Night falls on a stricken city. Thousands gather outside Notre Dame Cathedral. It is a sombre act of defiance and solidarity against a murderous intolerance which stalks their streets once again. In a demonstration of unity, French Christians, Jews and Muslims light candles in memory of the dead.
To my knowledge only the BBC reported on two Imams and two Rabbis standing shoulder to shoulder laying wreaths in an act of condemnation of this extraordinary act of indiscriminate violence.
This solidarity runs contrary to the aims of IS. Its purpose is clear- create an atmosphere of suspicion and hatred; set Muslims against Jews, Christians and secular members of French society, thereby further marginalising Muslims who will be ripe for radicalisation, and thus the cycle is never broken.
We must not fall for this ploy. A descent into Islamaphobia is exactly what IS hopes to create. The jihadists are provoking us, aiming for divisiveness, marginalisation and a climate of hate.
If we think Muslims endorse such acts of random terror, then we have been paying scant attention.
IS has little regard for the basic tenets of Islam: they have killed fellow Muslims, blown up copies of the Qur’an; they have slaughtered innocent youth and have used sexual slavery as a weapon. The condemnation of IS could not be more clear:
“ Either we reject this violence in the clearest possible terms, or we allow them to become the face of Islam and the world’s perception of us.” ( Fazal Khan, Imam of the American Society of Islamic mosques .)
Similarly, countless Islamic groups around the world have also vehemently rejected IS. French Imams are blasting the militant groups; Britain’s largest mosque has declared them UN ISLAMIC; Sunni and Shia clerics in Iraq have distributed a fatwa to 50,000 mosques announcing that IS is in no way linked to the Muslim faith, and that failure to stand up to the group is a sin. Egypt’s grand Mufti has lambasted IS, and Dar al-Ifta, one of the most influential Muslim groups in the world has launched a global campaign to remove the word “Islamic” from IS, rebranding its proponents as “separatists”.
With great dismay, I learned on social media of witch hunts and of the branding of Islam as an “aggressive cancer”. To speak thus is playing directly into the hands of IS. The aim of IS is to strengthen that perception, thereby legitimising the nihilistic values it promotes.
I am not suggesting taking no action against IS- that is another issue- but any action we take must contain a counter-narrative which is inclusive and speaks on behalf of all peaceful people, irrespective of religious and cultural difference. If ever we are to defeat this medieval ideology, it has to be collectively.
If we think Muslims support these acts of terror, then we simply have not been listening to Muslims.