Chapel Hill Shooting – Memorial Service

Our Founder, Muhbeen Hussain, was invited to speak at a memorial service for the three victims of the Chapel Hill Shooting on Saturday 21st February 2015. This is a written copy of his speech:

Firstly let me start by thanking not only the organisers of today’s event but for each and everyone one of you in attendance here. We all know the mainstream media and the status quo have tried their utmost in deliberately trying to disregard and inadvertently neglect the horrific murders of Chapel Hill. However, today’s memorial demonstrates to the mainstream media that no matter how hard they try, we will make sure the legacy of Deah, Yusor and Razan will be made known. Despite the media’s negligible coverage of this crime, it has been people like you, from the four corners of the world, that have helped lighten the darkened skies with the messages of these three champions that have sadly left this world. One cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is for the friends and family of the victims at this moment in time. However, what you and people around the world have done is show the family that although the three champions have gone from them, they have entered the hearts of millions around the world as beacons of hope and inspiration.

Many before me have shed great light upon the details of this horrific incident; the onset of this is very clearly a brutal hate crime. Beyond belief was that much of the American media was somehow debating whether it was in fact a hate crime or a dispute over parking. Consequently, there are some underlying messages that we can take from this incident and that’s what I shall focus upon. Standing here outside Downing Street, if only there was a cabinet meeting today. Mr Cameron, Eric Pickles (communities Minister) and Theresa May (Home Secretary) could have benefited from listening to my next few words. For if they are serious about ending the radicalisation of young people – then ending the vast majority of radicalisation is not in holding cobra meetings or in sending over a 1000 letters to imams up and down the country; neither is it in bringing in draconian anti-terror legislation that does nothing but snoop on and alienate these young people further. But it is in ending these double standards!

And this message is not purely just for the Government. This message is to address each and every one of those out there who have a role to play and this is why I particularly call upon the journalists of today. Those journalists that saw there was a need for them to speak out in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, well there is also a need for you today. Time has come for you to decide, whether you will continue to be strangled by the chains of capitalism; your editors or the likes of Rupert Murdoch and the media barons that will do anything to sell a paper – even if that means turning neighbour against neighbour; even if that means fostering an atmosphere similar to that of 1930s Germany, where one community is linked, vilified and scapegoat for the ills of a nation, or as in today’s times, even the world. Or you can stand up, wrestle out of those chains, and use the freedom of press to report the truth equally. We need you to report that the blood of Muslim is worth the same as everyone else. Now is the time for you to make known to the world that anti-Muslim bigotry is real and is a stain on all our houses. Play your role, stand up and speak up for the voiceless; pay your dues as the bastions of freedom, and the forth pillar of our democracy.

If these murders had been committed by someone claiming to be a Muslim, then the BBC, Sky News CNN, Fox News and the mainstream media would have made a celebration in maligning the acts with their beliefs. But let me make it loud and clear that I shall not conform to these acts of double standard in attempting to defeat the very double standards I despise. I don’t believe these murders were committed by an Atheist fanatic terrorist whose hatred towards believers was motivated by his lack of faith, but rather that he is merely a fanatic. What made this man commit such savage crimes against humanity was nothing to do with the beliefs he may claimed to have had, but it was all to do with fanaticism, terrorism and extremism. And therefore wherever fanaticism, extremism and terrorism rears its ugly head – we must also raise up against it! Whilst looking at the last few weeks alone; whether it is terrorism in the streets of Paris or Copenhagen against our Jewish brothers and sisters, or whether it is the 21 Coptic Egyptian Christians slaughtered in Libya by the monstrosity that is ISIS. We must collectively stand against it, not as Muslims or as Jewish people nor as people of faith or none, but as people of humanity and people of this world. So let this be the most unequivocal message today: be it Craig Stephen Hicks the murderer of Chapel Hill, be it Andres Brevik or be it Abu-Bakr-Al-Baghdadi and his men – anybody believing, promoting, inciting fanaticism, extremism and terrorism has no place in this world. And neither does any type of hate speech or act. We will not allow any type of Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or any other type of hate to take hold. To those who wish to divide us and seek bloodshed and murder, we will stand up to you and we will defeat you. Our belief in the values and ideals we cherish and hold so dear is stronger than yours and so it is unbreakable.

Only if we stand together hand-in-hand can we truly make the world a better place. Then finally we can live in the world we yearn to live in – because I want to live in a world in which, the death of a Muslim is mourned and remembered by a non-Muslim. I want to live in a world in which the death of a Jew is mourned and remembered by a non-Jew. A world in which, the death of a person of one faith is remembered by a person of another. Where the struggle of black people is fought for by white people; where the emancipation of women is led by men; where the war against poverty, hunger and thirst is waged by rich and powerful people. A world in which we stand by the meanings of humanity, dignity, love, peace and harmony!

Thank You.

Islam Is Not The Problem: A Response to Melanie Phillips!

In The Times today (Monday 9 February 2015) Melanie Phillips wrote an article about the Child Sexual Abuse scandal in Rotherham. In this article she used a ‘partial quote’ of our founder Muhbeen Hussain, in support of her argument which can be seen below:

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http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/columnists/article4348037.ece?CMP=Spklr-141841872-Editorial-TWITTER-thetimes-20150209-Comment%20and%20Opinion&linkId=12232365

 

This is his response to Melanie Phillips’ article:

Melanie Phillips wrote a piece following the Casey report into Rotherham Council where she effectively said the heart of the problem with grooming gangs, such as in Rotherham, is Islam. She made some extremely wild and outlandish claims about the Islamic faith which do not hold up to any sort of scrutiny. She quoted me in this piece where I called on Muslim leaders to “condemn this and make it clear it’s wrong”, to support her argument. What she failed to add is that I also urged all faith and community leaders to come together and tackle this national epidemic of child sexual abuse.

The problem with people like Melanie who are ardent critics of Islam is that they have tunnel vision. They only see issues that could lend support to their blinkered view that Islam and Muslims are the ‘big nasty baddie’. If the problem is with Islam, as she claims, then I would respectfully invite Melanie to show me where in the Quran or Hadith the Islamic faith encourages, promotes or condones the brutalisation and rape of women? It doesn’t. To support her argument she uses – the quite frankly – appalling treatment of Muslim women in some Muslim majority countries. What she doesn’t appreciate is that groups like ours are challenging this misogynistic attitude and promoting gender equality using Islamic texts and teachings.

I would not dream of saying that it was Catholicism which allowed priests to rape and abuse young boys, as it’s patently not true. Nor do I like to play the perverse tit-for-tat game of naming a non-Muslim abuser for every Muslim one named. This lurid policy detracts from the victims getting the long overdue justice they so desperately deserve. The thing that makes these vile men do what they do is not their ethnicity, faith or culture. Rather it is a criminal mindset which seeks to control and manipulate those they see as being weak and vulnerable. They select their targets not because of the colour of their skin but because they know that they can manipulate them to do what they ask of them. That’s why many Muslims girls have also been groomed and abused. I know this because I have heard for myself the ordeal and pain these girls went through. Melanie rightly mentions that Sikh girls have been abused by Pakistani-heritage men, but conveniently forgets to mention Muslim girls. Could that be because it completely undermines the premise of her argument?

In Rotherham where I’m from, I do not accept that it was the potential impact on “community cohesion” that made the authorities remain silent for almost two decades as these crimes were committed. Unfortunately, this narrative allows the attention to deflect from the authorities failures and onto the Pakistani community. On what basis did the authorities come to the conclusion that if they arrested pedophiles of Pakistani-heritage that they would be accused of racism? Was there such a reaction on a previous occasion where the authorities faced a backlash when they attempted to prosecute Pakistani-heritage or Muslim criminals? No there wasn’t. There was no rational basis for them to come to such a conclusion. My personal belief is that, because most of the victims were from a working-class background, and they either came from broken families or the care system, the powers that be didn’t care about them. For some perverted reason they believed that for these girls to have “relationships” with grown men was “normal”. They didn’t view these girls as being worthy of protecting. That in my view is why the authorities remained silent; the Casey report highlights these sorts of revolting attitude held by some officials. Blaming “community cohesion” is just a convenient scapegoat and is designed to throw the Pakistani/Muslim community under the bus for the failure of others.

My message is simple. We have a huge problem with child abuse in this country. Whether it’s Pakistani-heritage men, those involved in Operation Yewtree, abuse in the Catholic Church or even a pedophile ring at the heart of Westminster; we need to get serious and quickly. We need everyone to play their part in tackling this wide spread abuse. Politicians, law-enforcement agencies, faith leaders, voluntary groups and ordinary members of the public; all need to pitch in. We have to ensure that every victim is given the justice they need and the perpetrators pay for their crimes. I’m glad to say that Muslims are taking the lead on this. My group, the British Muslim Youth have been speaking out and campaigning on this issue since our inception. Following the Jay report we held a live press conference and a rally, both of which were supported by hundreds of Pakistani Muslims; and they echoed our condemnation and called for arrests of those who committed these crimes. Likewise, in May 2013 over 500 mosques spoke out against grooming and condemned the actions of the perpetrators in no uncertain terms.  Instead of recognising this response, Melanie wants to malign, smear and score cheap points. Why let facts get in the way of a good story eh?

 

 

A Call for a Shift in Government Policy

Our founder/chairperson Muhbeen Hussain was invited to the ‘Ask the Leaders debate’ organised as part of the “Stand Up and Be Counted” campaign by Sky News on 02 February 2015. He was to speak at the event but due to a change in schedule he was not able to. However, below is a transcript of the speech he was to give:

 

Conference, I am Muhbeen Hussain and I want to speak to you for a few moments about matters of concern to me. But before I begin, I would like to congratulate Sky News for this fantastic initiative of “Stand Up and Be Counted”, which aims to engage participation of young people in politics. I think the level of debate and discussion here today highlights that young people up and down this great nation care profoundly about politics, they care about things that affect them and they are passionate about solving those problems.

It was precisely because I was concerned about the demonization of millions of British Muslims like myself, and the deep rooted lack of understanding about my faith, Islam; coupled with an emerging tendency amongst some of those who professed to share my religion to commit the most heinous and disastrous crimes that I set up on own organisation called the British Muslim Youth. It was to solve a problem and prevent it from becoming a crisis.

The aim of British Muslim Youth is simple: to counter this growing divisive narrative and ensure that Britain remains, just as it is today, a free, tolerant, diverse and multi-cultural society long after all of us in this room have departed. The motto of British Muslim Youth is, that being British and being Muslim is one in the same. There is no contradiction in this. We completely reject, without fear or fervour, this idea of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West that some people would have us believe. Yes our nation is made up of people who practice different and vibrant religions and none, but what binds us all together is our unclenching desire to hold onto those ideals that we know to be so true; the belief in freedom, democracy, justice equality and religious freedom for all without exception.

I speak as a proud and patriotic Brit, but also as an equally proud Muslim, and when I say “our nation” and “our ideals” I include British Muslims in this. Whilst I would not dream of speaking for the entire British Muslim community, I know what my faith teaches and these norms and values are found in every aspect of Islamic teaching and scholarship and this is the Islam as practiced by 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.

I want to use this platform to send a message to our politicians as we quickly approach this general election. I don’t think it would be wrong of me to say that to date government policy has largely fell short of its desired outcomes when tackling terrorism. Things must change; they cannot continue as they are. Over the course of 2014 we have seen the bloodthirsty monstrosity that is ISIS capture huge swaths of Iraq and Syria. Anybody who does not subscribe to their barbaric and insidious ideology, whether Muslim or otherwise, faces a death that we cannot even begin to comprehend. Recent manifestation of this barbarity saw a siege in Sydney, blood-soaked bodies of children in Peshawar and 17 innocents murdered on the streets of Paris. According to reports some 600 British citizens have travelled to join up with ISIS, which means that we too could face a real security threat here in Britain.

If government, of any colour; Labour, Tory, Lib Dem or whoever else, is serious about tackling this scourge of terrorism then I urge them so stop viewing Muslims through the prism of counter-terrorism and national security. Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State of Communities and Local Government recently sent a letter to senior members of the Muslim community. There was much furore about this letter. Personally I thought it was a storm in a teacup. The letter for me was extending a hand of friendship to the Muslim community to root-out terrorism committed in the name of my religion. I’m afraid that the time for extending courteous handshakes is over. It’s now time for the government to walk hand-in-hand and toe-in-toe with the Muslim community.

Let me make it clear if it wasn’t already so – Islam does not condone terrorism. There is nothing in the Islamic faith that allows you to kill people willy-nilly. Those who commit these atrocities and claim to do so in the name of Islam, are misguided, deluded and according to leading Islamic scholars and jurists are not even considered Muslims. There is nothing Islamic about the Islamic state. These are mad men running amok with one of the great religions of the world. The largest victims of so-called Islamic extremism is in fact Muslims so therefore no one is more determined to root-out this extremist ideology than the Muslim community itself. As our Prime Minister, David Cameron said after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, this is a perversion of the Islamic faith.

As Muslims we know all too well the price of this terrorism. We also know that if we are to defeat this ideology we are going to have to challenge it using centuries of established Islamic jurisprudence and scholarship, which clearly rejects this terrorism. This is happening. The world-renowned scholar Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri has written a 600-page fatwa or legal edict condemning all forms of terrorism. There are Muslim leaders who are promoting these ideals in Pakistan, the Middle East, America, Europe and here in Britain. So whoever may form the next government after the general election needs to stop viewing the Muslim community with suspicion or distrust; rather they need to embrace and work collaboratively together. We know there is so much more to do and groups like the British Muslim Youth will play their part. But in the eyes of the government we have to be equal partners, equally determined to achieve the same eventual goals.

And government needs to look at itself through a critical lens also. To date they have failed to accept that our foreign policy is part of the problem. If you speak to ordinary Muslims they will tell you that our foreign policy is a factor, though we accept that it is not the only factor, in the radicalization process. Some Muslims believe that since 9/11 there has been perpetual war with the Muslim world by the West including our own country. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan only reinforce this perception. We bombed Iraq where hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims died in the name of democracy, yet we support, finance and arm brutal dictators and regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt to name just two countries. Muslims recognise this hypocritical approach and feel aggrieved by it. We lecture the world on the values of human rights and the rule of law – rightly so – but we rendition opponents of dictators such as Ghadaffi to Libya to be tortured. Muslims recognise this hypocritical approach and feel aggrieved by it. Our greatest ally in the Arab world, Israel, occupies illegal Palestinian land, indiscriminately kills thousand of innocent Palestinian men, woman and children, it violates one U.N resolution after the other but we fail to even condemn its actions; but on the other hand when Russia challenges the stability of Ukraine we pass sanctions and threaten greater reprisals, and rightly so. Muslims recognise this hypocritical approach and feel aggrieved by it. I am not suggesting that if we changed our foreign policy, terrorism committed in the name of Islam will stop. No. It will however stem the tide of that swamp of hatred and enmity that some Muslims have towards the western world and Britain.

The real shining light in this sad state of affairs is that those of us who want peace; justice, freedom and tolerance, we are the many. It is us who must provide hope to the hopeless, direction to the misguided and belonging to those who feel left out. We know the enormity of the task before us but we yearn for the most perfect utopia. There will be pitfalls; bumps in the rocky road that lay ahead but lets begin this journey today. Just as a preacher from Atlanta said when he rose up to demand rights and liberties for his people: “We shall overcome.” At a time when Islamaphobia is on the rise across Europe, Muslims are scared and fearful but “we shall overcome.”  When it appears that the voices of those to wish to divide us are louder than ours, “we shall overcome.” Its up to us, you and me, to rise up and change our destiny. Let us be the generation that overcame all the odds. The generation that grew up of out of the worst economic recession since the great wars; the generation that battled huge fees just to obtain an education, the generation who faced a bleaker future than our parents but we overcame and created better Britain, a stronger Britain, a more resilient Britain. I finish on this: black, white or Asian, male or female, Christian, Jew, Muslim, a person of faith or non, straight or gay, young or old, disabled or healthy; when we stand together united as a single nation and a single body; no matter what is thrown at us “we shall overcome.”