After Finsbury Park: Why Britain Will Not See A Civil War

As the nation wakes to yet another terrorist attack, this time on the Muslim community at Finsbury Park, social media is once again flooded with voices, of concern, anger, hatred and love. Following one tragedy after another, attacks followed by injustice followed by further attack; “where is this heading?” is a question many are asking.

What is becoming of London, a place renowned for its diversity, literally teeming with every ethnicity and religion, where any short trip on the Tube may leave one bewildered by the many different languages, accents and dress?

It’s a time of hesitancy for many, from those living in high rise buildings covered in inflammable cladding, to those crossing London Bridge for their daily work, and now those attending their local mosque to pray.

One well-meant tweet caught my eye, expressing the concern that if there were a few more ‘revenge attacks’ we could easily see ourselves in a situation of civil war as tensions increase. I know well how once peaceful societies can turn on each other, through my activism: currently campaigning for the Rohingya facing genocide in Myanmar, and for the people of Yemen whose civil war has turned into a tragedy beyond comprehension. However, some things give me confidence that such a break down in peace will not happen here:

Firstly, I take comfort from our recent general election. The main stream media was full of lies and hatred against Jeremy Corbyn, since his values of justice for all are a threat to the elite, and yet the public proved that they are no longer totally manipulated by fear grabbing headlines we see daily in the tabloid media. People are starting to think things through themselves and seek deeper meaning via discussions on social media which helps enable people to research stories in greater depth.

Secondly, yet most importantly for me as a Muslim, I draw comfort from the Muslim community and core teachings in Islam that encourage patience at all times, but especially during times of adversity.

I wasn’t born a Muslim but accepted Islam some 13 years ago now, but even now I am regularly taken aback by the incredible displays of patience that I see from members of the Muslim community. I recall a house fire in Leicester back in 2013: a father of 3 children, Dr Muhammad Al Sattar, was working away from home, only to return to find his entire family had been burnt to death in an arson attack. Although clearly devastated by the loss of his beloved wife and children, he spoke with no anger. When he was asked why he was not angry, he replied ,‘because I am not supposed to be’,  and explained that his faith had taught him to be thankful for the good things in life and to pray in the event of a tragedy. Such patience is difficult to fathom and appears to be the total opposite of how one would expect a mere mortal human being to react under such circumstances.  This is not an isolated case, there are many such examples when you start looking.

I like to think of myself as a pretty patient kind of person, but I know I have a long way to go before I could achieve such a level of acceptance and patience during this type of adversity. For example, I think if I had witnessed someone just mowing down my friend or relative before my eyes in a reckless terror attack, to then see that guy taken down and restrained whilst waiting for the police to arrive, I would have been one of the first to want to punch him (apologies to all those people who I am disappointing here with my weakness). But the way those on the scene handled the Finsbury Park attacker with patience, and sought to protect him from an understandable angry response from the crowd, is truly admirable. This is the Islam that I really love and aspire to live my life by, that of patience.

Those aggravators seeking to tear our society apart with hatred and trying to provoke us towards revenge are faced with a difficulty in promoting their message of hatred that I believe will ultimately be overcome in the end, and that is the message of patience. The word ‘sabr’, which is the Arabic word for a type of patience that also implies persistence and endurance , literally runs right through the Quran, and is preached over and over at every mosque. A simple search on the words ‘patient patience’ returns 91 instances in the Quran where we are encouraged to be patient, and reminded that blessing is on the patient ones. There are books and books written on the topic of patience in Islam (I’ve actually got one sitting on my desk next to me). So important is patience in Islam that there is the saying, from the early teachers of the religion, that patience makes up half of faith, the other half being that of gratitude. Here are just some of the verses in the Quran that guide us to patience especially during times of adversity.

To help us with our trials, we are frequently reminded that this life is short, that we are here for just a short time, that we belong to God and to Him we will all return, and that the next life is of far greater importance than this. We are told that those people who suffer in death through such terrible acts of crime and injustice will go to Paradise in the next life, and we are assured that God is just, so those people who caused harm will be held to account for what they have done. The matter of inflicting revenge is therefore of no concern to us; even when we fail to achieve legal justice that we certainly should seek for the good of society, we can trust in God when it comes to ultimate justice.

In addition, the act of killing any innocent person is quite simply totally forbidden to us: very clearly, we are told that to kill one life is like killing the whole of humanity. These are basic teachings, that are not easily got around with distorted translations of the Quran, so the idea that we might all rise up in some kind of retaliatory war, even if further provoked, is quite simply out of the question, if we are to stay in any way true to our religion. Of course that doesn’t mean there will be no further attacks from extremists who may be living on the fringe of society, vulnerable people who may be open to manipulation, but this is not something anyone should anticipate from the Muslim community as a whole, even with further provocation.

I hope that people from other faiths and no faith will take comfort in these basic principles of Islam. But don’t just take my word for it – perhaps call up your local mosque to ask if you can visit, maybe sit in on a sermon (Khutbah) to hear what is being taught, talk to Muslims in your neighbourhood, and judge for yourself. It is not the Muslim community you have to fear, and we can certainly overcome fear with greater knowledge and understanding.

Jamila Hanan
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