The horrific attacks against innocent people in Brussels yesterday have shocked and appalled the world.
The Islamic extremist terrorist group, ISIS – also known as ISIL or Daesh - has admitted ‘responsibility’ for the contemptible and cowardly crimes, which have left over 30 people dead and around 260 injured
Now, some are calling for an all-out attack against Islam and all Muslims. The words "Stop Islam" are already trending on Twitter.
That, in my view, would be a terrible mistake.
It’s mostly Muslims who are the victims of ISIS; it’s mostly Muslims who are fighting ISIS; most Muslims in Britain and the rest of the world are strongly against ISIS and similar terrorist groups; the vast majority of Muslims are loyal and upstanding citizens.
Most Muslims in the world are peaceful and compassionate. Most of them choose to interpret their Qur’an as a book that promotes, endorses and compels good will to people.
We have to guard against any forms of Islamophobia.
This is not a war against Islam. This is a war against religious Islamic extremism that does not represent the beliefs of most followers of Islam.
Muslims have strongly condemned yesterday’s attacks in Brussels, just as they did against the attacks in Paris, Istanbul, Syria and everywhere and every time the terrorist group causes death and destruction.
A statement issued by the Belgian Muslim Executive committee, an umbrella group, said the organisation, “condemns with force and without reservation” what it called “acts of extreme cruelty against innocent civilians.”
Yesterday morning groups of Muslim women arrived at St. Pierre Hospital in Brussels ready to donate their blood. Many of them were turned away after the hospital said their stocks were already full.
“No one here is okay with [the attacks.] We only want to pray, not condone terrorism,” said Mustafa, a member of the Ulu Camii mosque in Brussels, who only wanted to give his first name.
"It's a catastrophe for Muslims," said Ezzedine, a worker at the Brussels-based Islamic Cultural Centre for Islam.
Muslim leaders across the world have spoken strongly against the attacks.
“These were barbaric acts,” said Said Kamli, the director of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, adding that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its terrorist activities do not represent Islam.
“We do not support people who do these things. We hope they face justice.”
‘Faiths Forum for London’ released a statement, co-signed by 100 Muslim leaders, condemning the attacks that took place in Brussels:
"Our deepest condolences are with the family and friends of the victims of the Brussels bombings this morning and similar horrors unleashed on innocent people in Istanbul and Ankara last week.
"The perpetrators do not represent anybody but themselves, and unfortunately events such as these often result in an increase in racial and religious hate crime.”
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the intergovernmental representing 57 sovereign member states from across the Islamic world, also issued a statement strongly condemning the terrorist attacks in Brussels, expressing “firm rejection of these terrorist acts”.
The organisation called on:
“all governments across the world, international organizations and civil society institutions to engage in a concerted joint firm action to combat the scourge of terrorism, which represents a serious threat to international peace and security.”
Sunni Islam’s leading seat of learning, Al-Azhar, stated, “These heinous crimes violate the tolerant teachings of Islam.”
And so it was the same following the Isis Paris attacks last November that left 127 people brutally murdered and 80 critically injured.
Muslims and Muslim leaders speak up constantly and consistently against such attacks and the crimes against humanity being committed by ISIS and related terrorist groups.
There is now a fear among Muslim communities, however, that they will be targeted in a strong wave of anti-Islam sentiments. In Britain attacks on innocent Muslims rose by 300% following last November’s ISIS atrocities in Paris.
But knowing who is your enemy is vital to winning a war. And Islam itself is not the enemy – a view shared by the leaders of democratic countries across the world, including US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
Said President Obama:
“We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam."
Said Prime Minister David Cameron:
“We should be clear: this is not the ‘War on Terror’, nor is it a war of religions. It is a battle against a poisonous ideology that is condemned by all faiths and by all faith leaders, whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim.”
Said Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany:
"As chancellor, I come to the defence of Muslims, most of whom are upright, constitutionally loyal citizens."
Said the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte:
"ISIS is our enemy and that is why we are at war. We are not at war with a religion or Islam."
There are many verses in the Qur'an that demonstrate Islam as a religion of peace and forgiveness, and indeed most Muslims across the world are peaceful and forgiving.
The Qur'an teaches that forgiveness is a superior moral trait. In Qur'an 42:43 it is stated:
"But if someone is steadfast and forgives, that is the most resolute course to follow".
Forgiveness, tolerance and compassion, those are the attributes I relate to the teachings of Islam and to all the Muslims who I personally know and count as my friends.
After all, in Qur'an 3:134 it is revealed that followers, "control their rage and pardon other people".
It’s true that a minority have chosen to interpret their religious texts in ways that cause great harm and suffering. But that minority does not represent the views of most Muslims.
Most Muslims choose to interpret their Qur'an as a book that promotes, endorses and compels good will to people. This we need to remember.
“If we demonise all Islam, then we push moderates into the welcoming arms of radicals. If we fail to join the battle of moderates against militants then we risk catastrophic defeat.”
And he added that:
“alienating Islam as a system of belief would make an enemy of 1.6 billion people – most of whom condemn the terrorists.”
We have to guard against any forms of Islamophobia. This is not a war against Islam, and we shouldn't make it one, either.
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#BrusselsAttacks: Yes. This is a war. But not against #Islam. My blog: https://t.co/ZlGM1MWSlk pic.twitter.com/wB71ys5sJt— Jon Danzig (@Jon_Danzig) March 23, 2016