Must Muslims Condemn Terrorism?

A soldier stands guard outside a shul in Neuilly sur Seine, France, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
A soldier stands guard outside a shul in Neuilly sur Seine, France, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Following Friday’s attack in Paris, the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement expressing solidarity with the Jewish community, saying, “The Muslim Council of Britain is united in its solidarity with the Jewish community following news that hostages were killed at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

“The unfolding events in France these past few days have undoubtedly horrified everyone, not least Muslims from around the world. We must work hard to defy those who wish to divide communities.

“We echo the reaction of France’s President François Hollande who said: ‘Those who committed these acts, these fanatics, have nothing to do with the Muslim faith.’ Unity, as the French president has rightly said, is our best weapon.

“The Muslim Council of Britain is reaching out to Jewish organizations here in Britain to offer its support at this difficult time.”

There was also personal contact from Dr. Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council, who wrote to Mr. Chanoch Kesselman of the UOHC (Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations), expressing his condolences and condemning the attack. Dr. Shafi said, “We must not allow these agents of hate to divide us; I hope we can redouble our efforts in solidarity.”

Many other Muslims also publicly condemned the attack, either as representatives of organizations or on an individual level. Yet some people felt that to expect Muslims as a group to apologize or speak out against the terrorists was counter-productive.

Remona Aly, a journalist and the campaigns director of Exploring Islam Foundation, told Hamodia, “I have a human and moral obligation to condemn violence and extremism, just as any normal, civilized person would. All acts of violence and extremism are appalling: the attacks in Paris, the attacks in Peshawar — the attacks on innocent lives anywhere are unacceptable and reprehensible.”

But she feels that “the sense that the whole Muslim ‘community’ is being compelled to apologize is a dangerous path to tread; targeting an entire faith group leads to the warped notion that if they don’t speak out they are somehow condoning it.”

Aly said that “silence should not mean complicity.” She pointed out that expecting all Muslims to speak out whenever there is an attack plays into the hands of extremists. “It is a concerted attempt by some people of political point-scoring which seeks to demonize an entire group of people, and that feeds into a polarized ‘us versus them’ rhetoric, which plays into what extremists want.”

In advance of Wednesday’s publication of Charlie Hebdo, which carries a cartoon of Muhammad on the front cover, a group of British imams published “Guidelines for the Muslim Community,” in which they call on fellow Muslims not “to inadvertently give the cartoons more prominence through our attention.” They say “Muslims must remain calm and peaceful in their speech and actions.”

Significantly, one of the points made is that “As British citizens we must not allow the tragic incidents of Paris for hate [sic] to creep into our hearts. Muslims, non-Muslims and people of all backgrounds must come together and show unity and solidarity and not let it divide our communities.”

The guidelines also recommend that Muslims pray and study the Koran as well as engage appropriately with others about their feelings.

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