More than 100 Muslim leaders today make an unprecedented joint appeal to the kidnappers of Alan Henning to release the aid worker unharmed or commit the “worst condemnable sin” against Islam.
The statement to The Independent has been signed by dozens of Imams from across the UK as well as community leaders and other prominent Muslims. It has been passed on to Mr Henning’s family.
It pleads with those holding the British hostage to accept that he was on a mission to Syria to help innocent civilians and to see the errors of their ways.
“In Islam, concern for fellow humans and the duty to help everyone is a religious obligation,” they write. “Anyone undertaking a humanitarian act is paving his or her way to receive help from heaven.
“In contrast, the senseless kidnapping and despicable threats to Mr Henning cannot be justified.”
Using Koranic references the letter says that if they are true Muslims the kidnappers – including the British man dubbed Jihadi John – must release him “immediately”.
The leaders also express their “horror and revulsion” at the “senseless murder” of the previous three hostages, including the Briton David Haines.
And they are categorical in their condemnation of Isis – which is believed to have attracted several hundred British fighters to its cause.
Timeline: The emergence of Isis
Timeline: The emergence of Isis
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (pictured here) forms an al-Qaeda splinter group in Iraq, al-Qa’eda in Iraq. Its brutality from the beginning alienates Iraqis and many al-Qaeda leaders.
Al-Zarqawi is killed in a U.S. strike. Al-Zarqawi’s successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, announces the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq (ISI).
Still al-Qaeda-linked ISI claims responsibility for suicide bombings that killed 155 in Baghdad, as well as attacks in August and October killing 240, as President Obama announces troop withdrawal from Iraq in March.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes head of ISI, at lowest ebb of Islamist militancy in Iraq, which sees last U.S. combat brigade depart.
In Syria, protests (pictured here starting in Daree) have morphed into what president Assad labelled a “real war” with emergence of a coalition of forces opposed to Assad’s regime. Syria group Jabhat al-Nusra are among rebel groups who refuse to join, denouncing it as a “conspiracy”. Bombings targeting Shia areas, killing more than 500 people, spark fears of new sectarian conflict. Sunni Muslims stage protests across country against what they see as increasingly marginalisation by Shia-led government.
Al-Baghdadi renames ISI as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or Isis, as the group absorbs Syrian al-Nusra, gaining a foothold in Syria. In response, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri (Bin Laden’s successor) concerned about Isis’ expansion orders that Isis be dissolved and ISI operations should be confined to Iraq. This order is rejected by al-Baghdadi.
7/40 2014 - January
Isis fighters capture the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, giving them base to launch slew of attacks further south.
8/40 2014 - June
Isis declares itself the Caliphate, calling itself Islamic State (IS). The group captures Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city; Tal Afar, just 93 miles from Syrian border; and the central Iraqi city of Tikrit. These advances sent shockwaves around the world.
9/40 2014 - June
Around the same time Isis releases a video calling for western Muslims to join the Caliphate and fight, prompting new evaluations of extremists groups social media understanding.
10/40 2014 - June
Isis take Baiji oil fields in Iraq - giving them access to huge amounts of possible revenue.
11/40 2014 - August
James Foley is executed by the group as concerns grow for second American prisoner, fellow reporter Steven Sotloff.
12/40 2014 - August
Obama authorises U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, helping to stall Isis’ along with action by Kurdish forces following the deaths of hundreds of Yazidi people on Mount Sinjar.
13/40 2014 - September
Isis release video showing Steven Sotloff’s murder prompting Western speculation his executioner is same man who killed Mr Foley.
14/40 2014 - September
Obama tells us that America “will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country”
15/40 2014 - September
Isis release a video appearing to show David Haines, who was captured by militants in Syria in 2013, wearing an orange jumpsuit and kneeling in the desert while he reads a pre-prepared script. It later shows what appears to be the aid worker's body.
16/40 2014 - September
Peshmerga fighters scrabble to hold positions in the Diyala province (a gateway to Baghdad) as Isis fighters continue to advance on Iraqi capital.
17/40 2014 - October
Aid worker Alan Henning is killed. Self-imposed media blackout refuses to show images of him in final moments, instead focuses upon humanitarian care.
18/40 2014 - October
Isis raise their flag in Kobani, which had been strongly defended by Kurdish troops. The victory goes against hopeful western analysis Isis had overextended itself, while alienating much of the Muslim population through the murder of Henning. Victory causes fresh waves of Kurdish refugees arriving in Turkey.
19/40 2014 - November
American hostage, who embarced values of Islam, Peter Kassig and 14 Syrian soldiers are shown meeting the same fate as other captives. But intelligence agencies will be poring over the apparently significant discrepancies between this and previous films.
20/40 2015 - February
Isis has released a video revealing the murder by burning to death of a Jordanian pilot held by the group since the end of December 2014.
21/40 2015 - February
Isis militants have released videos which appear to show the beheading of Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.
22/40 2015 - February
American aid worker, Kayla Mueller was the last American hostage known to be held by Isis. She died, according to her captors, in an airstrike by the Jordanian air force on the city of Raqqa in Syria, though US authorities disputed this.
23/40 2015 - February
Isis militants have posted a gruesome video online in which they force 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages to kneel on a beach in Libya before beheading them. Egypt vowed to avenge the beheading and launched air strikes on Isis positions.
24/40 2015 - February
The British Isis militant suspected of appearing in videos showing the beheading of Western hostages has been named in reports as Mohammed Emwazi from London.
25/40 2015 - March
Isis triple suicide attack has killed more than 100 worshippers and hundreds of others were injured after the group members targeted two mosques in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
26/40 2015 - April
Iraqi forces have claimed victory over Isis in battle for Tikrit and raised the flag in the city.
27/40 2015 - April
Isis has claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan that killed at least 35 people queuing to collect their wages and injured 100 more.
28/40 2015 - April
Isis’ media arm released a 29-minute video purporting to show militants executing Ethiopian Christians captives. The footage bore the extremist group’s al-Furqan media logo and showed the destruction of churches and desecration of religious symbols. A masked fighter made a statement threatening Christians who did not convert to Islam or pay a special tax.
29/40 2015 - May
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis has been "incapacitated" by a spinal injuries sustained in a US air strike in Iraq. He is being treated in a hideout by two doctors from Isis’ stronghold of Mosul who are said to be "strong ideological supporters of the group".
30/40 2015 - May
Isis has also claimed responsibility for killing 300 of Yazidi captives, including women, children and elderly people in Iraq
31/40 2015 - May
Isis attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas was its first action on US soil. Two gunmen were shot and killed after launching the attack at the exhibition. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi have been named as the attackers at the Curtis Culwell Centre arena in Garland.
32/40 2015 - May
Isis’s deputy leader, Abu Alaa Afri, a former physics teacher who was thought to have taken charge of the deadly terrorist group, has been killed in a US-led coalition airstrike.
33/40 2015 - May
US special forces have killed a senior Isis leader named as Abu Sayyaf in an operation aiming to capture him and his wife in Syria.
34/40 2015 - May
Iran-backed militias are sent to Ramadi by the Iraqi government to fight Isis militants who completed their capture of the city. Government soldiers and civilians were reportedly massacred by extremists as they took control and the army fled. Charred bodies were left littering the city streets as troops clung on to trucks speeding away from the city. Ramadi is the latest government stronghold to fall to the so-called Islamic State, despite air strikes by a US-led international coalition aiming to stop its advance in Iraq and Syria.
35/40 2015 - May
Isis rounded up civilians trapped in Palmyra and forced them to watch 20 people being executed in the historic city’s ancient amphitheatre. The Unesco World Heritage site was overrun by militants, threatening the future of 2,000 year-old monuments and ruins. Thousands of Palmyra’s residents fled but many are still living within the city walls, while the UN human rights office in Geneva said it had received reports of Syrian government forces preventing people from leaving until they retreated from the city.
36/40 2015 - May
A group of Isis-affiliated fighters have captured a key airport in central Libya. The militants took control of the al-Qardabiya airbase in Sirte after a local militia tasked with defending the facility withdrew from their positions. Affiliates of Isis, already control large parts of Sirte, the birthplace of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and a former stronghold of his supporters.
37/40 2015 - June
The US Air Force has destroyed an Isis stronghold after an extremist let slip their location on social media. According the Air Force Times, General Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said that Airmen at Hulburt Field, Florida, used images shared by jihadists to track the location of their headquarters before destroying it in an airstrike.
38/40 2015 - June
Kurdish forces captured a key military base in a significant victory in Raqqa as well as town of Tell Abyad. YPG fighters, backed by US-led airstrikes and other rebels, consolidated their gains, when they seized the key town on the Syria-Turkey border. They are now just 30 miles to the north of Raqqa and have cut off a major supply route deep inside Isis-held territory.
39/40 2015 - June
Isis has released gruesome footage claiming to show the murder of more than a dozen men by drowning, decapitation and using a rocket-propelled grenade as it seeks to boost morale among its fanatical supporters.
40/40 2015 - June
Isis has begun carrying out its threat to destroy structures in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, blowing up at least two monuments at the Unesco-protected site as Syrian government troops made advances on the Islamist’s positions.
“The un-Islamic fanatics are not acting as Muslims, but as the Prime Minister has said, they are acting as monsters,” they say.
Among those signing the letter are representatives of all strands of Islam.
The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body with more than 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, including mosques, charities and schools, is also a signatory.
It has been endorsed by prominent politicians including Britain’s first Muslim Cabinet minister Sayeeda Warsi and Labour’s shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan.
Mustafa Field, director of Faith Forums for London and adviser to the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, who helped compile the letter, said: “British Muslims are joining hands with fellow Britons in categorically denouncing the fanaticism of the great evil that is the un-Islamic State. This letter shows that British Muslim leaders are not prepared to let these lunatics hijack our faith.”
Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters and the Tell Mama anti-Muslim hate monitoring project, added: “This is sending out a clear message that Isis is a threat to all of us in this country.
“We stand squarely against them, their actions and their abuse of Islam.”
Video: Footage of Alan Henning before he was captured
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Letter by British Imams and Muslim Leaders appealing for release of Alan Henning
We, the undersigned British Muslim Imams, organisations and individuals, wish to express our horror and revulsion at the senseless murder of David Haines and the threat to the life of our fellow British citizen, Alan Henning.
Mr Henning was a volunteer who travelled to Syria to help innocent civilians.
Acts of humanitarianism are an essential element of religious practice for all Muslims, and of course they are just as significant to other people too. Islamic teachings call for charity and selflessness. Most importantly, acts of beneficence do not, and cannot, exclude non-Muslims.
In Islam, concern for fellow humans and the duty to help everyone is a religious obligation. Anyone undertaking a humanitarian act is paving his or her way to receive help from heaven, should be commended and held in the highest esteem.
In contrast, the senseless kidnapping, murder and now the despicable threats to Mr Henning at the hands of so-called ‘Muslims’ cannot be justified anywhere in the Quran and the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions).
The un-Islamic fanatics are not acting as Muslims, but as the Prime Minister has said, they are acting as monsters. They are perpetrating the worst crimes against humanity. This is not Jihad - it is a war against all humanity.
The Holy Quran says that:
"Whosoever kills a human being... it is as if killing the entire human race; and whosoever saves a life, saves the entire human race."
We plead with those holding Alan Henning to see the errors of their ways. To embrace the word of the Quran and accept that what they are now doing constitutes the worst condemnable sin.
We appeal to them to release Mr Henning immediately. The Quran states that “repentance is not accepted from those who continue to do evil deeds”.
In the name of the Almighty All Merciful God, we beseech Mr Henning's kidnappers with the words of our Prophet Muhammad - "Show mercy to those on earth, the One in the Heavens will have mercy on you.
British Muslim communities have done a great deal to speak out over the evils of terrorism over many years. We will continue to do everything within our power to prevent any other young man or woman getting caught up in this poisonous ideology.
Sheikh Arif Abdulhussain, Director, Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham, @AMIOutreach
Imam Khalid Hussain Abdullah, Lecturer and Imam, KQZ Institute & Masjid Tajdar Madina, Nottingham & Leicester
Mohammed Afzal, Councillor, Birmingham
Mufti Fazal Ahmad, Chief imam, Central Mosque, Derby
Dr Husna Ahmad OBE, CEO, Global One, London
Akeela Ahmed, London
Sughra Ahmed, President, Islamic Society of Britain
Usma Ahmed, Councillor, Birmingham
Muddassar Ahmed, Patron, Faiths Forum for London
Shakil Ahmed, Principal, Ayesha Community School, London, @_ACE_School
Dr Khurshid Ahmed CBE, CEO, Bahu Trust, Birmingham
Maqsood Ahmed OBE, Director of Community Welfare& Development, Muslim Hands, @maqsoodajmedobe
Rushanara Ali, MP for Tower Hamlets
Hafiz Javed Akhtar, Imam, Central Mosque, Manchester
Salah Yusuf Al-Ansari, Imam, Palmers Green Mosque, London
Sheikh Mohammed Al-Hilli, Imam, Noor Trust, London
Abubakar Ali, Chairman, Somali Bravanese Welfare Association, London
Asif Ali, Imam / Head Teacher, Karimia Institute, Nottingham
Azhar Ali, County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Health & Wellbeing, Lancashire County Council, @azhar4pendle
Nawaz Ali, Councillor, Birmingham
Mahmoud Ali, General Secretary, Hosseinieh Foundation, Bristol, @HosseiniehSahibzada
Mufti Akhtar Ali, Chief Imam, Sheffield
Haider Alkhateeb, Manager, Centre for Islamic Shia Studies (CISS), London, @halkhateeb25
Kerrar Al-Khayat, Trustee and Vice Chairman, My Voice Project, London, @Kerrar_
Sayed Yousif Al-Khoei, Director, Public Affairs, Al-Khoei Foundation, London
Haytham Ali Alsahlani, Imam, London
Abu Sayeed Ameer, Dawatul Islam uk & Eire, Dawatul Islam uk & Eire London
Mohammed Ali Amla, Vice Chair of Preston Faith Forum, Founder of Global Village, Founder of Christian Muslim Encounters, @mohammedaliamla
Anjum Anwar MBE, Dialogue Development Officer, Blackburn Cathedral, @AuntyG
Dr Qari Muhammad Asim, Senior Imam, Makkah Mosque, Leeds, @QariAsim
Maulana Dr Ather HussainAzhari, Imam, Birmingham
Mufti Mohammad Yousuf Azhari, Imam, Leicestershire
Mohammed Azim, Councillor, Birmingham
Maulana QamaruzzamanAzmi, Secretary General, World Islamic Mission, Manchester
Kalsoom Bashir, Co-Director, Inspire
Yahya Birt, Executive Committee, Public Policy and Community Debate, City Circle, London, @ybirt
Dr Mamadou Bocoum, Director, Interfaith Through The Arts (ITTA), London
Maulana Syed Fida Bokhari, Imam, Manchester
Imam Tayeb Mustapha Cham, Chairman, Tayba Foundation
Makhdoom Ahmad Chishti, Chairperson, Social Unity Foundation of Innovation Trust, Birmingham
Maulana Hafeezurrahman Chishti, Imam, Leicester
Irfan Chishti MBE, Imam, Light of Islam Academy, Rochdale @ichishtiM
Aslam Choudry, Elected Councillor for Dudden Hill Ward, Brent Council, London
Gulamraza Datoo, Vice President, KSIMC of Birmingham, Birmingham
Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo, Imam /Resident Alim, Wessex Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat, Portsmouth
Shaykh Muhammad Amin Evans, Imam
Mustafa Field, Director, Faiths Forum for London, @mustafafield
Rabiha Hannan, New Horizons in British Islam
Hifsa Haroon-Iqbal MBE DL, Chair, Chase Against Crimes of Hate, Stafford, @hhi1
Dr Mohamed Adam Hassan, Chairman, Somali Youth Forum, London, @Hafiz
Moulana Shamsul Hoque, Chairman, Council of Mosques - Tower Hamlets, London
Mahmood Hussain, Councillor and Former Lord Mayor of Birmingham
Dilwar Hussain, New Horizons in British Islam, @DilwarH
Rizwan Hussain, Chief Executive, Jawaab, London, @JawaabUK
AKIpaye, Director, Dairatul-Amni, London
Zafar Iqbal, Councillor, Birmingham
Mohammed Iqbal, Councillor, Leader of the Labour Group, Pendle Borough Council, Lancashire
Ali Jaffri, Trustee, Idara-e-Jaaferiya, Mosque and Community Centre, London, @mralijaffri
Dr Husein Jiwa, President, The Council of European Jamaats, London, @CoEJ
Belgacem Kahlalech, Director, WAMY UK, London
Mohammedraza Kanji, Secretary, Wessex Jamaaat, Al Mahdi Centre, Fareham
Dr Majid Katme, Ex-President, Islamic Medical Association/UK, London
Nagina Kauser, Councillor, Birmingham
Zahra Kazmi, Co-Founder, Save Muslim Heritage, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Changese Khan, Councillor, London
Mariam Khan, Councillor, Birmingham
Hamzah Khan, Manager, Al-Mustafa Trust, Bradford, @almustafacentre
Mohammed Khan, Chair, Council of Bristol Mosque, Bristol
Sara Khan, Co-Director, Inspire
Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Sectretary
M Afzal Khan CBE, MEP, Manchester, @akhanmep
Imam Tahir Mahmood Kiani, Lecturer, Birmingham, @tmkiani
Farzana Kosar, General Secretary, Centre for Spirituality & Cultural Advancement, Feltham, @csca_uk
Riyaz Laher, Chair, FMO Leicestershire, Leicester, @FMO_Leics
Maualana Safraz Madni, Imam and Chairman, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board, Birmingham
Majid Mahmood, Councillor, Birmingham
Shabana Mahmood, MP, Birmingham
Mufti Helal Mahmood, Coordinator, Oldham Mosques Council, Oldham
Imran Malik, General Secretary, Blackheath Jamia Mosque Trust, Blackheath
Shaz Manir, CEO, Amirah foundation, Birmingham, @directoramirah
Salim Mbaruk, Chair, Bilal Education, London
Dr Asghar Moledina, President, The World Federation of KSIMC, London, @wfksimc
Ghulam Moyhuddin, Head Imam, Ashton Central Mosque, Ashton
Fiyaz Mughal, Director, Faith Matters and the TELL MAMA anti-Muslim Monitoring Project, London
Zubaiar Muhammadi, Afghan Isamic Culture Centre
Gul Muhammed, Imam and Senior lecturer, Jamia al Karam, Retford
Maulana Farooq Mulla, Imam, Leicester
Aamer Naeem, Editor in Chief, British Muslim TV, Yorkshire
Suleman Nagdi MBE, Public Relations Officer, Federation of Muslim Organisations, @fmo_leics
Maulana Syed AbbasNaqvi, Imam
Maulana Syed Najm ul HasanNaqvi, Imam, Manchester
Ifath Nawaz, FFL Council Member, Faiths Forum for London
Maulana Farogul Qaadri, Imam, Glasgow
Maulana Farogh Ahmed Qadri, Imam, Glasgow
Qazi Abdul Latif Qadri, Chief Imam, Central Aylesbuy, Aylesbury
Ali Qureshi, Secretary General, Union of Muslim Organisations UK&EIRE
Murad Qureshi, London Assembly Member
Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East
Fazal Rahim, Coordinator, Oldham Interfaith Forum, Oldham
Ayub Rashid, Imam and Chaplain, Muslim Community of Essex
Syed Ali Abbas Razawi, Imam and International Speaker, Majlis Ulema-e-Shia, London
Maulana Shahid Raza, founder trustee of the British Muslim Forum, and Senior Imam, Leicester Central Mosque, Leicester
Maha Rida, Social Affairs officer, Al-Kawther, Al-Kawther, London
Ali Raza Rizvi, President, Majlis Ulama-e-Shia, London
Allama Pir Syed Zahid Hussain Shah Rizvi, Jamia Mosque, Birmingham
Maulana Syed Hassan Abbas Rizvi, Imam & Finance Officer, Majlis Ulema-e-Shia, London
Asif Sadiq, President, National Association of Muslim Police, @asifsadiq
Raheed Salam, All Faiths and None, London, @raheedsalam
Mufti Ghulam Sarwar, Senior Imam, Hanfia Mosque and Educational Institute, Huddersfield
Mufti Imran Sarwar, Secretary, Kirklees Imams & Mosques Advisory Board (KIMAB), Kirklees
Dr. Shuja Shafi, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Mohammed Shafiq, Chief executive, Ramadhan Foundation, @mshafiquk
Cllr Chauhdry Shafique MBE, Chairman, Council for Christian Muslim Relations, High Wycombe, Bucks
Amjad Shah, General Secretary, Idaara Maarif-e-Islam, Birmingham
Shafique Shah, Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Birmingham
Maulana Syed Sultan Shah, Imam, Leicester
Ismael Lea South, Director, The Salam Project, London & Manchester, @thesalamproject
Amir Taki, Director & Executive Producer, Ahlulbayt TV, London, @AmirTaki
Sh Talat, Board of trustee, MCEC, London
Imam Ghulam Rasool Tipton, Principal, Hazrat Sultan Bahu Trust Sandwell & executive member of MINAB, Sandwell, @grashgr
Waseem Zaffar, Councillor, Birmingham
Allama Hafiz Muhammad Sadiq Zia, Jamaia Masjid, Birmingham
Maulana Dr Mohammad Rashid Zia, Imam, London
Maulana Azmat Abbas Zohairi, Imam, Majlis Ulema-e-Shia, Burnley
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