Attacks in Nice

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As a Liberal Democrat and a Muslim, I condemn the senseless murder of Samuel Paty and the attacks in Nice on 29 October. Such heinous attacks are completely against the teachings of Islam, which prohibits terrorism or extremism under any circumstances. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, the people of France and with everyone affected.

These horrific attacks, perpetrated on the false pretext of defending the honour of Muhammad, The Holy Prophet of Islam (“The Holy Prophet”) have led to outrage and exacerbated tensions between Muslims and French society. They risk damaging relations in Britain too.

Like many Muslims, I consider the derogatory cartoons depicting The Holy Prophet published by Charlie Hebdo and other publications to be offensive, distressful and provocative, but they do not justify violence. The cartoons do not serve the objective of free speech, which is to encourage debate and find truth. Instead, their only purpose is to ridicule and cause offence, knowing it to be hurtful to Muslims.

Regardless of the dishonest attacks on the character of The Holy Prophet, to react violently is totally wrong.  The opponents of The Holy Prophet often abused and mocked him. But he responded peacefully and never permitted any of his companions to react.

In one example, Abdullah bin Ubayy Bin Salool, abused The Holy Prophet mercilessly. His own son, a Muslim himself, became so aggrieved by such maliciousness that he asked for permission to kill his own father. The Holy Prophet set a timeless example of forbearance and tolerance for his companions and future Muslims by forbidding a violent reaction. Instead, he said: “I will treat your father with compassion and consideration.”. The Holy Prophet’s response demonstrates the immeasurable injustice of those who pick up arms to ‘avenge’ The Holy Prophet, showing that The Holy Prophet prohibited violent reactions to attacks against him.

Responding violently or advocating fanaticism only benefits those who wish to portray Islam as an extremist religion. It entrenches the position of those who justify the publication of derogatory cartoons depicting The Holy Prophet as a necessary act of freedom of expression. The vile attacks in France have not to deterred or diminished the prospects of further cartoons being published. Instead, they lead only to their further publication and spread. History proves the point. The violent reaction following the initial caricatures depicting The Holy Prophet in 2005 did not deter others from doing the same; rather it emboldened and strengthened the resolve of others to follow in their footsteps.

Freedom of expression is a human right that I champion as a Liberal Democrat and a Muslim. But it comes with responsibility and must not be used to justify discrimination or hatred against any person or group.  The Equalities Act and other legislation place limits on hateful and discriminatory speech, despite the societal value we place on free speech.  Rights and freedom should not be misused to alienate the legitimate rights of any member of society (including those who profess a peaceful religious or non-religious belief) to live peacefully and free from demonization. Thankfully, the mainstream of British society and media shares that view and does not tolerate hate speech, racist language or anti-Semitic tropes.

Muslims are perfectly placed to exemplify Islam’s true purpose, which is to unite mankind and bring them closer together, counselling freedom of belief, equality and equity for all members of society.

As Liberal Democrats also, where we see injustice, we must tackle it. We should always stand up for what’s right, not just for what’s popular.

We must defeat all terrorists’ purpose which is to create division and discord. In part, we can do that by condemning all acts of hatred decisively, thoughtfully and peacefully, whether purportedly against Islam or purportedly in defence of it.

* Khalil Yousuf is a practising Solicitor and Managing Director of in-house legal services provider Flexible Lawyers. He was a Parliamentary Candidate in the 2019 General election and is Parliamentary Spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, Crawley. Khalil is also an active human rights advocate serving on a non-remunerated basis on number of Boards, charitable and not-for-profit organisations.

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17 Comments

  • Ridicule is a perfectly legitimate way of provoking thought. And religion is one of the most ridiculous of human inventions.

    Ridiculing religious figures – of al faiths and creeds – is a long-standing tradition in many western societies.

    And if “I am offended” is the measure of what speech we restrict, then all speech ends up banned – someone only has to say “I am offended” about anything.

    For example, I am regularly offended by the homophobia and transphobia of most of the larger organised denominations of all religions. I don’t seek to ban them though. I just try, from time to time, to point out how ludicrous, and how cruel, they are.

    Somehow I doubt this will be published.

  • Graham Jeffs 30th Oct '20 - 4:22pm

    I can remember the furore from some Christians when ‘Life of Brian’ came out. However a local priest to us did observe in a newspaper letter that he wondered how robust a religion could claim to be if it could not deal with ridicule………….

  • Innocent Bystander 30th Oct '20 - 6:03pm

    The reason Islamophobia exists but not Bhuddaphobia or Hinduphobia is that its Holy Book contains an instruction to ambush and kill non believers (when the Holy Months are over) as I am sure you know.
    The vast majority of followers take this as a symbolic suggestion rather than a specific one but crucially not all do and many of the widespread atrocities by ISIS against non believers were justified thereby.
    I have listened to many Muslim scholars attempt to contextualise these words but unconvincingly, the Sword Verses are clear and stark.
    Discrimination against anyone because of their faith is abhorrent but decapitating others because of their faith is worse.

  • Khalil Yousuf 30th Oct '20 - 6:10pm

    Dear Duncan,

    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to share your views.

    No group of people, whether from the LGBTQI community or otherwise should be discriminated against because of who they are or their peaceful beliefs. Provided they don’t cause harm to others, we must respect each person’s individual rights to make their own choices and stand together to prevent any harm to them.

    Hatred for the sake of hatred is an enemy to us all. It is precisely what terrorists and extremists of every kind want to achieve. We must stand together to ensure that they never succeed.

    My best wishes to you Duncan.

    Kind regards,

    Khalil

  • Khalil Yousuf 30th Oct '20 - 6:22pm

    Dear Graham,

    Thank you for your comment. You local Priest was right. Like every other belief system, religion must be open to robust scrutiny. Islam is no exception. Questions can and should be asked, information shared and consensus sought. To challenge the opinions of others is at the heart of free speech because it helps us to improve our understanding and find common truths.

    But, it cannot be right to abuse somebody just because you can. Our civilised system does not condone ridiculing someone because of a person’s colour, race, disability, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Our unity and tolerance is what extremists dislike about us and why they want to divide us.

    We can disagree, strongly and even definitively. But we should do it on our own civilised terms. We should be strong enough to recognise and reject the entrapment brought about by the poisonous narratives and heinous crimes of extremists.

  • Khalil Yousuf 30th Oct '20 - 6:37pm

    Dear Innocent Bystander,

    Sadly, discrimination does exist against Buddhists and Hindus as it does Jews, Muslims and Christians.

    Islam does not countenance extremism or terrorism under any circumstances. The justifications of ISIS and other terrorist groups are illegitimate. Those who commit crimes are criminals, nothing less. Their reasons for committing those crimes are as illegitimate as the crimes themselves. Not only should we reject their criminality and stand against it, we should reject their spurious justifications as well.

    Thank you for sharing your views.

    Best wishes,

    Khalil

  • Khalil Yousuf 30th Oct '20 - 6:40pm

    Dear Gerald,

    In my view, whether it is Jesus, Moses or Muhammad, we should offer them all respect, even if we choose to question them. After all, they are revered by billions of people and their teachings encourage most of those people to be considerate and kind to others.

    Good to hear from you.

    Best wishes,

    Khalil

  • jayne Mansfield 30th Oct '20 - 9:19pm

    @ Khalil Yousuf,
    The Charlie Hebdo magazine was sued more times by Catholic organisations than by Muslim ones.

    The magazine was irreverently anti- religion rather than anti Muslim. It mocked religion and was bought by people who were not offended by its irreverence towards all faiths. I believe there is a distinction to be made between causing offence and spreading hate.

    As you acknowledge, the vile attacks, have not deterred or diminished the publication of further cartoons. But why in a secular society where mockery of religion is deemed acceptable if not liked by sections of the population, should it? Some might see such an attempt t as a threatening form of coercion.

    I think it entirely predictable that when people kill in an attempt to impose their view, those living in a democracy respond with anger. I know from a family members in France, that Marine Le Pen is ready to challenge Macron if he doesn’t take a firmer line.

    I don’t think that offering a sliver of explanation or justification (if a person hadn’t done this or said that, the killings would not have happened) will carry much weight in a society that accepts that there is a right to offend. The inhuman, indiscriminate, savagery of the attacks that have taken place both here and in France demonstrates quite clearly where the hate resides. It is with the perpetrators and there are no excuses.

  • I suspect these “terrorist attacks” have more to do with personal issues than any belief system. A lot of it seems like the result conspiracy thinking feeding into paranoia and the idea that there is some monolithic “other” who is responsible for personal and community struggles. I do not see anything endemic in Islam. In my experience religious people are not usually unreasonable or driven by hate. They kind of just get on with it. To put it bluntly, the people who commit these crimes are unhinged in various ways.

  • Gerald Stewart 30th Oct '20 - 10:39pm

    @Glenn, I’d agree that most people of all religions are reasonable, but, there is a clear pattern in the way that some practitioners of Islam respond to the criticism of their religion in a way that practitioners of other religions do not. Perhaps it is all mixed up with political grievances but that is no excuse the sad truth is that a minority of the practitioners of Islam respond with extreme violence towards any criticism of the religion, even to other Muslims. That does not happen today amongst any of the other major world religions, the fact this behaviour continues amongst some of the Islamic community is a problem, which if not faced and resolved will only lead to a continuance of said behaviour and risk a backlash from the non Islamic community.

  • Gerald Stewart 31st Oct '20 - 1:55am

    There is also the fact that ISIS bragged about the fact that they were sending some of their followers in to Europe amongst the waves of genuine refugees.

  • john oundle 31st Oct '20 - 2:55am

    France is a secular liberal democracy,full point..

    If people are uncomfortable with that concept, then why live there?
    Are the majority meant to adapt / change their basic way of life for the minority?

    When people decide to work in Saudi Arabia for example,they accept that there are no Christian places of worship, that Bibles will be confiscated by customs officials etc. Again if you cannot accept the local conditions don’t go there.

  • Gerald
    Christianity has its history of violence.
    Even in modern times there is The Lord’s Resistance Army.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord%27s_Resistance_Army
    Religious fanatics are not limited to Islam.

  • I’m fully with William on this.

    Given my thoughts are on David Shutt just now….. I’d add to William’s list that distinguished list of Liberal Quakers…. the Peases, Cadburys, Rowntrees and so many more going back to the founding Friend George Fox who challenged Oliver Cromwell on religious freedom face to face.

    The role of Quakers in the New Liberalism at the beginning of the last century – which if the First World War had not intervened might just have saved the Liberal Party – should never be underestimated.

  • nvelope2003 5th Nov '20 - 4:11pm

    John Oundle: Many of the Muslims in France come from their former colonies and speak French so it is natural that they choose to go there to seek work just as people come to Britain from our former colonies, including Ireland, Australia, Canada etc.

    Many French people are hostile to outsiders and some feel guilt for past behaviour. The Left is hostile to religion and that is why they passed the 1905 Act which created the secular state although it was originally aimed at Catholics, and its principles are preached to children by state school teachers using Government material.
    Khalil Yousuf has answered the points raised in an admirable manner as have David Raw and William Wallace.

    Just because you can offend others does not mean that you should. Only those who have lost the argument use ridicule and offensiveness to make their case although I accept that some opinions may cause offence in themselves even when advanced in a polite manner but that is not what has happened in most of these incidents. I am told that Charlie Hebdo is an unpleasant paper which uses cruel portrayals of those they do not like in order to boost a falling circulation.

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