London

Elliot's Round up: Acid Attacks and Hampers

image credit: Hiroyuki Takeda flickr

image credit: Hiroyuki Takeda flickr

This week's media selection starts off with acid attacks. According to one report Newham has been named as Britain's acid attack capital with 415 attacks since 2010. There has also been a sharp rise in attacks in London with 431 last year compared to 261 in 2015. UK wide there has been a doubling of attacks. Jameel Mukhtar and Resham Khan have been left with life changing injuries as a result of an attack in East London in June. Initially police refused to register the attack as a hate crime but have reclassified it as a racially or religiously motivated crime.  There is currently a petition to ban the sale of acids without a licence that can be signed.

Research suggests that the government's anti radicalisation "prevent" strategy is counter productive and causing Muslims to become further marginalised.  Promoting "British Values" and emphasis on "Britishness" is seen as particularly problematic. Instead of "equipping them with the knowledge to question extremist and radical views," the policy could be causing increased stigmatisation of Muslim students making then less likely to speak out. 

In a more positive light, Muslims are preparing to deliver hampers as a token of appreciation to fire fighters who fought the Grenfell Tower fire. Swansea's Muslim community has also been in the news for inviting everyone to an Eid in the Park event on Sunday, which will involve food, magic shows, inflatables and a football tournament. Eid was also celebrated in Trafalgar Square recently.  (Video available here).

Swansea's Eid event  is open to "all people regardless of age, sex, religion, creed or race." What  an invitation!  A free event- where everyone is welcome! What a challenge to me. I could probably be welcoming once a year given enough time to work up to it. I have received some great welcomes and magnificent hospitality so I know its important. But could I be welcoming everyday of the year, not just on a special occasion?  I know a friend who is welcoming everyday not only for free but also for the desperate, the hungry, the thirsty, the overlooked,the tortured, the imprisoned, the refugee and the unloved.  Jesus is still ready to welcome.  Are we ready to follow him?

Elliot's Roundup: Hate is easy. Love takes courage.

image: clive wren flickr

image: clive wren flickr

Travelling through the city centre I was startled to see messages of sympathy and support for the victims of the Manchester attack. I pass the same way regularly but for some reason I had not seen it before. Just as that tragic news became our new reality, the London Bridge attack happened.  Following on from that- this week the the Grenfell Tower burst into flame and quickly spread through the building. Today's media roundup comes in the light of all these tragic events and loss of life.  The title for today's blog and picture come from a Muslim community rally against terrorism that was held in Sheffield less than a week ago.

There has been further condemnation of the London attack by various Muslim communities in the UK. Three thousand roses were handed out on London Bridge by Muslims as a show of unity with those who were injured and killed in the attack.

We are here to write narratives of love of love and solidarity. Not hate and division.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-muslims-london-bridge-red-roses-attack-borough-market-stabbing-terror-love-victims-islam-a7786291.html

Grimsby Islamic Community have also invited wider members of the community, including the North East Lincolnshire's Mayor,  councillors, members of the police and public to en event in the mosque. The aim was to show that the London Bridge attack was "not in my name."  Elsewhere in Glasgow a Muslim anti-terror rally has been held. 

The generosity of a Muslim in Surrey has been seen online. The article describes how a Muslim lady shared a meal with her non-Muslim neighbour as well as sharing some information about Ramadan. A picture of a Muslim who helped an elderly lady who had collapsed on a bus has also been shared tens of thousands of times on social media this week. 

“Her gesture has really made me think – it’s one of those things which stop you in your tracks, and make you look at yourself like ‘what am I doing now, and if I’m not doing anything, what could I do?’

“I’ve always grown up with the ‘someone else will do it’ attitude, but it’s about time I started being that person rather than observing that person.”
— http://www.irishnews.com/magazine/daily/2017/06/11/news/this-tale-of-a-muslim-woman-gifting-her-neighbours-with-food-and-letters-about-ramadan-will-warm-your-heart-1051952/

Since the London Bridge attack there has also been a rise in hate crime, a 500% increase in Islamophobic crime and a 40% rise in racist incidents has been reported. for example: recently  a Muslim mother was punched in the face in Birmingham,a bag of vomit was recently thrown at a car carrying two Muslim women in Blackburn, Lancashire. 

Perhaps this spike in incidents will be turned around by the reporting in the Telegraph, Independent, Sun, and Daily Mail and elsewhere. Many Muslims have been hailed as heroes for saving lives in the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London. The blaze tore through the 24 storey building causing many to be hospitalised and 17 at this time are known to have been killed. Muslims in the area were awake and so were able to help evacuate the building and prevent further loss of life. The fact that Muslims were awake because of Ramadan and so were able to help was also widely reported on TV news including Channel 4 and  BBC news.   The charity Muslim Hands have launched an appeal, as have Muslim Aid who are also working in conjunction with churches to aid those who have been left homeless. 

There are many opportunities to interact with our Muslim neighbours, colleagues and friends. Let's not be part of the problem. Let's choose love not hate. Many Muslims say that they got to know Jesus though supernatural dreams, reading the and having a longterm friendship with a follower of Jesus.  Let's be that friend this week. The message of Jesus comes wrapped in a person- that means you and me!

Elliot's Weekly Roundup: Have You Voted Yet?

image: flickr Radarsmum

It probably hasn't passed you by, but today is election day! Have you cast your vote yet? Which one of the 40,000 polling stations did you visit? Was it in in a school, launderette or someone's kitchen? Did you put a tick, cross, or smiley face in the box? Before being caught up in the election frenzy of which results will be declared first, graphics, graphs and swingometers, let's stop and reflect back on the last few days that have run up to this election.

Before the memorial concert was held for victims from the Manchester atrocity, London was attacked leaving eight dead and dozens injured. As more becomes known about the events more questions are being asked. Who knew what and why was it not acted upon? Party political leaders are blaming each other for reducing police numbers now that campaigning has resumed.  Debate about security and Islam have dominated the days before today's election. The phrase, "Enough is enough" has been seen and heard this week.

One violent response seen in the media was to wave around a machete, threaten to blow up mosques and kill Muslims. In the video that was posted the man also appeared to have a hand grenade attached to his shirt. Since uploading the video onto the internet he has claimed it was a joke, his drink was spiked and has now issued an apology.  Another response has been to ignore the memory of those who died in the attack by ignoring the minute's silence held at a world cup qualifier.

Another response seen in the media has been to challenge the Muslim response to terror attacks. Not just to condemn the terrorism but the ideology behind it.

What we need to hear from British Muslims is that they reject the vision from which terrorism comes. It is a vision of society unified by one political and religious ideology. It is a vision of pluralism, and secular politics, swept aside by this vision. It is a theocratic vision.
— https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2017/06/not-enough-muslims-say-condemn-terrorism/

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has stated there is a lack of religious literacy by some who are dealing with terrorist threats. He continued by saying:

“If we attack or persecute or go against a particular group of people on the grounds of their faith alone, rather than what they want to do or the arguments they are putting forward of violence and terror, the terrorists will give three cheers and say thank you, you’ve done our work for us. Every time a Muslim is abused on a bus or a mosque is attacked, the terrorists have taken another step forward.”
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054zbz7

At a vigil at Bradford Cathedral Bishop Toby Howarth stated that we don't choose how we feel but we can choose how we respond. At least one person chose to reach out to the Muslim community in London by chalking "London loves you,"  on the pavement outside a mosque.

Muslim taxi drivers have been praised for their role in helping victims immediately after the attack. Muslim communities have united in disgust against the attacks, have made signs to show their support and have left flowers at the scene. One hundred and thirty imams have refused to say funeral prayers for the perpetrators of the attack and called upon others to follow their example.

“Consequently, and in light of other such ethical principles which are quintessential to Islam, we will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer over the perpetrators and we also urge fellow imams and religious authorities to withdraw such a privilege.
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/london-bridge-terrorists-imams-refuse-funeral-prayer-khuram-shazad-butt-rachid-redouane-a7774291.html

Another article suggests the number of imams refusing to perform the traditional funeral prayers is much higher at around 500. Traditional funeral prayers called janaza  are often open for anyone to join. The more people who attend the more beneficial it is to the deceased according to the Islamic scholar and psychiatrist Dr Asim Yusuf. Anti extremist campaigner Ahmed Patel thinks that denying funeral prayers sends out out a very strong message to terrorists and could stop people from carrying out attacks.  

“I think the fact that they are saying we will not bury you, we will not even do your janaza, is a lot more powerful than going out with placards or holding vigils.
”It’s a very, very powerful message that no Muslim will bury him, no Muslim will wash his body, no Muslim will stand over him in prayer.”
— http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-40175088

Another response that has appeared in the media has been written by an accident and emergency consultant who works at The Royal London Hospital.  In a post that has been shared over 4000 times in recent days he states:

“When you think of the word Muslim I want you to think of the Muslim nurse that ran our casualty triage area, the Muslim surgeon who operated all night, the Muslim technician that helped arrange transport home for discharged casualties, the Muslim security officer that ran out relatives reception area, the Imams from our Muslim chaplaincy that stayed all night to help comfort the casualties and so many more.”
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/london-attack-muslims-islam-doctor-think-surgeons-not-terrorist-response-victims-treatment-karim-a7773971.html

In the light of all that has happened this week- vote wisely. If you are yet to decide on where to place your X, maybe consulting this manifesto comparison chart published by The Muslim Council of Britain will help.

However we vote, let's put greater faith in the Jesus who didn't travel on a campaign bus, publish a political manifesto or get elected.  Let's continue to pray for our nation, friends and colleagues, and share Jesus with those we encounter. 

London is not Paris

Image: hadock,  Flickr

Image: hadock, Flickr

London is not Paris

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks of 13 November 2015, western nations rallied around the French people in an outpouring of sympathy. The French tricolour was superimposed on Facebook images, projected onto state buildings in many countries and #prayforparis trended for a considerable amount of time. Together with these technological ways of expressing solidarity, several nations stepped up their military involvement in the Middle East and ISIS became the target of one and all.
 
The British parliament voted in favour of extending bombing campaigns into Syria with the argument that, “Paris could have been London.” All the historical differences and squabbles of the last couple of decades were forgotten; President Obama declared that France was America’s oldest ally despite the recent differences between France and the USA on the Iraq war.
 
ISIS does not discriminate against its western targets. There is a real and expressed threat facing Muslim and non-Muslim peoples alike from this terrorist band who seem to thrive on violence and destruction for its own sake. But simply calling London and Paris the same brushes over some fundamental differences in worldviews and approaches to religion in public life. Take for example the law in 2010 that banned wearing a headscarf in France to improve ‘living together.’
 
I was reminded of how we can differ on basic ideas that we take for granted in a recent seminar by Ravi Zacharias of RZIM ministries. Ravi was making the case that western ideas of freedom are ultimately based in biblical ideas but that freedom took different paths in western countries. He spoke of three enlightenments: the French, the English and the American.
 
Quoting from Gertrude Himmelfarb’s book, The Roads to Modernity (2004), Ravi listed eight things we associate with enlightenment: reason, rights, nature, liberty, equality, tolerance, science and progress. Out of this list, Reason usually tops the list for the French (and for modern secular society). The missing element from the list is Virtue which, for the British, was an essential part of enlightenment according to Himmelfarb. The British did not deny Reason but they gave it a lesser, contributory role to the qualities of compassion, kindness and sympathy, she says.
 
The most important difference between these two enlightenments is in the French rebellion against the church and the monarchy, summed up in the French philosopher, Denis Diderot’s wish to, “Strangle the last king with the last priest’s entrails.” As Ravi explained, the difference for both Britain and America was that religion was not the enemy. In Britain, social virtues were the driving force of political change. In America, the fight was for political freedom still based in upholding religious values, even though it was against monarchy.
 
The point here is not to emphasise differences between people, nor is it to have a sense of complacency about freedom of religious expression on the Atlantic side of the English Channel, or La Manche as it is called in French. Recent law suits and debates about religion in public life have shown that Anglo-American society is rethinking what it means to be secular. The aim of looking at the different expressions of enlightenment here is to think about our social values and which Light we are following in the world: To what extent does the light of the Word (Proverbs 6:23) and the Light of the world (John 8:12) form the foundation of our thinking? In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says definitively that we are a light to the world.
 
The question is, which en-Lightenment will we reflect to the world in the year ahead.


SINCE YOU'RE HERE...

... we have recently reached a total of 40 local Mahabba prayer groups in the UK - awesome news!

With your help, though, we would like to continue to sow, plant and support Mahabba groups.

Our work involves a small team of regional reps and central hub personnel investing in local coordinators and groups, as well as spreading the word.

To continue this vital mission to Muslims, we need to increase our regular monthly income.

Our initial target is to raise up 100 individual regular donors, giving an average of £10 to £15 per month.

Could you be one of the 100?