudice and discrimination, let’s work together to stem the systemic miseducation about our religion that is so common in our society. However, hope is aspirational not a strategy, prayer is seeking Divine help and intervention. Both are wonderfully powerful tools for raising our determination to pursue peace and love, but by themselves, they can’t bring about change. We need to take the responsibility of raising awareness about Islam. One way is what our HumanKind project is doing and there is another way, we can educate non-muslims about Islam, give them the Book of Allah, distribute the Quran. Recently we sent 1500 copies of ‘The Majestic Quran’ to the parliamentarians, the response was amazing. Now we are planning to send them to all the councillors in the UK (Insha-Allah).
The Majestic Quran promises the Messenger “your tomorrow will be better than yesterday, and the Lord will give you so much that you will be happy” (Duha:4-5). Yes, we must look forward to a better future for ourselves and for the sake of our children to rid society of hate!
We have organised an online conference titled: End Islamophobia for better Britain where our guest speakers will discuss why Islamophobia must be tackled, why we must seek justice and root out hatred against Muslims and Islam. Please join us tomorrow at 8 pm, register on Eventbrite or watch live on British Muslim TV.