Westminster attack: We stand united in condemnation and resilience

The British Muslim Forum strongly condemns the terror attack that took place on Wednesday 22 March 2017 at the heart of Westminster in London. Four people lost their lives in this tragedy, including the terrorist, with many more injured. Our hearts go out to the innocent victims of this heinous crime, their families and loved ones and to all who have been affected. We pay tribute to PC Keith Palmer who lost his life in the line of duty as well as the whole Metropolitan Police and the emergency services in handling the incident with bravery and courage.

There is no justification for such an attack whatsoever. It is a cowardly act of indiscriminate violence and terror. An attack at the Palace of Westminster is an attack on all of us. The British Muslim community shares in the grief being felt by the nation and stands in solidarity with the whole of the United Kingdom in condemnation as well as resilience. Such acts cannot divide our nation. This is a great nation; London is a great city; and the ‘Mother of all Parliaments’ stands resiliently firm. We honour the leadership shown by the Prime Minister Theresa May, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and the Acting Deputy Commissioner and Head of Counter Terrorism Mark Rowley over the past 24 hours as the nation comes to terms with this tragedy.

British Muslims will be standing shoulder to shoulder with Londoners tonight at Trafalgar Square in solidarity with the victims. The British Muslim Forum calls on its member mosques and Imams around the country to mark tomorrow’s Friday Prayer with prayers of peace and solidarity, and the distance of such acts of hate and bloodshed from Islam and the Muslims; with a further message of continuous support and cooperation with the authorities in rooting out the menace of extremism and radicalisation.

BMF spokesperson and senior Imam at the Leeds Makkah Mosque, Imam Dr Qari Asim MBE, said: “London has witnessed horrific and depraved acts of murder. We must be clear that those who take innocent lives are not following the teachings of any religion and have no regard for any religion or humanity. This vile attack is an attack on all of us, regardless of race or religion. We must stand united against such extreme, evil and distorted ideologies and work together to defeat terrorism in all its forms. The aim of terrorist attacks such as these is to divide communities and incite hatred amongst people of different beliefs and backgrounds. We have already seen vile opportunists using the victims of the Westminster terrorist attack to spread anti-Muslim hatred. I urge communities to remain united and even more determined to eradicate all forms of terrorism. I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives at Westminster and express full solidarity with the victims of the terror attack. I convey my sincere condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives.”

Leading Scholars to share televised panel on 3 channels this weekend in unique appeal

A distinguished panel of scholars from the UK will be participating in live programmes, not to ask for donations but to ask and encourage viewers to become inheritors of the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Please tune in and register your names to become British Muslim scholars and Imams and to nurture the coming generations in the UK.

Chair of the BMF Board of Trustees, Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussain Pirzada, has issued a thought-provoking message calling on the Muslim community, its leadership, public and institutions, as well as its youth to pursue the path of sacred knowledge and become educated individuals to lead their communities. The message has been sent to mosques throughout the UK and Imams across the country will be reading out and conveying the message to their congregations during the sermon this Friday.

Maulana Shahid Raza Naeemi OBE meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican

Founder Member and Trustee of the British Muslim Forum, Maulana Dr Shahid Raza Naeemi OBE, as part of a delegation of four British Imams accompanied by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, travelled to Rome and held a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican. Although the visit was scheduled long before 22 March, it took place just two weeks after the Westminster terrorist attack. As well as the papal audience, the delegation also met Cardinal Tauran at the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

Pope Francis told the Imams that listening to each other was essential for the common future of humanity as we walk together in our shared lives. The goal of the visit was to engage in inter-religious dialogue with the Muslim community, allowing both religions to not only speak, but be heard by the neighbouring party, both on the part of the Imams, and Pope Francis and Cardinal Nichols. 

Maulana Shahid Raza commented: “This is a historic moment when the two biggest religions in the world, Christians and Muslims, must come together in unity and solidarity for peace. Today we are making history. We bring to you the message of peace and understanding and cooperation.”

Cardinal Nichols stated: “I hope that this moment will help the voice of authentic Islam to be heard clearly. I think at this time Christian-Muslim dialogue is particularly important and in a strange way, Catholic-Muslim dialogue in Britain is very important, because the history of the Catholic community in Britain is one of being a minority and of having lived with 400 years of anti-Catholic prejudice.” 

In pursuit of dialogue, last year Pope Francis received in audience at the Vatican the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb Shaykh al-Azhar.  On that occasion, the Pope and the Grand Imam noted “the great significance of this new meeting in the framework of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam.” Later this month, Pope Francis will travel to Cairo and will visit the historic Al-Azhar University.

Imams from across the country march to St Ann’s Square in solidarity

On Sunday 28 May, the British Muslim Forum brought together Muslims from across Britain, led by Imams and scholars in Manchester to preach a message of unity and solidarity, following the Manchester attack.

The march from the Cathedral to St Ann’s Square was led by a Rabbi, an Imam and a Bishop: Rabbi Daniel Walker, Imam Irfan Chishti MBE and Bishop of Manchester David Walker. Onlookers clapped and cheered as the Imams arrived at the square which has become a floral sea of tributes.

Speaking strongly against any act of terror, BMF Spokesperson Imam Qari Asim MBE of Leeds Makkah Mosque spoke of how extremism and terrorism have no place in Islam or in any religion. “ISIS and its sympathisers are simply an affront to humanity”, he said. “They have no regard for God or humanity. Islam’s position is clear and unequivocal. Murder of one person, one soul, is the murder of the whole of humanity”, he continued. “We pray for peace, security and harmony to triumph in a multicultural, multi-belief Great Britain. Thank you”.

There was a rupture of applause as streams of people of all races, creed and colour kept pouring into the square to pay their respects and remember the 22 victims that lost their lives on Monday 22 May.

Manchester Central Mosque’s Allama Muhammad Arshad Misbahi added to the echoed condemnation of the horrific ideology of Salman Abedi. He said: “The British people have demonstrated the best of the national spirit of unity, compassion and solidarity. From the taxi drivers who turned off their meters, to the locals who opened up their homes to those affected by the attack. We have demonstrated that we are a people united and not one that will easily be torn apart”.

Senior scholars and Imams laid flowers in the square, led by Shaykh Muhammad Imdad Hussian Pirzada and Allama Qamaruzzaman Azmi, along with speaking to other members of the public in attendance.

The BMF condemns President Trump’s statement on Jerusalem and calls for the British Government to do more

The British Muslim Forum, echoing the sentiments and concerns of British Muslims, strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s statement on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel and the intent to relocate the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This statement from the President of the United States is reckless and irresponsible and will fuel further mistrust, hostility and violence. In addition, it places the role of the United States in suspicion as regards being an honest broker in the peace process between Palestine and Israel.

Faith communities from across the world as well as state leaders and representatives of international bodies and organisations have voiced their concern and condemnation of President Trump’s rash statement. His words are in conflict with international laws, world opinion and the pursuit of peace, and bolster the Israeli government which has disregarded United Nations resolutions and international laws.

President Trump’s statement in particular taking the step to move the US embassy to Jerusalem not only bears hostility towards the long suffering Palestinian people and the status of East Jerusalem, but it also endorses the process of illegal settlements and other crimes committed against the Palestinians by the Israeli government, denying the rights of the Palestinians and the Arabs to their holy city and destroying the possibility of a viable Palestinian state.

Jerusalem is a sacred place for Muslims, Jews and Christians. It is home to the third most holiest site in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which rests in the hearts of all Muslims around the world. The statement of President Trump does not aim at only the people of Palestine, rather it has hurt the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims across the globe as well as millions of Arab Christians that are connected with the churches of Jerusalem.

This deliberate and unprovoked statement of President Trump that has the potential to stir up much trouble and unrest in the world is objectionable and condemnable. The BMF calls on Prime Minister Theresa May and the British Government to step further than a mere statement of disagreement and exert maximum pressure on President Trump to respect international laws and become a genuine partner in the peace process to alleviate the long suffering of Palestinians.

BMF calls on Mosques to hold Srebrenica Memorial events

The genocide of Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 is marked this year during 11-16 July 2017. This is the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two when over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered on account of their Islamic faith. Thousands of women, children and elderly people were forcibly deported and between 20,000-50,000 women were raped.

The British Muslim Forum (BMF) calls on all mosques to remember and honour the victims of the Srebrenica (Bosnia) genocide by holding a special prayer during the Friday sermon on 14th July. Given the alarming rise in anti-Muslim hatred in the recent months, it is more important than ever that we all learn the lessons from this genocide in order to build a safer and more peaceful future for everyone. 

The charity Remembering Srebrenica has issued a sermon, prepared by BMF spokesperson Imam Qari Asim MBE, to mosques in Britain to raise awareness about the Srebrenica Genocide and the consequences of hatred and intolerance. Imam Qari Asim said: “There are people who continue to breed hatred, fear and suspicion about the ‘other’ in our own country, in particular since the Manchester Arena and London Bridge attacks we have seen considerable rise in hate crime. Lessons, therefore, must be learnt from Srebrenica to help tackle hatred, racism and intolerance in whatever form and against whoever it may occur in our society.”

In addition, we encourage mosques to hold a special Srebrenica Memorial event during the week from 10th – 16th July, inviting people of all faiths and none, in a display of unity that will send a strong message to those who preach hatred and division.

BMF trustee Maulana Dr Shahid Raza Naeemi OBE said: “The systematic massacre at Srebrenica calls for remembrance and reflection. We cannot forget those who lost their lives and experienced unimaginable pain and suffering for merely being Muslim. There are many lessons to be learnt from this worst atrocity to have taken place in Europe since the Second World War. Hatred kills, and we must stand united against hatred of any kind. We therefore urge mosques to hold multi-faith events to remember the victims of Srebrenica genocide.”

We thank the charity Remembering Srebrenica for their work in helping to build stronger community relations throughout the country. 

We pledge never to forget the suffering of the people of Bosnia. Only by doing this can we honour their memory and ensure that future generations can live without fear and hatred.

‘Hatred masquerading as freedom of speech’ – The BMF condemns Geert Wilders’ cartoon contest in Holland

The British Muslim Forum, reflecting the sentiments and strong feelings of the Muslim community, vehemently condemns the announcement of the far-right Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, who has vowed to hold a competition to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) towards the end of this year.

The cartoon contest is being defended under the pretext of freedom of speech, yet its consequences are detrimental to it and must be halted by virtue of the laws on hate speech. At the heart of this theatrical provocation, as well as past activities of this kind promoted by Mr Wilders, lies hatred and an incitement to discrimination, hostility and social discord. When such outbursts of hatred are allowed to publically go unchecked, then it is the victim minority communities who suffer not only discrimination, but attacks and abuse, as the attacks on Muslims continue to rise across Europe and in this country.

The actions of Mr Wilders and his attacks on Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) have very harmful consequences. In an atmosphere of growing divisions in society, mistrust between communities, rise of Islamophobia, far-right extremism and anti-Semitism, there is urgent need for sanity and genuine leadership from the political class in order to protect the fabric of a free society.

Expressions of hatred towards a particular community and any communication which is threatening or abusive, and is intended to harass, alarm, or distress someone are quite clearly acts of hate. The blurring of lines between hate and freedom must be clearly defined for the betterment of society as a whole. The effect of people who deliberately set out to hurt people with their actions and the consequences of some people encouraging hate crime are not conducive to the common good of societies. The Dutch society is open and tolerant, yet this competition and hate-filled exhibition flies in the face of those values.

The British Muslim Forum calls on the British and Dutch governments, European organisations, international bodies and human rights institutions to put pressure on halting this vile cartoon contest and to demonstrate global leadership in providing a way forward in dealing with inciteful acts of hate with binding legal instruments to prevent incitement, racism, discrimination and religious hatred. Peace, respect and security for all people and their beliefs must be preserved. Hatred cannot be allowed to masquerade as freedom of speech.

British Muslims call on Parliament to safeguard religious freedom and the right of parents towards their children’s upbringing

The proposed legislation on Relationships Education, and the proposed government policy on this issue, has caused deep concern to a large number of parents -those of faith and no faith – about the future of their children.

Muslim parents are extremely perturbed to learn about the proposed legislation and call on Parliament to reflect on the fundamental value of religious freedom and the right of parents to oversee their child’s learning and upbringing.

Muslims believe in inclusivity and protection of rights of all members of British society without discrimination of any kind. To uphold such values and respect towards all is and can be furthered through citizenship education. However, the potential “sexualisation” of children from a tender and innocent age and the blurring of individual religious freedoms of British communities and citizens undermines the right of parents to bring up their children in accordance with their religious beliefs.

On behalf of British Muslims, the British Muslim Forum requests MPs that during the debate in Parliament on 25th February, they support parents to be able to opt their child out of sex and relationships education lessons.