UK Muslims hold rally against terrorism

This weekend, 12,000 Muslims attended the Peace for Humanity conference, urging peace and understanding between religions. Will a new Fatwa against Terror be successful?

For a Saturday at Wembley, it was an unusual scene. Over 12,000 Muslims flooded through the Arena gates to debate, pray, and, most importantly, listen to renowned Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri. All were united for the Peace for Humanity conference – an event dedicated to condemning terrorism and promoting harmony between global religions.

Participants, who received messages of support from David Cameron and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, signed a 'Declaration of Peace', which called for intercultural dialogue and respect. They rejected extremism and the idea of any 'clash of civilisations' between Islam and the West.

Prominent figures argued that 'the voices of the 99% true, peace-loving Muslims' had been drowned out by the 'noise' of extremists, who had distorted perceptions of Islam.

The conference was run by Minhaj-ul-Quran, a peace organisation founded by Dr. ul-Qadri. The scholar rose to prominence last year when he issued a Fatwa against Terrorism and Suicide Bombings – a 600-page religious case against violence.

It's one of many campaigns, including the Jihad for Peace, which fights extremism, and perceptions of Islam as misogynistic, doctrinal and violent – stressing, instead, understanding and respect for women encouraged by the Quran.

But the 'silent majority' of peaceful Muslims face profound challenges. Sabotage, and death threats against ul-Qadri, have forced the Peace for Humanity website to partially close. Meanwhile, UK security agencies continue the fight against terrorism. Just this week, six men in Birmingham stand trial for charges relating to violent bombings – caught, it is speculated, in the late stages of planning for a major attack.

Religious disputes

Is the conference going far enough? Any call for an end to violence is welcome, but some argue that even non-violent religious belief can be a danger, and should sometimes be opposed or challenged. Devoutly religious people, of all faiths, sometimes put doctrinal principles ahead of the values of civil society – saying that God's law is higher than man's. If religious belief conflicts with modern ideas about women's rights, for example, or freedom of speech, that can create a problem.

For most religious people, though, there is no contradiction between liberal democracy and having God at the centre of life. Muslims are no exception to this rule, although they face particular prejudice because of the actions of an unrepresentative minority. One of the most important freedoms that democracies must protect is freedom to believe.

You Decide

  1. Is extremism a problem in your community?
  2. Overall, has multiculturalism made a positive contribution to modern society?

Activities

  1. Write a speech promoting peace and understanding between different religions.
  2. Conduct a piece of research into an element of Islam that's controversial in the wider world – the position of women, for example, or the use of violence. Research the Quranic background to the issue, and create a presentation of how it is perceived in Islam.

Some People Say...

“No one should define themselves by their religion.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Isn't terrorism often described as Jihad, though?
It is – but its definition is much richer than the 'war on infidels' that the media sometimes suggests. Most Muslims find little religious evidence to justify violence against non-believers. Broadly, Jihad can be translated as 'struggle' – within oneself, to maintain religious faith against evil inclinations, or in society, for spiritual understanding, justice and welfare.
What about Fatwa?
The idea of a Fatwa is also plagued by misconception – thanks, in part, to high profile Fatwas such as the death sentence placed by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini on author Salman Rushdie. A Fatwa, however, isn't a death sentence, but an interpretation of Islamic law, produced with religious evidence by a scholar or expert. Muslims aren't required to obey a Fatwa, but consider the evidence provided and decide for themselves whether it is sound.

Word Watch

Ban Ki-Moon
The 8th Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon suceeded Kofi Annan in 2007. The position makes Ban an important spokesperson for the international community.
Misogynistic
The word means 'associated with a hatred of women', but is usually used more loosely, to refer to any oppressive, disrespectful or harmful attitudes toward women and girls.
Doctrinal
Sticking rigidly to rules and assertions, leaving little room for dispute or debate.
Quran
Islam's holy book, which Muslims believe is the word of God as revealed to Muhammed.

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