Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was quoted as saying that religious leaders should “stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion”.
As the highest authority in the Church of England’s version of Christendom, Welby’s comments are both ill-thought out and dangerous, as they pander to the idea peddled by the “alt-right” (read: neo-fascists), that British Muslims are somehow silent against ISIL terrorism by brushing it off and saying: “Nothing to do with us!”
This cannot be further from the truth, and it is in fact grotesque that Muslims are silenced by the British establishment, only for leading figures of that establishment to ask them to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, known as ISIL or ISIS.
Welby was quoted by The Telegraph as saying that it is time to stop saying “that ISIS is nothing to do with Islam”, referring to the armed group that has been running amok around the Middle East for the past few years.
While he also mentions other religious extremists, including Christian militias in the Central African Republic (CAR) who have committed horrifying crimes against the Muslim population, this is said almost in passing as if to say that all religions are responsible for their own extremists.
According to the Archbishop, people such as Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, who tell people to stop referring to the terrorists as the “Islamic State” due to it having no relation with Islam were actually harming efforts to combat ISIL extremism and terrorism.
For once, I actually agree with the foreign secretary. Associating ISIL with Islam grants the terrorists what they want – a degree of religious legitimacy, something which they lack among the overwhelming majority of the Muslim community.
Welby seems to place the onus for combating ISIL primarily on Muslims, a community that has been woefully and intentionally misrepresented not only in Britain, but in other western nations.
But while Muslims certainly do “stand up” against ISIL, why on earth should they take “responsibility”? Myself and other Muslims are not responsible for the actions of a person who chooses to twist our faith in order to satisfy his bloodlust, just as Welby is not responsible for the actions of Christian militias in the Central African Republic.
Similarly, the Archbishop made no reference to how Muslim voices are almost ritually silenced in the West. Muslims face pressure to conform and assimilate, rather than coexist and integrate.
The British government’s controversial anti-extremism programme, Prevent, seems almost uniquely geared towards targeting Muslims, despite the fact that, according tostudies by Europol, most acts of terror are committed by non-Muslim groups. According to the agency, of the 211 attacks in the European Union committed during 2015, 17 were by so-called jihadists.