Saturday 23rd July 2011. We’d been staying in a posh hotel for my now sister-in-law’s wedding. I was trying to squeeze in a couple extra hours of beauty sleep when my husband burst into the room and started flicking through TV channels. In midst of his frenzy and my startled sleepiness all I made out was; “terrorist attack,” “children dead” and “Norway.” Whilst attempting to shake off any remaining sleep I found myself repeating “please don’t let it be a Muslim, please don’t let it be a Muslim.” Finally, the flickering TV screen stopped on an aerial image of Norway, a madman had been on a killing spree.
It’s with frightening familiarity that I watched the Paris events unfold on Friday 13th November 2015. Several suicide bombers, affiliated with Islamic State (IS), had ruthlessly massacred innocent civilians. I walked into a full, yet completely silent, staff room as live coverage unfolded on BBC news. Images of horror were quickly replaced with the words ‘Islamic state,’ ‘Islamists’ and ‘Mohammed’ as the news reader proceeded to link religious motive with the attacks. The feeling of grief felt for the Parisians deepened into an unexplainable feeling of guilt, a peculiar sentiment that I am finding harder and harder to escape from these days. Once again Muslims were in the forefront of another heinous crime.
In my 30 years as a Muslim I have never once associated the words Islam, Muslims or Mohammed with anything but love, serenity and peace. My childhood was filled with tales of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him,) his kindness, forgiveness and tolerance. Of course as in all history books there were also tales of war, the Quran is not meant to be a fiction fairy tale, but the predominant message remained one of peace and love. Attending an Islamic secondary school only confirmed these teachings. I learnt that the word Islam meant peaceful surrender to the will of God. I learnt that in Islam to kill another is to kill all of humanity. I learnt that Islam was one of the first religions to introduce female rights and the welfare system. Entering adulthood I joined my parents in prayer five times a day, praying for the welfare of not only the ‘Muslim Ummah’ (Muslim community) but all of God’s creation.
Have I been living in kuku-land and completely missed the chapter on “kill everyone that doesn’t agree with you including women, children and unarmed civilians?” With 1.5 billion followers worldwide Islam is the second largest religion in the world. It seems I am not alone, the other 99.99% seem to have missed that chapter too! In fact it seems everyone but the allegedly Islamic 0.01% seem to have an incorrect grasp of Islam. Surely not! Is it fair to judge the 99.99% of the Muslim population by the actions of so few? The answer is clearly no. Yet the feeling of guilt is hard to shake off and I can’t help but find myself shrunk into a corner with my head lowered in shame.
As a Muslim I am an ambassador of Islam and refuse to stand quietly as the heinous actions of IS are linked with Islam. I am a Muslim and I condemn the killing of humanity in my name, the name of my religion or the name of my country (UK for those wondering.) I stand in solidarity with the innocents in Paris and across the world subjected to terror through attacks by IS, the undifferentiated bombing of Syrian civilians, the unjustified war with Iraq and Afghanistan.