Muslim Council of Wales offers condolences and support following recent events in France

Following the recent killing of French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel at the hands of an extremist, Salem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales sent the following message to Archbishop George Stack:

It is with heartbreak and sadness that we received the news of an attack on a church in France on Tues 26th July, which led to the brutal murder of Father Jacques Hamel. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the Father. This is no doubt frightening and disturbing for Christians across Europe, and indeed the world. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” wrote St Paul, and the pain felt at the attack of such a sacred site must be immense. We, as the Muslim Council of Wales, would like to extend our hands in friendship. We find solace and comfort in our trust in God, but also in each other. We are with you.

There has been a longstanding tradition of Just War in Islam, in which the sanctity of places and people of religion has always been maintained. There are several teachings of the Prophet Muhammad that express the following: –

“Do not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship.” Prophet Muhammad (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)

Likewise, in classical Islamic interpretations of the Quran, the sanctity of all places of worship is affirmed: –

“And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. (Quran 22:40)

This poses a significant challenge for Muslims How do you possibly “deradicalise” or debate with those who on one hand lay claim to the Islam tradition, vocally pronounce their religious identity, and go as far as claiming they are an “Islamic State” – yet on the other hand, indiscriminately kill – and in ways that disregard almost intentionally all the things Islam calls sacred. We have no clear or easy answers, and we must be honest about this. In the month of Ramadan, we bore witness to the prevailing pervsion of terrorists when the Holy Mosque of Madinah was bombed by members of the Islamic State. The mosque is the second most sacred site in the Islamic tradition, and has since its inception been called a “harram”, or “sanctuary” for the prohibition of any violence (even against insects) on it’s sacred ground.

What we can do is continue to work with our scholars and Imams to ensure that the important theological teachings which counter violent extremism are spread. We continue to work closely with the government on counter-extremism efforts. We continue to speak out on the issues of global significance, the refugee crisis, war in Syria and Iraq, and religious oppression.

There is in the Islamic tradition a convenant the Prophet Muhammad made with Christians. It is a convenant of friendship and freedom, that is considered incubent for all Muslims to adhere to. The spirit of the pledge is summed up in the below extract:-

“I would be behind them [the Christians] to protect them from their enemy. By myself and my helpers and my people and my followers as if they are my subject and those in my protection. I will remove the harm from them.”

The full extract is available here, translated by Shaykh Suhaib Hasan –

In these troubled times, the Muslim Council of Wales reaffirms this convenant and pledge with all Christians, here in Wales and across the globe, in hope of building a more peaceful future.

In response to the message, Archbishop Stack made the following reply:

Dear Saleem,

Thank you for your message of the 29th July, which I received whilst in Krakow with Pope Francis for the World Youth Day.

Thank you also for the sentiments you expressed about the tragic killing of Father Jacques Hamel.  They coincide with those of Pope Francis who says that violence is contrary to all religious faiths – Christian, Jewish, Islam.

He said religions do not want war.  They are dedicated to peace, justice, human dignity and respect.  Terrorists often use the cloak of religion to further their own cause. The Holy Father said that Islam should not be equated with terrorism.

Thank you for all you do in Wales and beyond to promote the common values of justice and peace.  I join Pope Francis and all who work for this end in prayer and solidarity with the victims of violence from any quarter.

+ George Stack

Archbishop of Cardiff

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