Genuine solidarity

Tehmina Kazi has a brilliant article on the murder of Asad Shah and what needs to happen about sectarian hate crime.

It is unbearable to think that someone who reached out to others, no matter what their background, has been extinguished by a mindset that was the antithesis of everything he stood for. Mr Shah was one of those newsagents who would go the extra mile for every customer. Not only did he remember everyone’s names, but he would send people Christmas cards or Eid cards, depending on their religion. He took an interest in people’s lives, be they young, old, black, brown or white.

Two vigils were organised for him — one with 500 people, including Nicola Sturgeon, in attendance — in a testament to how loved he was.

But some people don’t like that kind of thing. They prefer hatred and rage.

Tehmina points out that there’s been no statement from MEND or MPACUK.

Glasgow Central Mosque put out a long statement, which decried the murder as “abhorrent and unacceptable” and said it would “stand shoulder to shoulder with all communities to eradicate this intolerance from society.”

However, this statement appeared to gloss over Whatsapp messages recentlyposted by their most senior imam, Maulana Habib Ur Rahman. Referring to the Pakistani Government’s execution of Mumtaz Qadri — who had killed anti-blasphemy law campaigner Salman Taseer in 2011 — Rahman said: “I cannot hide my pain today. A true Muslim was punished for doing which [sic] the collective will of the nation failed to carry out.”

That kind of thinking is working out so well in Pakistan at this moment.

If a group expects to be taken seriously in its attempts to bring communities together, it must abandon supremacist ideologies insofar as they discriminate against others, or lead to hate crimes against others. As a general rule, the ethic of reciprocity must guide us here: it is all well and good to advocate for the human rights of one’s own community, but what we really need is empathetic advocacy work, where campaigners get to grips with the struggles that other communities face, and offer genuine solidarity instead of meaningless platitudes.

As several Muslim groups did after the floods in the north of England a few weeks ago.

South of the border, The Muslim Council of Britain has condemned the killing, adding that “there is no place for hatred of this kind.” While this sounds encouraging at first, their own initiatives have not been as inclusive of different sects as one would hope. In 2014, they announced a “Historic Intrafaith Unity Statement” which solicited signatures from various Muslim groups, in an attempt to forge common ground. But as the blogger John Sargeant pointed out, Ahmadi Muslims — both Lahoris and the larger Rabwah branch — were conspicuous by their absence.

Furthermore, Muslim media outlets like 5 Pillars (who claim to be promoting “normative” Islam) previously described the Ahmadi Baitul Futuh mosque in Morden as a “temple,” when it was engulfed in flames during a suspected arson attack in September 2015. The site’s Deputy Editor, Dilly Hussain, tweeted in 2014, “I’ve known monkeys that have a more legitimate claim to Islam than Ahmadis.”

Ugly ugly stuff, and dangerous.

What I would really like to see is a statement from groups like the MCB, which unequivocally and unambiguously defends the right of Ahmadis to refer to themselves as Muslims. I would also like to see religious leaders from both sects express a more positive approach to Sunni-Ahmadi marriages, which are — anecdotally — still discouraged.

In short a liberal, tolerant, generous approach, instead of a theocratic, hate-filled, narrow approach. Be less like Dilly Hussain and more like Asad Shah.

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