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STATEMENT OF BRITISH IMAMS AND SCHOLARS ON THE SEPTEMBER 11 TRAGEDY AND ITS AFTERMATH
A special meeting of imams (leaders) and ulama (scholars) was convened by The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to discuss the events of 11 September in the United States of America and their aftermath. The meeting was held at the Islamic Cultural Centre, Regents Park, London on 29 September 2001.
The meeting agreed on the following:
Regarding the definition and use of the term 'terrorism', the meeting felt that it was desirable to define the word precisely but with reference to Islamic concepts and terminology.
In its present-day usage - as in the phrase 'war on terrorism' - the term 'terrorism' was largely confined to acts perpetrated by individuals or small groups but excluded acts perpetrated by states or by coalitions of states. It was felt that a definition of 'terrorism' from an Islamic perspective might well be more wide-ranging than current usage.
Indiscriminate murder and the shedding of blood, driving people out of their homes and lands, destruction of crops and livestock, the spreading of fasad (mischief and corruption which encompasses political, economic and moral corruption) on earth - are examples of criminal acts or behaviour condemned by Islam.
So far as principles are concerned, several verses of the Qur'an were quoted to show Islam's uncompromising insistence on justice:
"O you who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do"
(Al-Nisa, verse 135)
"O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just; that is closer to piety: and be ever conscious of God for God is well-acquainted with all that you do.
(al-Ma'idah, verse 8)
"On that account We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one kills a person - unless if be for murder of for spreading mischief on earth - it would be as if he killed all humankind; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all humankind. Yet, although there came to them Our messengers with clear teachings, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.'
(al-Ma'idah, verse 32)
God does not forbid you with regard to those who do not fight you for your Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them. Indeed God loves those who are just.
God only forbids you with regard to those who fight you for your Faith and drive you out of your homes and lands and support others in driving you out, from turning to them for friendship and protection. It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances) that do wrong. (Al-Mumtahanah, 60, 8-9)
'… to spread mischief and corruption on earth and destroy crops and cattle. God does not like mischief and corruption. (al-Baqarah, 2: 25)
Condemnation of atrocities on 11 September in America
It is a criminal act to take the life of a human being without due process of law. The killing of innocent people whether done by individuals or state institutions is condemned in Islam.
On this basis the meeting absolutely condemned the atrocities in America on 11 September which resulted in the loss of almost 7000 lives.
Aftermath of the 11 September atrocity
Based on the above principle, the meeting also warned that the prosecution of any so-called 'war on terrorism' leading to the loss of life of innocent civilians - in the absence of concrete evidence against any group or individual and proof of guilt - would be a criminal act against humanity even if it is justified as 'minimal loss of life' or as part of 'unavoidable collateral damage'
The meeting also condemned the use of threats of war and intimidation against a whole people merely on the basis of suspicion of a single individual or a group for complicity in committing atrocities. It is on this basis that the meeting condemned the massive mobilization of military might on land, sea and air in Western and Central Asia, the targeting of Afghanistan for possible bombardment, the actual use of clandestine activities by 'special forces' within the country. All this has been done without a formal declaration of war against the country. All these acts, the meeting declared, were violations of justice.
All these actions on the part of the United States, Britain and the rest of the 'coalition against terrorism' have produced terror on a monumental scale in Afghanistan causing hundreds of thousands of innocent people to flee for their lives and be uprooted from their homes. All this comes after years of foreign aggression, civil war still being stoked by foreign powers and years of drought, famine, disease and misery. The first acts of the 'coalition against terrorism' show that power is being wielded without ethics and the result is tyranny and terror. They can in no way be described as being 'in defence of democracy and civilised values'.
The meeting was unanimous in opposing the imposition of any outside will on the choice of government in Afghanistan. It is contradictory to act in the name of democracy and then seek to impose a government by threat of force on any people.
The meeting also condemned the many acts of 'state terrorism' that have been and are being perpetrated by states belonging to the coalition with military and economic support from one another. In this regard, the ongoing Israel military expansion leading to the dispossession of the Palestinian people, resulting in 5 million refugees, is 'state terrorism' and gross violation of all justice.
On the position of Muslims in Britain
The meeting emphasised that Muslims in Britain must remain faithful to and firm in their adherence to Islamic values. The path of Islam is the balanced and middle path, dealing with others in a spirit of courtesy and rational discourse:
"Invite (all) to the way of your Sustainer with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Sustainer knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance"
(Al-Nahl, verse 125)
"Thus, have We made of you a community (ummah) justly balanced, that you might be witnesses unto all people, and the Messenger is a witness unto you all."
(Al-Baqarah, verse 143)
The meeting however recognised that Islamic values are being misrepresented or corrupted by individuals and vocal groups within the Muslim community - groups that adopt positions, methods and tactics that are not in keeping with the teachings of the Qur'an noted above and which tend to create hatred and animosity towards Islam and Muslims from the wider public.
The Muslim community is thus threatened from within and one of its primary duties is to protect the community - in particular the youth - from the activities of such groups.
The meeting cautioned that in interaction with and dealing with such groups, there is no substitute for logic and clear argument and a forthright disavowal of the obnoxious positions they often adopt and the tactics that they use.
The meeting stressed that it was crucial to do everything to enhance and not undermine the unity of the Muslim community. The use of such terms as 'moderates' and 'extremists' should be avoided as this would create division and polarization.
On Muslims and the wider society
It was suggested that the best way to protect the Muslim community is to inform and explain the teachings of Islam and the Qur'an to the wider public..
Muslims should aim to create 'a positive milieu' among the leaders of opinion in the West.
Mosques should become centres of dialogue and discussion with the wider public.
More attention and resources need to be dedicated to visiting schools, and meeting staff and students.
There was a need to tackle racism and 'Islamophobia' both at individual and institutional levels.
Amidst the outrage and the clamour for quick retribution In the wake of the tragic events of 11 September, the meeting felt that it was appropriate to express appreciation for the courage, sense of objectivity and humanity shown by some public figures and writers like Clare Short, Tony Benn, and Robert Fisk.
Stop the war
Muslims need to join with others to call for an end to this war mongering and massive military build up against imprecise targets without the production of solid evidence and without guilt being proved. The evidence should be made public and due processes of law must be applied.
The meeting called for joining and supporting the campaign to save the miserable people of Afghanistan from further devastation from the horrors of war and the threats of war.
Ijma (consensus) of scholars
The meeting agreed that the British Muslim community should be guided by the ijma' (consensus) of scholars and that the MCB should seek to bring together ulama (scholars) from all schools of thought in the community. Their task will be to examine Islamic concepts and terminology in defining terms like 'terrorism' and 'the international community' and provide guidance on other issues facing the community.
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