Abdul Haqq Baker
7 June 2017
A witness account from the scene of one of
the attacks in London on Saturday evening - the third attack in as many months
in Britain - heard one of them proclaim, “this is for Allah”, before getting
out of a vehicle to begin a killing spree that left eight dead and at least 48
At the time of writing, authorities are
trying to gather intelligence and evidence following the attack, which also
extended to Borough Market, a few minutes from London Bridge on the south side
of the Thames.
I am a south Londoner, so this atrocity is
close to home. However, while saying this, it must also be stated that every
attack in Britain since 7/7 has been on home soil.
Many British Muslims, who unashamedly
possess a sense of pride and belonging, will share the sentiment of Britain
being home. Extremists - whether religious, far right or otherwise - neither
like, nor want this. They would rather we have no sense of belonging or
affinity to our place of birth, upbringing and citizenship.
Religious extremists prefer that we
experience the type of fear and insecurity witnessed among the thousands of
refugees fleeing war-torn countries or inhabitants being killed in those
societies. Their rather simplistic and regressive strategy may succeed for a
short, momentary phase during and shortly after terrorist attacks.
However, these feelings have always been
replaced by stoicism and a resolve to return as quickly as possible to
normality. Similar behaviour is also often witnessed in the plight of suffering
refugees and inhabitants from the above-mentioned societies (although periodic
domestic terror attacks do not equate to mass displacement).
Britain is still recovering from the
outrageous attacks of Westminster and Manchester. The latter attack was even
more reprehensible for the targeting, killing and wounding of innocent children
with the youngest casualty only eight years old.
Was Also an Attack on Religious Values
Saturday night’s equally atrocious attack
assumed a slightly different degree of malevolence as a result of its timing.
Muslims around the world are currently observing the holy month of Ramadan,
fasting during long daylight hours and standing for extra devotional prayers at
In Britain, Ramadan has become a unique
experience for both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Londoners gather for social
and culinary events following the final prayers of the evening. Beforehand,
they would have completed the day’s fast with a small amount of food in order
to adequately prepare for the ensuing night prayers.
Both Muslims and non-Muslims will have been
frequenting restaurants last night, enjoying the ambience of their environment.
What about the three attackers? Did they complete their fasts; enjoy the
solidarity and camaraderie of colleagues when sharing a meal? Did they
participate in the final evening prayers?
If so, they clearly misunderstood the
essence of what this month symbolises for 1.6 billion Muslims. As security and
intelligence agencies attempt to piece together events leading up to this
attack, it is unlikely we will ever know precisely what compelled these
individuals to embark on a campaign of terror.
However, what we do know is that their acts
have no justifiable basis in Islam - whatsoever.
Lee Rigby’s Murder: A Precursor for the Type of Attacks Today?
Previous terrorist attacks are fast
disappearing in the annals of the not-too-distant history as we attempt to keep
abreast of the most recent ones. This is disturbing because previous concerns
and warnings regarding the changing nature of attacks have been ignored.
The nature of Lee Rigby’s murder alarmed us
because of its barbarism and the calm repose of his killers immediately
following the attack. We need not cast our glances to Syria to witness
"Jihadi John" wielding a knife over a kneeling hooded captive.
The aftermath of the Westminster attacks
provided sufficient graphic detail illustrating the level of depravity intended
by these acts – the body of a dead woman under a bus, another floating in the
Thames, the streets covered in blood among injured and strewn bodies.
These scenes were reminiscent of
apocalyptic movies, not modern 21st century cities.
Reclaiming the religion, starting with terminology
As Muslims, we will continue to address and
reject extremists and their terroristic resolve to wreak havoc due to their
hatred for our collective way of life.
Their resentment also extends to fellow
Muslims who they claim to represent. One only has to recount their disregard
for Muslim lives and the subsequent death toll at their hands in the Middle
East, North Africa and elsewhere to debunk this myth. Their misrepresentation
of Islam will also continue to be challenged and rejected.
However, it must be made unequivocally
clear that their use of the same terminology or language does not automatically
equate them to the majority of Muslims' experiences and beliefs, or us to
Make no mistake; these, like other heinous
attacks, are not for Allah. Instead, they are a result of misplaced hatred and
contradict the religious injunction, adhered to by the majority of Muslims
globally, that states:
‘O you who believe! Stand out firmly for
Allah as just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others lead you to
injustice. Be just: that is nearer to piety…’ (English rendition of The Quran;
Chapter 5, verse 6)
Haqq Baker is the former Chairman of Brixton Mosque and author of Extremists in Our Midst: Confronting Terror.