Rochdale Family Turkey Arrests – Advice for Community Leaders

The following is a statement submitted to Majed’s blog from members of the Rochdale Muslim community including Teachers, Businessmen, Solicitors, Healthcare professionals and Community activists that has been circulated widely locally to Community Leaders and social Media in light of the recent Rochdale Family Turkey Arrests

Assalamualaykum,

The revelations on the 3rd April 2015 of nine Muslims from Rochdale arrested for purportedly crossing into Syria from Turkey have put Rochdale on international media headlines once again. Whilst the facts are yet to be ascertained, one thing is clear, the juxtaposition of “ISIS/IS” with the Rochdale family has already been made. The implications of such assertions will only lead to further scrutiny of the Rochdale Muslim Community. In light of these events, we suggest some guidelines below that aim to preserve the objectivity of this story:

1.      It is an Islamic principle that everyone deserves to be treated as innocent unless proved guilty. Travelling to Turkey is not, by itself, a crime and these suspects have not had any trial or even been charged. So it is not right to treat them as criminals. There have been many Muslims wrongly accused of crimes over the past ten years, as well as some rightly accused. There can be many potential reasons as to why a family might travel to the Turkish/Syrian border. To cast doubt on the character and motives of others and to also do that publicly does nothing to aid the cause of Islam or our community.

2.      Those who speak to the media should do so with care. They want to hear sensational sound-bites. To use terms such as “petrodollars” and “Saudi funding” in order to settle old scores or single out mosques within the community is tantamount to betrayal of the whole community. We may have differences, we may in fact believe there is wrong doing but we are Muslims and we do not operate in a Machiavellian manners. We adopt the best position, the Islamic position where we advise, debate and dialogue.

3.      Whilst there is no doubt that we as Muslims are concerned about the welfare of our community, no one should attempt to capitalise on this story for the sake of political expediency. If people say things like “ISIS are spreading their tentacles “ it undermines the integrity of our whole community. It blindly follows the dominant media narratives when there is much speculation and little certainty. It can appear as if they are more keen to fuel an idea that benefits their personal agenda than addressing the real concerns of the community.

4.      We should be careful about fuelling media lies by looking for a scapegoat. For example, some media outlets have attempted to connect some of the suspects to Hizb ut-Tahrir. This is after having contacted Dr Abdul Wahid, Chairman of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK, who confirmed that there is no link to Hizb ut-Tahrir. http://www.hizb.org.uk/press-releases/clarification-over-rochdale-turkey-arrests

5.      We shouldn’t throw “the baby out with the bath water” in our understandable attempt to distance ourselves from ISIS. However, as much as we dislike ISIS, it does not help criticising all those who struggle in Syria, calling them “terrorists” (often naively and against good judgement) when they may have gone to Syria to try to help; or attacking any Islamic idea that might be correct just because ISIS has distorted it.

May Allah SWT allow us to protect the Muslim Community and respond wisely to the increasingly hostile political climate against Islam and Muslims.

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Comments

  1. Kaleem says:

    Salam Aalaykum Brother,

    I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for the time and effort you put into writing these blog posts. Thanks for showing people that there are many many rational, educated Muslims around. Thanks for demonstrating and advising the many lost Muslim youth in Rochdale and beyond that Islam is a religion founded on peace, and harmony. The correct way to face these issues is to present the true face of Islam to the people that want to question us as a community.

    It is such a shame that in today’s day and age, when a Muslim commits a crime, that individual is somehow representing the entire 1.7 Billion Muslims of the world, or on a more local level these 9 individuals represent all the Muslims of Rochdale. It is a great shame that today a Muslim is guilty until proven otherwise. What happened to the tolerant and just society we grew up in??

    The sad truth is that we ourselves are in fact to blame. We need to stand up and show the world that we are not how the mass ill informed media portray us to be, and that Islam is not incongruous to “modern” day society. We need more brothers like yourself and others to reclaim the the image of our Religion back from the manipulation of mass media, and show the world that Islam is truly a religion of peace and harmony among all man kind Muslim and non-Muslim alike.

    Keep up the good work brother,
    Kaleem

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