London attack: 500 imams condemn terrorists and refuse to perform funeral prayer for 'vile murderers'

Group of Muslim leaders coming together to outline renewed efforts to combat extremism

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The Independent Online

At least 500 imams and religious leaders have now refused to perform funeral prayers for the London Bridge attackers in condemnation of the “vile murderers”.

Support for the move is growing as a group of British Muslims prepare to gather near the site of the atrocity to outline renewed efforts against extremism.

The British Muslim Forum (BMF) said members would set out how communities and mosques will “challenge, robustly and precisely, the perverted interpretation of Islam that is put forward by Isis and other extremist groups”, while calling on people to report anyone expressing sympathy to authorities. 

​Qari Asim, spokesperson for the BMF and imam of the Leeds Makkah mosque, said: the group aimed to broadcast the message that violent extremism was “forbidden” by Islam.

“If you follow this path you are stepping away from Islam to a dark and godless place,” he added. 

“Your views are not welcome in our mosques or in our communities. This is not a path to heaven.”

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Shaykh Shahid Raza, a trustee of the BMF said that although the vast majority of British Muslims reject extremism, there are “individuals and organisations trying to sell a perverted version of Islam to impressionable young people”. 

“We want to make very clear, as Islamic scholars and leaders, that they are wrong,” he added. “The violent and hate-filled views they hold are not Islamic.”

A joint statement endorsed by 500 imams across the UK will “reiterate the commitment to not accepting terrorists in life or death by refusing to perform funeral prayers for terrorists”.

It comes after almost 200 imams and religious leaders made the same pledge in a separate statement shared by the Muslim Council of Britain.

Supporters said they were praying for terrorists to be “judged in accordance with the gravity of their crimes in the hereafter”, adding: “Consequently, and in light of other such ethical principles which are quintessential to Islam, we will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer for the perpetrators and we also urge fellow imams and religious authorities to withdraw such a privilege.

“These vile murderers seek to divide our society and instil fear; we will ensure they fail.”

Shaykh Yunus Dudhwala, head of chaplaincy at Barts Health NHS Trust, said the “grassroots” movement was part of efforts to show those at risk of radicalisation that the ideology espoused by Isis is “not from the teachings of Islam”.

“We needed to go a step further and disassociate ourselves from these people,” he told The Independent.

“The refusal to perform funeral prayers will hopefully by a deterrent but we’re also trying to reach out to anyone who is of that thinking to say ‘talk to the imams, speak to us and ask us why we’ve made this statement’ – then we can have that dialogue and move them away from extremism.”

Imam Dudhwala said it was essential for young Muslims to be part of local mosques to gain full religious teaching and discuss theological questions.

“The majority of these individuals are groomed or brainwashed outside of the mosques and they usually don’t attend because they feel we are not teaching the correct Islam,” he added.

Mosques and Islamic groups across the UK have condemned the London Bridge attack and other atrocities committed by Isis supporters.

Worshippers at a mosque attended by Khuram Butt pointed out that he had been thrown out after ranting about elections and claiming voting was “un-Islamic”, but not detained despite numerous warnings to police over radicalisation.

Security services are facing serious questions over why they did not prioritise the attacker, who was known to police and MI5, and publicly associated with Anjem Choudary’s network of extremists.

They have also been criticised for letting fellow attacker Zaghba Youssef into the UK after he was prevented from travelling to join Isis in Syria and told Italian police he “wanted to be a terrorist”.

His mother, Valeria Collina, told reporters in Bologna she understood imams’ refusal to offer prayers for her son.

“I understand them and share their choice because we need to send a strong political signal,” she said.

The third attacker, Rachid Redouane, had been refused asylum in the UK but gained residency through his marriage to an Irish woman who suffered domestic abuse because of her refusal to convert to Islam.

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