Opinion: "Why I Reject the Anarchists Who Claim to Speak for Islam"

February 12, 2006

Source: The Observer


On February 12, 2006 The Observer ran an opinion piece by Fareena Alam is editor of Q-News, the Muslim magazine. Alam writes, "As a young British Muslim woman, watching the events of the past two weeks has been a depressing experience. One minute, we were subject to outrageously insulting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, a man who is beloved and central to the core of my faith; the next, the hooliganism of a small minority of Muslim protesters took centre stage. These anarchists have walked right into the hands of those who believe Muslims have nothing to offer. They have burnt down embassies, pillaged public property and threatened social order - all in the name of a prophet who, they claim, is a mercy to mankind, the same man who was known to welcome and respect ambassadors... I am not alone in my outrage. Muslims across Britain have organised events celebrating the Prophet's life to counter the violent protests of last week. Countless press releases condemning the violence, from Muslim organisations big and small, mainstream and marginal, have flooded my inbox. At a public meeting at Friends House in London on Tuesday, a packed hall of mostly young British Muslims came looking for answers to difficult questions. Why does Europe treat us with such disdain? Why is the 'I can, therefore I will' approach to free speech more important than building trust between communities? Why have some Muslims reacted so irresponsibly? How do we make faith and the message of Muhammad relevant to our citizenship?... For British Muslims, religion matters. Religion can be a powerful tool for social cohesion and good citizenship. The trouble is that many Muslims have treated Islam as something inward, exclusive and proprietary. The principles on which the Prophet stood are much more generous than that. If religion is to have relevance, it must strive towards a higher moral ground where provocative insult and retaliatory violence are unacceptable."