My encounter with the EDL

EDL supporters

Ghulam Esposito Haydar from New Muslim Network says that while the number of English Defence League (EDL) supporters continue to grow, many ordinary Muslims remain fearful that an attack against them is imminent.

Such apprehension is understandable in light of recent attacks against Muslims and Islam in the media, on social media sites and most worryingly, terrorist attacks against mosques around Britain.

Countering the EDL

There are a number of ways we can deal with this, for example, we can work on tackling Islamophobia in the media, often the fuel that drives popular opinion. We can work on giving Muslims a political voice to stop the atrocities which occur in foreign lands which can radicalize Muslims to take from groups that misrepresent Islam.

Another way to counter the EDL is via positive engagement. Where taking the time to engage with those who you feel you have differences with pays off. Engagement works both ways; you have to be willing to engage and it needs to be reciprocated by the other person. This is the only way we can progress and understand the differences that exist between us.

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My encounter with the EDL

Just the other day I was approached by a young lady, her face painted in the colours of the flag of St George, wearing a “Help the Heroes” t-shirt. She asked, “Why are you guys here? Are you here to talk about Shariah law?”

I explained that I was here to engage with members of the public to discuss what the purpose of life is, how to determine this and to clarify some of the common myths that the media portray about Islam and Muslims.

This lady was an EDL supporter. She wasn’t happy with the role of Islam and Muslims in England, believing we were here to take over and implement Shariah law, something she felt was barbaric. She claimed to have read parts of the Qur’an that seem to talk about killing the “kaafir” (non Muslims) wherever you find them and that moderate” Muslims weren’t doing enough to combat this, leading to the likes of EDL to tackle this on there own.

Before I started on her contentions, I explained that Muslims believe in One Divine Creator called Allah. He created us for a purpose to worship Him in a holistic sense, sending us guidance via different messengers such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon them all) explaining who the Creator is, the purpose of life and how to live worthwhile lives in preparation for the eternal life after death.

Sometimes the Messengers were sent accompanying scriptures such as the Torah, the Gospels and the Qur’an. Muslims accept the Qur’an as the untampered, preserved and final revelation from God in His own words, and the belief in the Qur’an is based upon critical analysis to verify authenticity and preservation.

So there were a few things I thought I would clear up, starting with the verses from the Qur’an.

These verses that the woman mentioned were specifically talking about warfare where the head of the Islamic state (caliph) sanctions it when under attack and persecution. It is referring to self defence in a situation where the aggressor is attacking the Muslims, stopping them from worshiping God by means of violence and threats to their lives.

That this isn’t something new and can also be found in many passages in the previous scriptures such as the Bible. The point here is that self defence is allowed in Islam under certain circumstances as life is worth protecting. It is unfair to pick and choose verses and apply them under different contexts such as what some Muslims and members of the EDL do.

Shariah Law

Shariah law is often misunderstood and depicted as exclusively the state law which includes the penal code. This isn’t what Shariah law is. Shariah is synonymous with Islam. It includes everything from how you worship Allah, how to clean yourself, the rights of your family, neighbours, society and non Muslims, how to conduct trade and all other business transactions and statute law. So every Muslim implements Shariah law to the extent they are able to in their daily lives. A part of Shariah law is to follow the laws of the land as long as it does not go against the rulings of Islam.

The state Shariah rules can only be applied when the ruler is a Muslim and the majority of the population are Muslims. This obviously doesn’t apply in the UK. The penal codes that exist within the Shariah are deterrents, where the burden of proof is set so high that in reality it is almost impossibility for it to be ever really applied. Furthermore, the avenue of repentance and forgiveness is always preferred over punishment as it allows the person to connect with Allah and He is the One who loves to forgive.

I explained that there are no countries in the world which implement Shariah comprehensively. There are no “Islamic” states that currently exist. The people are imperfect but the system of God isn’t. Historically, whenever state Shariah was implemented properly, in its entirety, societies lived in harmony together, growing and developing in every sense.

I also explained that there is no such thing as a “moderate Muslim” as this implies that a person moderately implements Islam. This implies that God is deficient and this could potentially lead to a range of problems. Rather than taking this approach, a Muslim is required to understand the religion and use the teachings of the religion to tackle everyday problems. You’ll find that Islam isn’t the problem, but the people are.

The lady then asked: “Then why do some Muslims use these verses to incite violence?”

I explained that there are two real issues here and they are intricately linked:

1) Some people are evil and they will use anything to justify the evil they do.

2) We have to be realists and understand that many people are reactionary and feel helpless in defending those that are being killed abroad in foreign lands and thus lean towards these people that are teaching distorted ideas about Islam in hope of some justice.

I explained that the media love to either twist things to sensationalise stories in order to sell – which makes them money. They also love to exaggerate issues bigger than it actually is and many times they simply lie to sell a story to fit the current agenda. Unfortunate but true.

Moving forward

If she wanted to know what Islam teaches and what Muslims are really about, she should carry on with the approach she has taken today. The lady lives in Heywood, a town between Bury and Rochdale, so I suggested she visit the Rochdale Dawah Centre and the Muslim Youth Foundation in Manchester city centre when she is back again.

The lady had dropped her barriers and wanted to learn about the concept of God in Islam, the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the Qur’an. She said she didn’t believe Jesus (as) was God or the son of God.

My friend Raza who was with me at the dawah stall went on to explain the first miracle of Jesus (as) mentioned in the Qur’an where he defends the status of his mother Virgin Mary (as) from his cradle. He explained who Jesus is and his status in Islam. He explained the direct route we have with Allah in Islam without any intermediaries along with His Oneness and uniqueness.

The lady was overwhelmed, thanking myself and Raza for taking the time to speak to her. She appeared truly appreciative. She was definitely more informed about Islam and was considering it but needed to find out some more.

She was willing to do a video testimonial for us about her experiences at the stall but her friend appeared and started causing a commotion saying we wanted to record it to upload on YouTube with captions taking the **** out of her. We ended the discussion asking the lady if she was okay if we didn’t record it. Yes, we *asked her if she was okay to not do it* as willing to ignore her friend. We didn’t want to give her friend anything potentially bad to say about us.

She took material from the dawah stall for a further read and provided us with her details for further contact. Alhamdulillah!

You can follow Ghulam on Twitter @ghulestero

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