Need to protect Muslims in Ireland from extremism


The vast majority of Irish Muslims disliked Osama bin Laden because he has damaged Islam’s image, writes SHEIKH UMAR AL-QADRI

THE HORRENDOUS onslaught of terrorist activity by al-Qaeda and other militant Islamist groups that the world has witnessed over the last decade has sadly brought Muslims into disrepute.

The vast majority of Muslims oppose and condemn al-Qaeda and terrorism in all forms. They are not willing to accept al-Qaeda members as Muslims and refuse to accept terrorism as remotely related to Islam in any way.

During the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the wars fought were all defensive wars. And he forbade the killing of woman, children, elders and religious leaders during war. Inciting terror in the hearts of civilians is forbidden in Islam. In fact, in the holy Koran, the primary source of Islamic law, a verse states: “Whoever kills an innocent it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity.”

Al-Qaeda and other militant extremist groups clearly reject these teachings of Islam as they have proved by their acts. Unfortunately, a small minority of Muslims seem to give such terrorism tacit approval when they fail to openly oppose and condemn it.

Osama bin Laden’s killing this week prompted different reactions within the Irish Muslim community. The vast majority dislike bin Laden, because this is the man who damaged the image of Islam so much that our faith, which was known as a religion of spirituality and ethics, became known as one of terror.

But Muslims also feel that a very heavy price has been paid. Far more innocent people have been killed and injured in the massive war on terrorism pursued in response to bin Laden’s violent campaign than were killed and injured on September 11th, 2001.

The conflicting reports about bin Laden’s death and the decision not to show the pictures of his corpse also raise many questions. Bin Laden should have been detained and brought to trial for the 9/11 attacks in the same way Saddam Hussein was captured and put on trial. Such a trial for bin Laden would also restore more confidence in the West’s justice system.

The death of Osama bin Laden will, in the opinion of a majority of Muslims, not ensure a safer and more peaceful world. This is because the roots of extremism and radicalisation have not been addressed. If the United States wants to stop extremism then it should change its foreign policy towards the Muslim world since current US policies play a major role when it comes to producing terrorists and their supporters.

The US’s unconditional support for Israel is a major obstacle to a better relationship with the Muslim world. The presence of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan also causes tensions. A departure of US forces from both countries would have a positive effect in the Muslim world. If the US does not seem willing to change such policies, there is a danger that many more young Muslims, whose awareness of Islamic teachings may not be comprehensive or well-informed, will be recruited by extremists.

The policies used as a fuel for the extremists’ evil agenda need to be remedied as the highest priority. As long as the US continues to ignore the real grievances of Muslims, and refuses to abandon its deceptive policies in the Middle East and other parts of the Muslim world, the restoration of real and lasting peace will remain only a dream.

It is sad that some Muslims do not even believe that Osama bin Laden existed and so they deny the reports of his death. In their conspiracy theory view, bin Laden is just a hoax and a tool for the US to pursue its foreign policies.

I personally think it is foolish to say that bin Laden and al-Qaeda do not exist. The killing of so many innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries is proof that unfortunately al-Qaeda and such like-minded extremists do exist. The Prophet Muhammad predicted in his sayings that there would be a group of people who will kill innocents and create chaos on Earth. He said they would have the appearance and actions of pious Muslims but they will not be Muslim. He said that if he met them he would fight them since they would damage the religion he had brought.

Here in Ireland, there are a number of Muslims, so small they can be counted on your fingers, who, because they have been confused and misled by extremists, have celebrated Osama bin Laden as a warrior. Some of them even held prayer services for him this week in private homes.

These individuals do not represent any Islamic body or institution in Ireland but what worries me is looking at their counterparts in the United Kingdom, in terms of their numbers and support.

Britain failed to tackle radicalism and extremism among British Muslims. The London bombings of July 2005, which were carried out by young British-born Muslims, reflected this failure.

Ireland’s Muslim community has, up to now, been very moderate and Muslims here have integrated very well. They follow an Islam, as propagated by the Prophet Muhammad, which is based on peace, unity and harmony.

In order to protect the Irish Muslim community from radicalism and extremism we need to learn from the failures of our neighbour across the Irish Sea. The Irish Government needs to work very closely with the Muslim community here in order to ensure that such ideas do not deeply penetrate Irish borders.

Sheikh Umar al-Qadri is imam at the al-Mustafa Islamic Cultural Centre in Blanchardstown, Dublin.

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