By Tahir Nasser
You have probably never heard of Colleen LaRose. She was a lady born and brought up in the United States (Texas to be precise) where she lived as a girl and then as a young woman. She married twice, first at the young age of sixteen to a thirty two year old man and then later for ten years before divorcing. She suffered the death of her brother and father in quick succession and subsequently attempted suicide but was unsuccessful.
You probably have however heard of “JihadJane”. She was a lady born and brought up in the United States (Texas to be precise) where she lived as a girl and then as a young woman. She converted to Islam in the latter half of the previous decade. Within a fairly short period of time after her conversion, she began to refer to herself on YouTube as “JihadJane” and began to solicit money online through Twitter for terrorist activities. She flew to Europe with the stated intention of seeking to kill Lars Vilks – the infamous Swedish artist who had grossly caricatured the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). She was arrested in London and later pleaded guilty in the beginning of 2011 to all charges of recruitment to terrorist activities and plotting the murder of a civilian.
The above two paragraphs shouldn’t really be separated should they? Yet that is exactly what many political and criminal commentators would have you believe is how you should understand the recent horrific murders that occurred in Woolwich. The assailants were two converts to an extremist philosophy that seeks to sanction the offensive bloodshed of innocent individuals in the name of God. The knife-wielding man whose face has been plastered across websites and newspapers, it now emerges, is an individual by the name of Michael Adebolajo. The fact that he is a convert is increasingly being focussed on as a potential link to understanding the motivation of why he committed such horrific acts. The implication seems to be that anyone who is “crazy” enough to convert to Islam is more likely to be the kind of individual who is also prone to butchering innocent people in broad daylight. It is not considered that being a Muslim or indeed a convert to Islam is neither a necessary nor a sufficient factor to being a brutal murderer.
The case of Colleen LaRose is a case in point. Her being a convert was emphasised to such an extreme degree that in the consciousness of the public, it is only her screen name “JihadJane” that is remembered. Colleen LaRose has been forgotten. The strange juxtaposition of the words “Jihad” and “Jane” and the imagery they represent became a powerful tool wielded through the halls of FoxNews, MSNBC and other news outlets. With the word “Jihad” the image conjured was of warfare, of burning flags and murdered diplomats. With the name “Jane” we think of “Jane Austen” perhaps or maybe we see the rosy English hillsides and the picture of a quintessentially English lady. This heady concoction proved a God-send for the media who ran with the idea of a peace-loving, happy go-lucky normal American gal who, after becoming Muslim, turned into a transatlantic murderer.
Unfortunately, the same story is being replayed here in the UK following the tragic murder of soldier Lee Rigby. The same question is being asked – are converts more likely to become “radicalized”? The question is absurd because it narrows down extremism and “radicalization” to within the context of Muslims and Islam. “Radicalization” can occur in any direction and for any cause. Indeed, for some extremely noble causes like the protection of wildlife and animal rights, individuals are known to have gone to such extremes as to commit murder and arson. Does this mean that the suspicion of being an “eco-terrorist” should be placed on someone for becoming more interested in campaigning for animal rights? Invariably those who do go on to become “eco-terrorists” are drawn from that original pool, yet it is not their love of animal-rights that take them to an extremist ideology. It is rather their disregard for human life that enables them to use their cause – whatever that may be, whether religious, political, economic or personal – as a weapon to violate the sanctity of human life.
The common denominator between all cases of outright murder, bloodshed and terrorism is the disregard for human life. The question that should be asked is not “are converts more susceptible to becoming murderers” but rather “how does anyone – convert or not, Muslim or not – get to that place where they no longer regard the lives of others as sacred?” To claim Islam and the Qur’an as the cause of such disregard for human life is as absurd as claiming that murders due to eco-terrorism are the fault of David Attenborough’s series entitled “Nature”, rather it is more absurd, for the Qur’an speaks vehemently against such acts of barbarity:
On account of this, We prescribed for the children of Israel that whosoever killed a person — unless it be for killing a person or for creating disorder in the land — it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoso gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind. And Our Messengers came to them with clear Signs, yet even after that, many of them commit excesses in the land. (Qur’an 5:33)
For those, like Anjem Choudary, who seek to explain Michael Adebolajo’s act in light of the recent wars conducted by the UK government in so-called Muslim countries, the following verse of the Qur’an should be a sufficient rejoinder to show that such reasons are invalid according to the teachings of Islam:
O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do. (Qur’an 5:9)
On the other hand, the Qur’an makes a clear proclamation as to the effect it has on those who convert to Islam and truly imbibe its teachings:
Thereby does Allah guide those who seek His pleasure on the paths of peace, and leads them out of every kind of darkness into light by His will, and guides them to the right path. (Qur’an 5:17)
The actions of Michael Adebolajo are manifest darkness. Their only relationship to Islam is the relationship between light and darkness – that when light departs, darkness takes its place.
In many ways, I did not want to have to write the above post. When a man is killed in cold blood and his wife and family are left reeling and grieving in the most profound way, I honestly do not want to have to write an article about the teachings of my religion on murder or how converts to Islam should not have the stigma of “terrorist” branded to them out of suspicion and mistrust. The action in itself does not warrant that I should start writing about my religious views or defending my religion, as if the only thing that is of importance when a man loses his life through murder is how my religion is made to appear. The Islamic way to react to such an event is to offer condolences to the family, to offer support to the community and to take due steps to stop such acts occurring again.
Nevertheless, in a peculiar way, it is not the murder that has put the spotlight on Islam but rather the senseless and absurd manner in which this murder has been portrayed in the media. On the London Underground yesterday, I opened up the “Evening Standard” inside page to read the absurd headline along the lines of “Woolwich terrorist used to be a nice Christian”. The framing of this dialogue in this childish and irresponsible manner is the cause for such replies to be written by the Muslim community. The representation further of Anjem Choudary – a man perhaps disliked more by the British Muslim community than any other in the UK – on Newsnight is further demonstration of the manner in which the media of the UK continually seek to represent Islam to the wider audience using the individuals most un-representative. As has been pointed out in many intelligent and well-informed pieces, the killing of Mohammed Saleem, a seventy five year old pensioner in Birmingham in late April of this year by a Caucasian individual wielding a machete had received scant attention until the murder of Soldier Lee Rigby. Furthermore, the murder of Mohammed Saleem was not hailed and paraded as the rise of fascism in the UK and it did not seek to extrapolate that all Caucasians living in the Birmingham Heath area are more likely to kill elderly Muslim men. Indeed, most people were scarcely aware of Mohammed Saleem’s killing – which is believed to have been racially motivated – until the tragic murder of Soldier Lee Rigby. Such reporting is perhaps inevitable. After all, the unprovoked murder of an elderly Muslim man by a British born and raised, young Caucasian individual, does not exactly fit the wider agenda.
Admin: In addition to the above, please find below a selection of videos relevant to this subject, which we hope demonstrates the peaceful nature of many of those who accept Islam:
Ahmadiyya; Western Converts to Islam Ahmadiyya
Convert to Islam Ahmadiyya – Ibrahim Noonan
Converts to Islam Ahmadiyya – Various
Convert to Islam Ahmadiyya – Micah Tair
Convert to Islam Ahmadiyya
Convert to Islam Ahmadiyya – Michael Badoo
Convert to Islam Ahmadiyya – Muhammad Bashir
Dream Seen by Ahmadi Muslim Convert
From Judaism to Islam
How I Accepted Islam Ahmadiyyat – New Converts Presentations
New converts to Islam-Ahmadiyya & their Spiritual experiences
Converts and their journey to Islam, Real Talk Ladies, Islam Ahmadiyya
Converts and their journey to Islam Ahmadiyya ~ Real Talk USA
Views of a New Ahmadi on UK Jalsa Salana 2010
Real Talk USA: Converts – Part 1 (English)
Real Talk USA: Converts – Part 2 (English)