Calm needed as faith leaders urge UK to confront fundamentalism
In the wake of the Westminster terror attack, the chairman of the British-Pakistani Christian Association has warned that more needs to be done in order to tackle radicalisation across the UK.
Wilson Chowdhry told The Universe: “The Government should insist upon all Islamic centres and mosques and all the official Islamic-related organisations in the UK producing a statement in which they confirm they do not promote or teach Kafir-o-phobia or Apostate-o-phobia, and do what they can to avoid Christianophobia of any sort.”
He pointed out that these are exactly the same type of preventions that all the organisations, schools and universities in the UK are asked to carry out in an effort to counteract Islamophobia.
Mr Chowdhry’s urgent appeal comes following last week’s tragic and shocking terrorist attack in Westminster, when 52-year-old Briton Khalid Masood killed four people before being shot dead by armed police.
During the 82-second rampage on Wednesday 22nd March, Masood ploughed a car through pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing British teacher Aysha Frade, US tourist Kurt Cochran and 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes, as well as injuring around 50 others. The attacker, armed with two knives, then rushed at the gates in front of the Houses of Parliament and fatally stabbed PC Keith Palmer, before he was shot dead by other officers.
An outpouring of grief, tributes and solidarity followed the attack, with Pope Francis assuring the ‘nation of his prayers’ and Cardinal Vincent Nichols calling for a “voice of prayer, of compassionate solidarity, and of calm”.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Richard Moth, stressed that the wrong actions of a few should not tarnish relations with all communities present in the diocese, “especially our Muslim brothers and sisters who have been present in this diocese for more than 100 years”.
Mr Chowdhry said the attack came as “no surprise” to him.
“We posited that there would be a backlash in countries in the west, especially the UK and US, in light of the success in the war against Daesh and due to the conviction of Anjem Choudary, whose network of evil will no doubt have extended in prison,” the chairman of the British-Pakistani Christian Association added.
Mr Chowdhry also pointed to clear evidence of an increased fundamentalism in the UK, including incidents such as the ‘Trojan Horse’ plot in which, it is alleged, several schools in Birmingham were targeted by a group of Islamists who were planning to infiltrate the establishments and radicalise youngsters.
Police have revealed that Masood most recently lived in the West Midlands and experts have warned that the area is a ‘centre for Islamist terrorism’.
A study examining terrorism in Britain between 1998 and 2015 found the region was the second most common for Islamism-related offences, behind
Tom Wilson, a research fellow at the anti-extremism think-tank The Henry Jackson Society, said Birmingham offered “fertile ground” for terrorists seeking new recruits.
Almost 20 per cent of people arrested for such offences lived in the West Midlands, and 80 per cent of these, 14 per cent overall, were from Birmingham.
Following the Westminster attack police raided three addresses in the city, arresting six people aged in their 20s overnight on suspicion of preparing terrorist attacks.
The Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group, which includes the principal leadership figures in the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities in Birmingham, said it was ‘disturbed’ at the city’s connection to the atrocity, and others.
‘Many times in recent years we have, tragically, found it necessary to issue condemnations of such action both in the UK and abroad,’ read a statement from the group, which was formed in September 2001 as a direct response to acts of retaliation taken by some against local Muslim and other targets in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.’
‘The indiscriminate inflicting of terror, death and serious injury upon innocent people pursuing their everyday lives is indefensible and fundamentally contrary to the teachings of all our major faiths,’ the group added.
The group also implored people to recognise that such actions are taken by individuals and not by whole communities. ‘We completely reject any attempt to see an opportunity to blame any particular community or faith, or any other community in this city, for the perverted actions of an individual,’ read the statement. ‘All the religious communities have demonstrated their strong ethos and tradition of service, as well as their support for the rule of law and democratic values.’
The group also warned that the cause of those who perpetrate such attacks would be served if communities start to distrust or turn on one another.
‘Every day in Birmingham we see examples of creative, productive and supportive relations across the faiths,’ they added. ‘We should unite in our condemnation and strive to create better, stronger relations with fellow citizens, especially in trying times. We are determined that the murderous actions of the very few will not prevail over the goodness which lies at the basis of our local communities.’
Meanwhile, Wilson Chowdhry warned that political correctness made it difficult to speak out against radicalisation. He highlighted the story of Faisal Bashir, a father-of-two, who decided to stop practising Islam after he became uncomfortable with the hate speech being espoused by some Muslims at a London mosque.
However, when Mr Bashir, a resident of Ilford, Redbridge, stopped attending mosques in the area, he said local Muslims began to harass him.
“The regular hate propoganda turned him away from Islam which made him a target for abuse from users of the mosque,” explained Mr Chowdhry. “He and his family had to flee the area because local police told him they could not help.
“Political correctness makes it very difficult for voices to speak out against the hate ideology being taught in some madrassahs and mosques, which means zealots are allowed to inculcate vulnerable minds with divisive messages.”
Mr Chowdhry also called on all schools, faith and non-faith, to prominently display and promote these commitments to staff, pupils and parents.
“If places of education and other organisations are required to do this in general, and Christian schools required to do this regarding Islamophobia, for example, then it is only right that there should be a reciprocal and equally vigorously enforced emphasis in the opposite direction,” he said.
Following the attack, the leader of millions of Muslims across the world, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the caliph of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (AMC), said that terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam were against its true teachings.
Speaking at the National Peace Symposium being held at the Bait-Ul-Futuh mosque in Morden, south London, the caliph said: “First of all, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by Wednesday’s terror attack at Westminster.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of London at this tragic time.
“On behalf of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community I wish to make it categorically clear that we condemn all such acts of terrorism and offer our heartfelt sympathies to the victims of this atrocity.”
He added: “No matter what terrorists may claim, under no circumstances are indiscriminate acts, or killings, ever justified.”
Referring to Islamist terrorists, he continued: “Their barbaric acts are a violation of everything that Islam stands for.”
The AMC is a peaceful Islamic movement that has denounced all forms of extremism and promotes peace. It has been in the UK for more than a century, and has around 35,000 UK members.
Picture: Floral tributes pictured at the scene of the attack, with Big Ben in the background. (Lauren Hurley/PA).Tags: Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group, British Pakistani Christian Association, Cardinal Nichols, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, fundamentalism, Khalid Masood, Westminster, Wilson Chowdhry