Europe Rediscovers Islam Jan 02
The attack on the Twin Towers in New York shook the western
countries. The global “War on Terror”, conceived by President Bush and
publicised by CNN, has dominated our lives for many months. All of us
reject and abhor totally such terrorism and death of innocent civilians.
Nobody has the right to kill another in this way and those responsible for
such murder must be found, tried and punished.
Equally, there is no justification for revenge leading to the death of innocent civilians in Afghanistan.
These Afghani civilians did not invite the foreign terrorists; they did
not harbour them; they were themselves victims of their own dictators. The
Taliban dictators ruled ruthlessly without the consent of their people;
they used religion to opress and exploit their own innocent civilians!
Over 1 billion people of different ethnic origin, language and
lifestyle embrace Islam today in more than 48 countries. In Islam, there
are scholars who endeavour to interpret the Koran and application of
Sharia (religious law); there are politicians who rule Muslim countries
applying Sharia to suit their rule; there are thousands of Imams who lead
prayers in mosques without straying into politics. However, there is no
divine spiritual leader empowered to issue a Fatwa or call for “holy
war” in the name of Islam!
forbids violence in defending the faith; against women
and children even in war, and against oneself (suicide). Jihad means
“internal struggle for perfection” – a means of self-purification
for submission to God. It is a personal
fight against selfishness, greed and lust – not a call to seek
revenge and kill innocent civilians!
The fundamental concept of Islam is the oneness of GOD, a God who is with everyone everywhere! This was the
most important revelation that propelled Mohammed to act fearlessly
against idol worship – a common practice in Mecca in 470 AD. The Koran
specifies acceptance of “the people of the book” i.e. Jews and
Christians who are fellow believers of one God and who share common
ideals. Furthermore, Islam neither denies rights for women nor compels
them to wear the veil. Muslim women in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia
have had no difficulty in being elected as Prime Ministers or Presidents.
Therefore, it is the politicians, hungry for power and control, who use
Islam to establish and sustain autocratic rule over their people.
is the situation of Muslims living in Europe today?
Germany's economic boom attracted Turkish "guest workers"
on a temporary basis with neither the right to acquire citizenship nor the
opportunity to participate in commercial, civic or political life of their
adopted country. Illegal immigrants from North Africa cross into Italy,
Spain and Greece. Asylum seekers from Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and
Eastern Europe try to find safe havens wherever they can in Europe. Such
an inflow of Muslim immigrants has increased civil tension and fear of
Islam in Europe.
There are about 3 million Muslims of different ethnic, linguistic
and cultural traditions living and working in Britain. They represent both
Sunnis and Shiias. These immigrants came legally, were granted citizenship
and had an equal opportunity to education, health and other public
services. The majority of Muslims have integrated well into British
society. Sadly, a number of immigrant families from Pakistan and
Bangladesh with strong cultural and linguistic differences suffer from
discrimination, social exclusion, high levels of unemployment and civil
The media's image of Muslims - a bearded, turbaned cleric draped in
a robe unfamiliar with idiomatic English - has no place in Britain today!
Many Muslims, especially the older and less educated ones, are confined to
poorly paid jobs in the service industry. However, the young Muslims today
are confident and vigorous. They are proud to be both British and Muslim.
They are fluent in English; score high marks in schools; graduate with
honours from Universities; represent Britain on the sports field, in the
media, professions, business and indus6try. It is only a matter of time
before more of them will be in local courts, civil and diplomatic service,
local government and Parliament.
My family left India in 1834 and settled in Tanzania. I was born in
Tanzania, educated in England and have worked in both Tanzania and
Britain. A white rural Christian electorate in England’s Eastern Region
selected and elected me to be their Member of the European Parliament -
the first Muslim Member of such a Parliament! This is the reality in
Britain today; this is the Britain that champions fair play, tolerance and
justice. How many other countries in the world can claim such plurality of
values and cultures?