Minhaj-ul-Quran International UK | By Dr Zahid Iqbal
1st July 2015: The recent atrocities in Tunisia, France and Kuwait in addition to the growing numbers of young people (albeit marginal) travelling to join the ranks of ISIS, pose serious challenges around issues to do with the security and safety of not only British citizens but also citizens of the world. The menacing ideology of this narcissistic death cult, which claims to be ‘Islamic’ and acting in defence of Islam, is not only unequivocally non-Islamic, its modus operandi is completely antithetical to any conceivable notion of what it means to be human. The butchery and savagery that is perpetrated on innocent people across the globe is condemnable in the strongest and uncompromising terms. Whilst it is important that the British government – or any government for that matter – must ensure the safety of its citizens, it is equally important in liberal democracies to ensure that in reaction to the threats posed by these extremist organisations, governments and tolerant societies do not curtail the very liberties and rights that the extremists work so callously to oppose.
Doing so will be playing into the hands of such intolerable individuals or groups and serves only to provide their propagandist narrative with a degree of strategic leverage. It is with the aforementioned in mind that we caution the government to approach the issue of radicalisation with a firm sense of purpose, but one that is able to actually deal with the issue, without inadvertently and counter-productively adding fuel to the fire and thereby exacerbating the very radicalisation process that is being sought to be challenged. Among growing concern at the risk of increasing isolation and alienation of the UK Muslim population expressed by teaching professionals, civil liberty groups, political commentators, community organisations and even counter-terrorism experts themselves, it is important that Prime Minister Cameron and the British government ensure that Muslim students and youth are not disproportionately targeted via the new Counter-Terrorism and Security (CTS) bill.
Extremism exists in numerous communities across the UK including for example far right extremism spewed by groups comprising racist bigots. We’ve recently witnessed the horrific effects of far right extremism in America where innocent Church goers in Charleston were mercilessly gunned down sharing in many ways the same fate as innocent British holiday makers in the Tunisian beach resort in Sousse. In the thick fog of confusion, emotion and a desire to seek redress and retribution for these inhumane violations, we must not lose a sense of moral purpose. We must not forget that the vast majority of people affected by terrorist atrocities are Muslims themselves. This week saw the introduction in schools of the CTS bill with instructions for teachers to keep an eye on, and report suspicious actions of students they feel show signs of extremism or radicalisation.
However, by unwittingly allowing Muslim pupils in schools across the UK to feel isolated and unable to express dissent at what they feel constitutes injustices across the world, we run the risk of ostracising young people from political engagement and civic activism, and by doing so, dismantle a fundamental mechanism through which to engage young people. After all dissent is a fundamental right of citizens who live within a democratic system of governance, as too, is the right to freedom of speech, expression and religious practice. Ideals that have made Britain the tolerant country it is and provided it with a degree of attractiveness unlike any other Western European nation. The importance of dissent – in our own history – is perhaps best reflected in the efforts to disband the transatlantic slave trade. If it were not for the dissenting voice and political activism of William Wilberforce who knows how many more years African Americans would have suffered deplorable conditions in what was deemed at the time as a perfectly legitimate transatlantic enterprise.
Returning to the present, harrowing personal testimonies from survivors of the Tunisian beach attack who faced the indiscriminate firing of gunman Seifeddine Rezgui, have paid warm and moving tribute to the brave Muslim hotel staff who risked their own lives in the face of bullets to save the lives of British tourists. Only by showing such gallant and selfless displays of opposition to terrorists and extremists do we stand a chance of defeating this cancerous ideology of suppression and fear. We cannot afford to lose a generation of British school children to radicalisation or groups such as ISIS through inadequate and counter-intuitive intervention, and by failing to deal with the multivariate causes of radicalisation. The answer to this problem does not lie in viewing Muslims as a fifth column or as some sort of existential threat to national security, but by seeing Muslims as part of the solution, and not the problem.
The solution has to in part come from within the Muslim community and one such initiative was the recently launched Islamic Curriculum on Peace and Counter-Terrorism by the renowned Muslim jurist and author of the famous Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings, Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. Through initiatives such as these, as well engagement not disengagement with vulnerable and disaffected young people, we stand a far greater chance at protecting our future generations from the global threat posed by groups such as ISIS and those that subscribe to its intolerant and warped narrative.