Reflections on the ‘#freebabarahmad’ Campaign

By Hamid Chaudry- The Free Babar Ahmad campaign reached a staggering climax in the last couple of weeks as, after an apathetic start, interest went viral and over 30,000 signatures were posted in two days alone. The petition broke through the 100,000 well ahead of 10th November deadline. Having being involved in drumming up support for the petition in the local area in recent weeks, I wanted to share my thoughts on the campaign. I won’t go into the specifics of the case, as the details are well documented elsewhere on the internet.

  • My foremost reflection is that the response of the Muslim community in the latter days of the campaign is testament to what can be achieved by individuals when they are committed to a cause. I stress individuals, because individuals and charities have been at the fore in generating support, approaching masjids and the media to support the cause. The website is no mega media machine – its Babar’s direct family working from the front room of the family home. This demonstrates to me that the Muslim community can achieve what it wants, on the whole, without the need for our so-called representatives – whether MPs, local councillors, or other organisations set up to represent us. Who, let’s face it, have their own interests… which hamper them from truly being independent. So learning from the campaign, perhaps it is time we removed ourselves from the shackles of dependency and expectation that they can be the agents of change we expect them to be.
  • I sensed some reluctance to sign the petition. While some of this was (sadly) down to apathy, there were other underlying factors.
  1. For some people, the fact that Babar had been arrested was sufficient to attribute guilt, or that ‘he must have done something’. To which I would say, if he had done something, he wouldn’t have been released after his initial arrest, with the CPS stating that there was insufficient evidence with which to charge him.
  2. More worryingly, there was a sense of fear in the community, that if they were to put down their name and address on to a database, they would then become ‘guilty’ too. That someone would come knocking on their door at the crack of dawn. Only because they stood up for someone who was arrested under the Terrorism Act. I put this down to the climate of fear and suspicion created by the government and media for the Muslim community generally, and specifically anyone suspected to be or labelled an ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’. As Muslims, our actions should be based on gaining the pleasure of Allah (swt) alone, rather than dictated to us by other ‘forces’ or interests.
  3. It also shocked me how many people were unaware of his plight, or had not even heard of him. It shows how distant some of the Muslims are from their affairs in the UK. ‘The Muslim community is like one body, when one part is afflicted, the rest of the body feels the pain and fever.’
  • I also came across opposition to the campaign – from Muslims themselves. On what grounds? It is argued, that by requesting that Babar Ahmad be given a trial in the UK, this is interpreted by some as recognition of, and allegiance to ‘taghut’ (i.e. false leaders and deities or an illegitimate authority), this being the legislation of UK law rather than the law of Allah (swt). This is obviously a very serious issue if it is the case. Anyone who studies and perceives the reality (tahqiq al-manat) of the petition process would know that the most it can do is possibly trigger a parliamentary discussion on Babar’s situation (which incidentally is a form of duress by being imprisoned). It does not obligate the making of man-made law or passing of a court judgment. Nor does questioning an anomaly in the UK judicial system, and suggesting a re-think of its own laws equate to an allegiance to that law. If anything, the campaign has highlighted the injustice of that very law – one that allows a man to be held in custody for seven years without so much as a trial. To then expect such a system can subsequently deliver justice is blatantly foolish.
  • Once the target 100,000 signatures were achieved, and comfortably surpassed (to help counter any challenges to the legitimacy of the signatories), calls were made to continue collecting signatures through to the deadline. ‘Famous’ people were now signing up and supporting the cause, and calls to make it the most popular e-petition ever grew. This, for me, is where the means possibly began to overtake the end. Our motives for actions should remain pure and focussed, not distracted by non-issues. Perhaps the emotion of surpassing the target, and the growing popularity led to some losing sight of what this was all about? So what if celebrities were now signing up – isn’t that the nature of celebrity culture, to latch on to anything that promotes their own celebrity status? The target, alhamdulillah, had been reached and surpassed. Even this milestone in itself may not change anything – there is no compulsion on parliament to hold a debate, and it still may not take place.
  • So what has it all achieved, if all this effort does not lead to anything further? To answer this, one needs to ask why one signed the petition or got involved to encourage others to sign it. As Muslims, our faith is that all things are decreed and determined by Almighty Allah (swt). Why did I sign the petition? Why did I get involved locally? Not because my actions will help the plight of Babar Ahmad. For a man who has been held in prison for seven years, I trust he is in the mercy of His Lord, Allah knows best. Allah (swt) is looking after him, in the same way Allah (swt) sustains all of His true slaves. The reason I signed it was for my own conscience. Perhaps the plight of Babar Ahmad is a test from Allah (swt) for me. To do the little I could, possibly an insignificant action, which may help to swing the balance of my scales on that Day. At the same time, neither do I know how significant that little action may actually be in Allah’s Divine plan. So let me take that little action, and let Allah (swt) be the Judge.

The Prophet Muhammad(saw) said: “Verily actions are by intentions…” [Agreed Upon]

Ibn al-Mubaarak(rh) commented: “maybe a small action is made great by its intention, and maybe a great action is made small by its intention”.



  1. The Infamous says:

    It is a sad reality that there are many Brothers in our community that fail to link their action to the bigger picture. And it’s even sadder to see many of our Brothers unaware of the plight of Muslims like Baber Ahmed.

    Our purpose is not to be dragged into he trap of making money , buying houses and seeking material goods. We should be sensitive to what’s happening to our community because tomorrow we could be Brother Baber and even more important that one day we will be questioned of how we contributed to aiding our community in their hardship.

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