Sughra Ahmed, President of the Islamic Society of Britain
I’m afraid the assertion that someone in Syria can be ‘the leader’ of Muslims elsewhere, including British Muslims, is simply laughable. This is not a leadership that we asked for, nor met, nor did we engage in nominating it. So on what basis is this being claimed?
Furthermore, a variety of different Muslim scholars and groups have already asserted that this claim to lead the Muslims and to establish a so-called ‘Islamic State’ is absolutely bogus and without any basis.
If he really wants our advice, it would be to first, practice his religion and stop killing other Muslims for sectarian reasons. Secondly, to dismantle his group of mercenaries and subject himself to international laws.
What is happened in Syria, to the people of that land, is criminal and we, the international community have not done enough to support the people there. Yes, many countries including Britain have given aid, and that has been vital to helping at least some people. But the key problem is a political one.
It is the intensity, barbarity and one-sided nature of this crisis that has moved young people to join the conflict in Syria. But we must re-iterate that going to Syria, a war-zone and lawless arena of conflict, will not help the people there. In fact, as someone who does not understand the environment, the complexities there and even the language, you may even be adding to the problem.
Let us listen to what Syrian leaders and aid organisations themselves are saying: “don’t go there, you will only be a liability.” Help the people in the region by giving your money through legitimate charities here in the UK.
In the Islamic Society of Britain, we believe that there is no conflict between being British and Muslim and that British values are Islamic values. In fact most Muslims in the UK agree with this. Given the divisive nature of recent messages, clearly we need to do more to get that message across to everyone in society.
Ghaffar Hussain, Managing Director of the Quilliam Foundation
"I am your leader, though I am not the best of you, so if you see that I am right, support me, and if you see that I am wrong, advise me"
This is a bizarre and surreal statement from al-Baghdadi and indicative of his deluded mind set. The vast majority of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims do not consider him to be their leader, nor do they consider him to be a balanced or decent human being. ISIS have a reputation of threatening and killing their critics so I’m not sure how anyone is able to advise him. If al-Baghdadi is really keen on advice then I have some – stop contributing to the chaos and bloodshed in Iraq and Syria, stop inciting the murder of religious minorities, stop forcing your interpretation of Islam on others and give up your delusions of grandeur.
In truth, the ISIS Caliphate is an aberration. The very concept of a Caliphate was introduced to help facilitate the practise of faith free from persecution. The ISIS Caliphate does the exact opposite of this since it persecutes Shia Muslims, destroys Sufi shrines, oppresses Christians and forces Sunni Muslims to embrace their ultra-austere and violent ideology. Jihadism is intrinsically a destructive force, not a constructive one. It can destroy but it can’t build. For this reason I don’t expect the ISIS Caliphate to bring anything but bloodshed, chaos and instability.
Fiyaz Mughal, Director of Tell Mama Campaign
The reality of fighting in Syria is a high certainty of death or torture if captured by the brutal Assad regime. We have seen that in the murder of Dr Abbas Khan. The romantic version of fighting overseas is a far cry from the past with groups now vying for young people to be used as cannon fodder. Joint action from faith institutions, mentors, activists and others with standing in communities need to make this clear & barriers to integration that enhance isolationism and a ‘them and us’ approach need to be tackled in the UK since not being able to connect and feel a part of society is one small contributing factor. But in the end, the message should be clear. Go to Syria and your life may well be in danger and your future employability and chance of an independent life curtailed by your actions now.
Tehmina Kazi, Director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy
It is crucial to amplify the voices of Muslims who campaign against extremist and obscurantist attitudes within our communities, and consequently build a critical mass of such voices. Not only will it become a lot harder to silence and intimidate individual activists who speak out on these issues, but the wider public will also become more aware of existing efforts to combat the ideology of ISIS and similar groups.
Showcasing strong British Muslim role models - particularly those who have turned their own backs on a life of extremism, AND have credibility with young people - should be a major part of this strategy.