Charlie Hebdo, Security and the MCB 
It is a self-evident fact that the twelve murders at the offices of 'Charlie Hebdo' today are an act of mind-numbing barbarity. It is awkward for the MCB that news of the attack coincided with the MCB's press release "Confront terrorism by backing freedom: ... re-think the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill." Nevertheless, this message from the MCB is right, and the attack on Charlie Hebdo is an attack on freedom, which must be countered by endorsing freedom.

Firstly, on the murders: Throughout the period of his life in Makkah following the first revelations of the Qur'an when he was forty, through to the divine command for him to flee Makkah a dozen years later, the Messenger of Allah (S) sustained continual abuse, defamation, ridicule, violence against him and his followers, isolation and deprivation that caused the death of his deeply loved first wife Khadija (R) in the 'year of sorrows'. Yet in all that time he never allowed any of his followers to raise their hand against the enemies of Islam. Even later, in Madinah, no move was taken against the torture and murder of Muslims held captive remaining in Makkah, instead insisting that the Muslims of Madinah would stand rigidly by the horribly one-sided treaty they agreed with the Makkans. The battles that took place between them were all exclusively in the defence of Madinah, and the final victory over Makkah was a bloodless and overwhelming victory brought about by the Makkans' own machinations.

The point is, simply, that whatever satirists do to mock Muslims, the Qur'an, or the Messenger of Allah (S), we should be content that they are free to do so. One juvenile mocked the Messenger's mannerisms to his face. He gently placed his finger on the boy's chest over his heart, said a few words to him, and left him. The boy in due course became a great Sahabah, his heart constantly in the dhikr of Allah. If no one learns anything else from the cartoons saga, they will at least be aware that the Messenger of Allah was distinguished by his preference for white clothes, his full beard and his habitual imamah, turban. It really does take harpies to remind us Muslims of these basic sunnahs!

Now back to the MCB and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill. The MCB's press release quite rightly ridicules the government's proposed measures to require providers of public services to monitor and detect signs of extremism and potential terrorism: something that politicians themselves are completely incapable of doing, and for which the security authorities have only achieved through applying mind-boggling resources. However, none of this should be necessary in the first place if it were not for the fact that Muslims themselves, and especially Muslim institutions, have so far utterly failed to tackle the problem. Today a dozen people in Paris have paid with their lives. But over the last fifteen years, so have hundreds of people in or from Britain have too, our own neighbours, friends and relatives, in the 9/11 catastrophe, the 7/7 disaster, and elsewhere overseas. Hundreds of members of UK Muslim families are incarcerated on terrorism offences. Yet there is barely a ripple of change in UK masjids - the same divisive, sectarian rhetoric or vacuous homilies from imams; the same impenetrably exclusive management committees, and the same ranks of dissatisfied dissenters. The same stories of unfulfilled converts to Islam, and returning youth, drawn in frustration to the margins where they find extremist notions meshing with their own experiences. The same selfish, incompetent and inept dealings by Muslims with their neighbours, around masjids and everywhere else. Not a single indigenous imam in a single UK masjid after three amply supplied generations - even where the imam speaks some English, it is embarrassing to listen to. There is hardly a single imam who is even capable of explaining intellectually what is wrong with ISIS or Al Qaida. The MCB has done nothing to change any of this, nor has MINAB, nor has any other umbrella body.

All the same, Muslims are not alone in the blame for this failure to tackle extremism. They have been rendered into a state of fear by sensationalist media and by draconian criminal sanctions - even against those such as the Nottingham University academics legitimately studying the material - so there are real government obstacles to actually confronting extremists, compounded by ignorance by security operatives, politicians and the media of what actually constitutes extremism. But until Muslim institutions pull their collective heads out of the sand, confront their own internal, sectarian and exclusivist problems, and actually start to tackle extremism and its causes (intolerance) within the Muslim community, they cannot expect anything different from a government that cannot indulge liberal thinking and liberal values.

Muslims should expect ridicule, expect satire, it is part of the currency of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. We should not be in the least fazed by it, nor do we need to repay its cruel barbs. What we have to do, to blunt its point, is to render it meaningless through our own exemplary conduct according to the Sunnah. Ironically, to be mocked and ridiculed, is itself a sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (S). The murderers of "Charlie Hebdo" have less understanding of the Sunnah, indeed of Islam, than the cartoonists who caricatured the Messenger of Allah (S) in his own Sunnah.

Wa'al akhir ud-dawana an-alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen


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