Muslims told to ‘reclaim’ peaceful religion from minority fanatics who have ‘hijacked’ it
A group of British imams headed to the French capital’s oldest synagogue earlier this month to meet with Jewish and Muslim leaders in an attempt to strengthen interfaith relations.
In January, four people were killed at a Jewish grocery store by an armed gunman just two days after the shootings at Charlie Hebdo offices. Both attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists.
During the British group’s recent visit, they offered support to both communities and spoke with representatives about current concerns and anxieties they are experiencing.
Imam Qari Asim, of Leeds’ Makkah Masjid, was one of the delegates who made the trip and said British imams felt ‘compelled’ to visit the nation to show solidarity between Muslim and Jewish communities.
“Our faith, Islam, preaches us that every life, regardless of faith and race, is sacred,” he said. “Grief and pain at the loss of a life, therefore, transcends the boundaries of race and religion.
“The recent barbaric attacks on Jewish community have affected us all in the West. They have sent a wave of fear amongst the Jewish community and concern amongst Muslims.”
He added: “Imams – British and French – were resolute not to let terrorists dictate the course of history and divide communities.
“It was not the terrorists who shed blood in Paris, but the Muslim worker in the kosher supermarket, Lassana Bathily, who is a hero to Muslims. It will not be terrorists but Lassana who will continue to inspire generations.”
As well as speaking with members of the different communities, the imams were also taken to the actual kosher supermarket where the attacks took place in January, as well as a number of synagogues to meet with rabbis and imams from France.
The Muslim population in the country is the second biggest religious grouping, and Mr Asim says the message he received from representatives of the demo-graphic was that the community was being ‘blamed’ for the acts of terrorists.
“[We] shared the concern that Muslims have suffered at the hands of violent extremists more than any other community and the deep scars of terrorism have disfigured the ‘Muslim body’,” he said.
“This calls for an intelligent strategy to defeat the toxic ideology at an intellectual and practical level.
“[We] highlighted some of the best practice that is prevalent amongst British Muslims and our institutions. More importantly, what were the factors that made British Muslims proud of both our religious and national identity.”
Mr Asim added that despite such beliefs, the group were ‘warmly welcomed’ by the Council of Jewish Insitution of France (CRIF) during a pre-arranged, constructive meeting.
An open and ‘frank’ dialogue took place between the two groups regarding the challenges that lie ahead and the steps that need to be taken, jointly, to overcome them.