Review of the Year Nov 2015: MPs vote to bomb Syria and ISIS attacks Paris

Muslim news in November 2015 was dominated by Parliament’s decision to bomb ISIS in Syria and the Paris atrocities.

In November British MPs voted by a large majority to bomb ISIS in Syria. Before the vote, Britain’s largest Muslim group – the Muslim Council of Britain – urged MPs not to vote for air strikes.

The MCB issued a statement saying that UK air strikes would not defeat ISIS and would be just another “recruiting sergeant for the terrorists.”

Following consultation with its affiliates across the country, the Muslim Council of Britain’s Secretary General, Dr Shuja Shafi, said: “There is no doubt that Daesh, or ISIS as it is sometimes known, is an inhuman and evil entity, opposed by the vast majority of Muslims around the world. We will support effective action that aims to destroy this murderous cult. If air strikes against Daesh would prove to do this, it would enjoy widespread support.

“However, most British Muslims believe that air strikes in Syria will not only be ineffective in destroying Daesh, it will also be another recruiting sergeant for the terrorists. As more innocent people die from the air strikes, the appeal of Daesh will strengthen. Daesh craves more Western military intervention in the region to corroborate its hateful narrative. As such, we would urge MPs to learn the lessons of the past, and not to vote for extending air strikes over Syria.

“We agree and support the notion that the first duty of government is to ensure the safety of its citizens. But a convincing case has not been made as to how these air strikes will do this. There is no doubt that Daesh does need to be defeated. And we urge our government to deploy its considerable diplomatic influence to create the political, economic and strategic conditions for Daesh to be rendered impotent.”

The Sun condemned

Meanwhile, the Sun newspaper was condemned for “fear-mongering” and inciting “community division” after a front page story claimed “nearly one in five British Muslims has some sympathy with those who have fled the UK to fight for IS in Syria.”

The story, which appeared under a picture of Jihadi John brandishing a knife, said its figures were based on a poll conducted after the Paris atrocities.

The Sun said the survey’s findings “show a clear majority of the 2.7million Brits who follow Islam are moderate.” But it said the survey “found 19 per cent of UK Muslims do have some sympathy with those like barbaric Jihadi John who flee to Syria.”

The newspaper, which has nearly 5 million readers daily, suggested this if the poll reflected views across the country “it would mean 500,000 have some support for jihadis.”

But The Sun’s reporting was almost immediately castigated – by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Writing in The Independent journalists Jon Stone said there were some very big problems with the story and the way it had interpreted a poll.

sun finalHe wrote: “The poll question the story is based on does not even mention jihadis.” He added: “The first and most important is the wording of the question. ‘Sympathy’ is a very broad term and does not necessarily imply full-blooded support. People who say they have sympathy with something might be saying they understand why someone has come to do something, even if they think it is wrong. They may even simply be saying that feel bad for a person in that situation…

“The biggest problem with the poll is that if you ask non-Muslims the same questions, they actually provide very similar responses. The same poll question, asked for Sky News in March to all GB residents – found that 14 per cent of the general population had some ‘sympathy’ for young Muslims leaving to fight in Syria.

“This is about the same, taking into account sample variation, as the figure for just Muslims when the poll was asked.”

Writing in 5Pillars, Dilly Hussain said The Sun’s front page splash had only fuelled ever-worsening Islamophobia.

He wrote: “Those with an ounce of intelligence would have guessed that this was an outright fabrication, and an embarrassing manipulation of the Sun’s own survey results. One can only assume, and it would be a rational assumption, that the deliberate distortion of the findings in such a manner served only one purpose – to demonise Muslims.

“The Sun’s front page set the scene for a gross misconception, which will undoubtedly influence thousands of Britons who may not read between the lines. The subconscious link that many readers will make between British Muslims, Jihadis and Jihadi John will further fuel the atmosphere of hatred and distrust that is so rife after the Paris attacks.”

Islamophobe spared jail

In other news, an Islamophobe who branded a pregnant Muslim woman an “Isis b****” on a bus was spared jail.

Simone Joseph, 36, hurled expletives at her Muslim victim on a bus in north west London in October. She hurled abuse at the woman and her mother as passengers looked on in horror, and her two-year-old daughter sat in a buggy.

One onlooker filmed the horrific abuse and soon after posted it on Facebook, where it was watched millions of times.

Joseph, of Angel Court, Willesden Green, handed herself into police after her tirade was broadcast by media outlets all over the world. She admitted racially and religiously aggravated behaviour on October 19 at Hendon Magistrates court.

She received a 16 week jail sentence, suspended for 18 months. She addressed the magistrates through tears after the sentence was read out, saying: “I just want to say thank you very much.”

Joseph was also ordered to pay £500 in compensation and £180 in court costs, as well as 60 hours of unpaid work.

France terror attack

On the international scene, France declared a national state of emergency and tightened borders after at least 127 people were killed in a night of gun and suicide attacks in Paris claimed by ISIS.

Eighty people were reported killed after gunmen burst into the Bataclan concert hall and took hostages before security forces stormed the hall.

parisPeople were shot dead at restaurants and bars at five other sites in Paris. At least 180 people were injured.

These were the deadliest attacks in Europe since the 2004 Madrid bombings.

French President Francois Hollande, called the almost simultaneous attacks “a horror” and vowed to wage a “merciless” fight against terrorism.

Writing in 5Pillars, Jahangir Mohammed of the Centre for Muslim Affairs said he was not surprised at the attacks.

He said: “If you go around the world inflicting violence on other people sooner or later it comes back to you. You don’t need security experts and complex theories of extremism and radicalisation to understand that. Even a schoolchild in a playground understands that simple logic.

“At a time when people are suffering I don’t like to discuss causes of violence. However the reaction of the media, politicians and so-called experts pointing the finger at Muslims and Islam as if we are all somehow to blame requires a response, otherwise it will lead to more laws targeting Muslim communities and more Western violence in Muslim lands.”

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