By Ansar Khan
It was when I was standing on the High Street, in Tooting South West London that I decided to take a moment to watch the people around me. They say you can learn a lot by simply watching, so I tried.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of English and African heritage Londoners, an Eastern European man with spikey blond hair and what seemed like a white basket ball outfit with a Slovenian Flag roller skated down the main road. Skilfully weaving between cars he still made time to casually light a cigarette. Three Middle Eastern men with designer beards and clothes sat in coffee shop chatting in Arabic about business. An Indian family carried groceries from a local shop towards a bus stop. A slim Afghan man walked past wearing a blue shilwaar kameez outfit that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the streets of Kabul. And near the bus stop a white middle aged woman, clearly a convert, looked very happy and comfortable while wearing the full Muslim hijaab. Later, I was in a restaurant ordering a take away while a middle aged Japanese man played with his son as we both waited for our order.
I sighed and thought what a wonderfully cosmopolitan and mixed society London really is. Its strength, the tolerance of different cultures and ethnicities, and how it’s a shame that some people seek to destroy this harmony.
It had only been three days since the violent murder of British Soldier Lee Rigby, in Woolwich, South East London. A day that saddened me deeply; I knew how his parents and family were feeling, having lost my son unexpectedly just six months earlier. I pray for his family; May Allah grant them peace and fortitude as their son was ‘shaheed’ (martyred) in every sense. Deserving of eternal peace and Paradise according to all religions and especially so in Islam. An honourable man, father and husband, taken away from this world unexpectedly.
I pray also for his murderers, even though the exact opposite is true for them. They really have no idea what it truly means to be Muslim or follow the noble religion of Islam. If they were hoping for paradise for their actions then maybe they should have picked up the Holy Qur’an and read the verses where Almighty God says if you kill a person it’s like you’ve killed the whole of mankind (Al-Ma’idah Chapter 5 : Verse 33). Or read the Hadith (authenticated saying) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) where he said the recommended and greater Jihad (holy war) is the spiritual reformation of oneself and the lowest form of Jihad is only ever permissible in self defence, and only after much prayer, patience and most crucially a holy sign from the Almighty (reference). (Read the true Islamic concept of Jihad here)
They should have known ‘Islam’ is an Arabic word from the root word ‘Salaam’ which means peace and submission to Allah’s will. And a ‘Muslim’ literally means to submit in peace and surrender in obedience to the Will of Allah. So the question rises who was more righteous during the events of Wednesday the 22nd May 2013 in Woolwich? This is not a question of belonging to one religion or another but a question of who was submissive and peaceful, and as such closer to God both in this world and the next. The answer should be clear to all those who may aspire to conduct such acts in the future.
These disenfranchised youth from fractured backgrounds are a breeding ground for all types of hate preachers, religious, political or racial. But when we look at other factors such as, economic instability, high unemployment, questionable government foreign and domestic policies, and the media’s twisted blood lust e.g. changing the colour of the blood on the hands of one of the murders so it stands out more on their front page. It all becomes a very complicated and deeply rooted problem.
In fact let’s get one thing straight, ‘Islamist’ is not a word, it has no meaning, and it makes no sense. It was fabricated after 11th Sept 2001 by merging ‘Terrorist’ with ‘Islam’ in a derogatory way specifically designed to sow the seed of mistrust. So everyone in the media should stop using it. It makes as much sense as Christianist, Hinduist or Jewist and makes a mockery of the term Buddhist. We are all God’s children and all religions lead to the worship of the Creator so none of them should be victimised or sidelined in any way.
It was about ‘Asr Salat’ time, one of the five daily prayer times for a Muslim. When the two Michael’s, Adebolago and Adebowale were busy, conducting their heinous act that would have made Satan proud. The fact is their actions were so far removed from the actions of any of the 1 billion other peace loving Muslims around the world. That even to just listen to their words would bring to light how confused and misguided they really were.
An ‘eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ said Michael ‘Mujahid’ Adebolago, 28, but that is not the teachings of Islam, or Christianity for that matter. In one sentence he says ‘change your government, they don’t care about you’ and in the next ‘bring back our troops’. And Michael ‘Toby’ Adebowale, 22, a recent convert, and former member of the ‘Woolwich Boys’ gang who himself had witnessed a friend ‘sliced to death’ in his youth. A criminal psychologist’s dream, confused to say the least. Plus both of Nigerian decent, they would have firsthand knowledge about the religious hatred currently playing out in Nigeria, as Christian mobs burn and kill Muslim villagers and vice versa. With more information sure to surface as the media circus plays out.
So do these young men sound like criminal masterminds or more like British born gangland pawns with a history of being abused and misused by both individuals and organisations, domestic and foreign.
So where is the clear defining cause to such acts? Maybe we are the cause, and instead of pointing the finger elsewhere, we all should look at ourselves, and consider how our words and actions reverberate from cause to effect. And maybe we really need to step back to see how our world and society in general is slowly losing its humanity and soul. Maybe it’s less about religion but more about good versus evil.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) said ‘be righteous and you will be the best of worshippers. Be content, so that you can be the best of those who are grateful. Choose for others what you like for yourself, then you will become a true believer. Treat your neighbour in the best of manners then you will be worthy of being a Muslim.’ (Ibn Maajah and Bokari).
A possible solution? ‘Love for all, Hatred for none’ as advocated by all Ahmadiyya Muslims. Whose founder is Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him), who they believe to be the second coming of the Hindu’s awaited Krishna, the Christian’s awaited Messiah, the Buddhist’s awaited Buddha and the Muslim’s awaited Mahdi and Messiah.
He is quoted as saying that ‘the principal to which we adhere is that we have kindness at heart for the whole of mankind. If anyone sees the house of a Hindu neighbour on fire and does not come forward to help extinguish the fire, most truly I declare that he does not belong to me. If anyone of my followers, having seen someone attempting to murder a Christian does not endeavour to save him, I most truly declare that he does not belong to us. (Roohani Khazain vol12; Sirajum Muneer p28).
So a utopian society is achievable as Tooting demonstrated on a busy Saturday afternoon; if each of us practiced ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ and stopped looking upon anyone else in jealousy or enmity and prayed for and adopted a life of humility and righteousness.
If we all chose to stop all types of violence and evil in every form and place, discard all falsehood, misconduct, injustice and immorality and proclaim to all Muslims, Christians, Jews and all the other religions that they have no enemy in the world. Then love and goodness would flourish and a new era in human history would begin.
It is evil that needs the lack of goodness to grow and survive, but goodness does not need evil to thrive and destroy evil. So maybe that’s the greatest lesson that the unexpected death of my son and Lee Rigby taught me, but I wonder how many more sons and daughters will need to be lost before we all realise the same?