I am sure that many people living in Hastings and St Leonards must have been horrified by the events that took place in Paris last week during which 129 people lost their lives in a terrorist incident and will join with me in offering our condolences to the victims, and families of the victims, who were caught up in it.
Many of us, both non-Muslim and Muslim, will have been outraged by what we heard on the news bulletins and saddened to think that there are people living in our societies who would stoop so low as to attack innocent civilians going about their business and doing no harm to anyone.
Many have been blaming not only the extremist fanatics but also the moderate Muslims whom they accuse of remaining silent and not doing enough to condemn what has been going on.
The Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement immediately after the Paris attack in which he condemned it unreservedly and ever since the previous attack in Paris individuals have been organising Not-in-my-Name campaigns online.
One of the lies I come across regularly on forums is that 75 per cent of Muslims living in the UK sympathise with ISIS and admire what they are doing despite there being no evidence of this whatsoever.
Passages from the Qur’an, taken out of context, are also quoted.
Naturally the people who spread these falsehoods have their own agendas.
Most of the time they know they are not true but do it to sow the seeds of discord.
We might do well to remember that it is not only non-Muslims who are suffering under ISIS but also Muslims too. In fact most of the people who have been killed by the Islamists up till now have been Muslims. The Muslims I have had the privilege of knowing in our town are law-abiding and well integrated.
They work in our hospitals, offices, drive our cabs and volunteer in our charity shops.
They are also required, under the five pillars of Islam, to give alms (zakat) and help those less fortunate than themselves.
Dr Sayed Nakshawani, the Shia imam, Islamic scholar and university lecturer has done much to bring people of different faiths together and I have learned a lot from his lectures which can be found online.
He was one of the first to speak out after the murder of Lee Rigby.
Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation in circulation about the prophet Muhammad.
He forewarned those around him that some who came after would lose their way and his son-in-law Ali fought against them (the Khawarij). He would have been appalled by what is being done in his name by the misguided.
He wanted people to live and coexist together, which is why in Medina he put together the first democratic constitution in history. He also had covenants written to protect Christians and was neither anti-Christian nor anti-semitic.
Not only was George Bernard Shaw an admirer but also Thomas Carlyle and Gandhi.
I hope our Muslim friends, who live and work among us, will not encounter any problems and that they will not feel too afraid for themselves and their families.
At times like these we must pull together. Nobody has the right to instil fear into anybody and we must all continue to protect those who may be vulnerable.
Peace be Upon You (Assalamu alaikum)
Stephen J Waters
Magdalen Road, St Leonards
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