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We issued the following statement to our Christian and inter-faith partners following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel in France. We include some of the warm responses we received from Christian faith leaders, to demonstrate the strength of the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Wales.   Our statement issued is below: –

Dear Friends,

May Peace Blessings and Mercy of God be with you all,

“It is with heartbreak and sadness that we received the news of an attack on 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 – http://www.mcb.org.uk/prophet-muhammad-covenant-christians/

The words of Pope Francis, are true to the core and I quote ““It’s war, we don’t have to be afraid to say this … a war of interests, for money, resources. I am not speaking of a war of religions. Religions don’t want war. The others want war.”

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.”

The Muslim Community in Wales is with all in prayers and spirit.

Together we are Stronger

With Warm regards and Prayers

Saleem

We received the following response from Rt Rev’d Peter M. Brignall, Bishop of Wrexham:

Dear Saleem,

Thank you for your kind E-mail last week, which awaited my return from leave.

Your condolences, thoughts and prayers and those of the Muslim community for Father Jacques Hamel are very much appreciated. There is no escaping the horror of and means by which he died.

I am most grateful to you and ask that you know especially my sorrow and grief whenever I hear of the deaths of innocent people, especially women and children but including men too that occur particularly at the hands of fellow believers.

I join you to pray and work with all scholars, theologians and religious leaders to ensure that the religious teachings that counter the overt or subtle teachings of violence and extremism are heard and rightly understood that alone will result in peace and the upholding of the dignity and rights of all people. You are right, where humanitarian, and political disaster and disorder is compounded by religious extremism and intolerance we must strive all the harder and together to bring the single message of Pax Domini, Salem, and Shalom to our brothers and sisters who share faith in the One, True God. As Pope Francis said on his way to Krakow for the international gathering of young people (World Youth Day) last week: ‘We’re not frightened to tell the truth, the world is at war because it has lost (sight) of peace.’ That does not permit either, any racial discrimination, religious intolerance or hate crime of whatever kind, please know my concerns and vigilance there.

With every good wish, continued prayers and if it is not too late to still say, ‘Eid Mubarak’

†Peter

The Rt Rev’d Peter M. Brignall

Bishop of Wrexham

The following message was received by Archbishop of Cardiff, George Stack:

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

Jim Barnaville, Community Organising Leader in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff and Co-Chair of Cardiff Citizens responded with the below: –

Dear Saleem

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:24-26

Thank you for your message, information, prayers and solidarity. We place ourselves in the hands of God and ask for His Mercy for all our communities at home and abroad. I am attaching a message issued jointly by Cardinal Nichols and Muslim leaders on the day of the attack.

I pray for our continuing work of dialogue, solidarity and peace-building through Citizens UK.      God be with you and your work.

Jim

The Muslim Council of Wales is committed to working with partners, from all faiths and those with no religion, to making society fairer, freeer and safer. We stand by the value that “Together, We are Stronger”.

The Muslim Council of Wales was recently contacted in relation to a news story published by the Daily Mail regarding a young Imam in Cardiff. We investigated the story, and found that the Daily Mail’s article was misleading and did not reflect the teachings of the Imam, Ali Hammuda, in question. Subsequently, many other Welsh Imams and scholars contacted us expressing their concern. The following public letter, signed jointly by many Imams and scholars, represents our unified voice on the issue.

We, the undersigned, have a commitment towards working for the common good in Wales for those from all backgrounds. Towards this end, we have worked to build relationships between mosques, civic institutions and the government, believing a united Wales can help foster a society in which all forms of extremism and violence are rejected.

We, the Imams of all mosques in Wales condemn all forms of extremism and reaffirm our strong commitment to work together with all members of our communities, civic society and the Welsh Government to counter extremism and building a cohesive, unified and progressive Welsh society.

We are concerned by a recent Daily Mail article accusing a young Imam, Ali Hammuda, of promoting “sex slaves”. Not only is this slanderous and untrue, as Ali Hammuda has himself clarified clearly and unequivocally, it undermines mosques as spaces where counter-narratives to extremism can be delivered. All our mosques are open to all members of the society, and all Imams can be approached for any scholarly and academic discourse and understanding of Islam and its values. The journalist’s covert recordings were wholly unnecessary, as we are happy for anyone to attend.

One of our affiliates, the Al-Manar Centre of Glynrhoddna Street, has come under intense scrutiny since Nasser and Aseel Muthanna and Reyaad Khan were discovered to have joined the so-called Islamic State in summer 2014. Naturally, this news was a shock for all Muslims in Wales. The three individuals worshipped at a number of mosques in Cardiff, including the Al-Manar Centre. Some journalists considered this as enough evidence to incriminate Al-Manar as a centre of radicalisation, despite the mosque being a vocal and committed partner in both countering the ideology of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (Da’esh), and the social factors that lead to radicalisation.Moreover, it was in fact staff atAl-ManarMosque who first alerted the authorities with concerns about the three boys’ disappearance.

The leaflet, “What Islam Really Says,” produced and launched by the community-led Cardiff Prevent Stakeholders Group, is another example of an anti-radicalisation project which the Al-Manar Centre, along with the MCW and Imams from all Cardiff mosques, were involved in. The leaflet is aimed at young Muslims, challenging the messages of violent extremists.

This scrutiny of Al-Manar has continued sadly, with the Daily Mail and others insinuating that Shaykh Ali Hammuda is a “radical,” and even a persona non grata within Wales. This accusation is bizarre and certainly unfounded. He is a well respected young knowledgeable Imam. His vocal position against not only religious extremism but also political extremism, racism and bigotry is well known, recognised, and respected by those within the Welsh Muslim community and by all mosques.

Countering extremism requires all partners in society to work together, not just Muslim communities and mosques, but equally the government, statutory partners and indeed the media. Vital to neutralising the message of extremism is having the safe space to discuss sensitive issues which extremists exploit to bolster their message. These safe spaces must exist in mosques, schools, Universities and all institutions.

All mosques and Muslim institutions in Wales are committed to teaching morals and values of the Islamic tradition, compassion, forgiveness, the sacredness of all human life, and the equality and personhood of every individual, male and female. The work of Imams and religious leaders is to bring these values and teachings to the world.

We all affirm our rejection of extremism, which seeks political change through violence legitimised through a pseudo-religious rhetoric. All mosques, Muslim institutions and religious leaders are involved in protecting young Muslims from extremist influences.However,extremism is a social and political problem, not a ‘Muslim’ problem, and we extend our hand to the government and other partners to work with us in tackling this cancer.

The Muslim Council of Wales and its affiliates reaffirm their commitment to building a Welsh society free of hatred, based on respect, tolerance and proud of its diversity.

Qari Ghulam Nabi Saheb                                Masjid e Bilal

Mufti Taher Saheb                                           Masjid Uthman

Mufti Bilal Saheb                                              Masjid e Abu Bakar

Mufti Suhayl Khawer Saheb                           Masjid e Bilal

Shaykh Daoud Salaman                                  South Wales Islamic Centre

Hafiz Muhammed Siddique                             Masjid e Abu Bakar

Molana Mushtaq Khan                                    Dar ul-Isra

Shaykh Yaqoub Kutkut                                   Dar ul-Isra

Dr Munir Ashi                                                   Dar ul-Isra

Molana Mohammed Abid Chishti                   Alnoor Mosque Newport

Dr Muzaffar Jilani                                             Imaan Islamic Society Berea Mosque

Dr Mustafa Baig                                               Abrahamic Faith

Molana Haider Zaman                                      Madni Masjid

Qari Ferozuddin Saheb                                   Madni Masjid

Shaykh Abdelati Fergani                                 Al-Manar/ Al-Ikhlaas

Shaykh Morad Eladnany                                  Taqwa Mosque Newport

Molana Arif Saheb                                            Barry Masjid

Imam Kamal Idrisy                                           HMP Cardiff Prison

Mohammed Afzal                                             Madina Mosque

Shaykh Barak Al Bayaty                                  Al-Manar Centre

Hafiz Ahtisham Ali                                           Masjid Umar

Molana Tariq Zaman                                        Masjid Uthman

Mohammed Saqib                                            Dar ul-Isra

Molana Qasim Ali                                             Masjid e Umar

Dr M Gaber ElSharoud                                    MAB Wales

Dr Baba M Gana                                               West Wales Islamic Centre

Mohammed Abdullah                                      West Wales Islamic Centre

Mrs Amina Shabaan                                        Cardiff University

Ali Akbar JP                                                      Shah Jalal Mosque

Mufti Javed Kachhalia                                     Swansea Mosque

Abdur Rehman Mujahid                                  Alnoor Mosque Newport

Arshid Rahman                                                 Jamia Mosque Newport

Saleem Bidat                                                     Iqra Trust Newport

Molana Ashraf Ali                                            Port Talbot Mosque

Dr Meraj Hasan MBE                                       Ihsaan Social Support Association

Abdul Azim Ahmed                                          Muslim Youth Wales (MY Wales)

Saleem Kidwai OBE                                         Muslim Council of Wales