The attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, with so many dead and injured, shocked people around the world. No sooner had the bodies of the slain gone cold, their names not yet released, than the vultures came to gloat and peck over the carcass of our freedoms.
We offered our thoughts and prayers with all involved and affected. After prayer and reflection, I could do no more other than, as after the Woolwich killing, to ask people to stand united against the terror, against the hate and intolerance which seeks to divide us. To oppose those who fuel, carry-out and exploit such attacks on our freedoms.
There is no justification in Islam for taking innocent life. These ISIS style "Khawarij" are barbaric people who reject Islam. They reject the commandments of the Prophet (pbuh). In fact, some 1400 years ago, the Holy Prophet and final messenger of God, Muhammad (pbuh), described in detail these these merciless barbarians and said they are not from Islam. They are condemned. They are the "Khawarij". He foretold that black-clothed Khawarij under a black flag will leave Islam like "an arrow shot from a bow".
Also disturbing was seeing the exploitation of the situation by various interests. The rapidity of this disgraceful behaviour is seemingly increasing with each and every tragedy. Social media plays its role here. It comes at the cost of our humanity. Hysteria develops. Today we saw political candidates standing for election like Maajid Nawaz and his supporters, exploit the murders in Paris, to bolster their own political causes and ambitions. It was stomach churning. The bodies were barely cold, the families were in mourning and the names had not even been released. These people then spent the rest of the day trying to explain their callous and gratuitously self-serving actions. The vessel spills what it carries. At the same time we saw sympathisers for the attackers, claiming that Charlie Hebdo brought this on themselves, for provocation, for extremism for peddling hate and prejudice. These people, just as misguided and extreme as those at the other end of the spectrum exploiting the situation.
Whether or not you agree with the actions and methods of Charlie Hebdo, Islam requires the Muslim to defend the rights of others. The rights of human rights violators were being upheld millennia before the West would consider doing so. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) upheld the freedom of speech - even of his detractors. Subject to our laws, we must do the same. There is never a recourse to violence. Never.
I have always stated that I do not like cartoons the likes of which published by Charlie Hebdo but I have always maintained they are entitled to and have a fundamental right to, publish them. They have a right to freedom of speech, subject to the law of the land. As do we all. Whilst saying this, it was ironic to see a well known cabal of my detractors joining ideologies with the Charlie Hebdo killers, by looking to deny my freedom of speech as they attempted to block my interviews with the BBC and other broadcasters today. When you sit at home feeling uncomfortable that voices are not represented, you are absolutely right. They are actively suppressed. In time, questions will need to be asked about how Hebdo continue to see themselves as equal opportunities offenders, whilst taking action against the smallest of slights on some communities, and having open season on Muslims. Former editor, Phillippe Val saw fit to sack cartoonist Maurice Sinet over complaints from Claude Askolovitch and others, that the Sarkozy-Sebaoun cartoon was anti-Semitic. Questions will have to be asked about why threats from the Jewish Defence League and Muslim extremists were ignored and treated so complacently, about the fatal lack of intelligence, security and protections afforded to Charlie Hebdo. The Muslims of France, a 6 million strong community, have complained for decades about marginalisation, alienation, joblessness, failed by the education and social systems. The inhumanity of the social conditions of the banlieue. About detention centres and disproportionate rates of incarceration and severity in sentencing. Regardless of how over-simplified people wish to make this, the repeated and terrorising outbursts from angry young Muslims in France is no simple matter. There are many rivers flowing into this lake. As a friend of mine one said, people do not break for no reason, it is because pressure is placed upon them.
What happened today, what did the killers achieve?
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far right FN in France, and her anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies are stronger than ever before. Anti-fascist activists at Charlie Hebdo (yes, they were leftist anti-far right, did you not know?) have been slaughtered. There is more hate against Muslims. There is more fear. There is more anger. Twelve people died, many injured. Families destroyed. And as for the cartoons... the cartoons have been spread across the world like never before.
Ahmed Merabet, was one of the brave policemen who gave his life to defend Charlie Hebdo. He was a Muslim. He was a Muslim defending Charlie Hebdo. This is Islam. And the mainstream media will not tell you this, or you will find it in the small print on page seven. The debate will rage about Islam, when the issue is not Islam. It is a surreal irony that it always appears that terror attacks are committed by those not following Islam. Not by those who are following a complete and authentic Islam. And yet all the while, and increasingly so, people believe this is to do with Islam. This is the fitna, the great mischief, that needs addressing.
On part of the solution is the authentic Islamic education of the Muslims - otherwise they will continue to be misguided and acting against the wishes of the Prophet (pbuh) and the teachings of the Quran. Either out of Nordic pragmatism or enlightenment, nations like Finland have long funded this. Britain has responded with paranoia, witch-hunts and PREVENT. Anyone would think that the powers that be do not wish to either Muslims, or non-Muslims, well informed about Islam. If that was what you wanted, maintaining the ignorance and providing disinformation is precisely what you would do. An Islamic re-education and a return to the Light, can only be lead by Muslim scholars and educators who seek to reform our knowledge, intellects and the Muslim heart. That is the model of reform within Islam. The processes and systems are in-built, they do not need to be created. They merely need to be supported. Reform has never come from the likes of the Sam Harris funded McCarthyist Quilliam Foundation, or hate preachers like Hirsi Ali, faux reformists like Zuhdi Jasser, or Tom Holland, Islamophobes like Douglas Murray and his ilk. It never has and never will. Reform of our hearts and minds will come from within the Muslims. The texts are not in need of reform. If a child cannot read a book, we do not rip out the pages of the book; we educate the child. Reform is certainly needed of Muslims. The heart is considered the centre of human consciousness in Islam, from which all healthy and peaceful behaviours radiate. If people are not at peace, how can they ever live in peace?
Those who thinks 2.4bn people representing the fastest growing and most discussed religion in the world, will reform through outside influence, share an exceptionalism and arrogance that is costing us lives and tearing at the fabric of society. History asks us not be so naive as to forget that there are those who would see us at each others throats, whilst they fill their coffers. A casualty of 150 years of Western funded and supported, industrialised mass slaughter, invasion, usurpation and tyranny in Muslim majority nations has been knowledge, understanding and enlightenment. But if you have ever met someone from a conflict-zone, you will know why that is. The horror of war does not create peace in the heart. It does not create enlightenment in societies. The eyes and heart become dead and await new life to be breathed into them. Communities become battle weary, and hardened by the toils under tyrannical despots. By drones. By ethnic cleansing.
Whatever will be the outcome of today, communities cannot turn against one another. This cannot be an excuse to put pressure on to Muslims. This cannot be used to put pressure onto the people of the West. This cannot be used to create more fear and intolerance. There is already too much hate. We can change this. We just need to exert our collective will and place peace at the top of our priorities. Above profit. Above self interest.
We are all so very much in need of peace. Let it come sooner.