ISIS terrorists, wannabes and “peace in Muslim societies”

A picture of a South Asian man with obvious injuries lying on a stretcher, being pushed into the back of an ambulance surrounded by paramedics and policemen.So, today a man detonated a bomb in New York, at the Port Authority bus terminal. The man, a 27-year-old from Bangladesh who lives in Brooklyn and was a cab driver before his licence expired, was injured when the “low-tech” device exploded in an underpass and has been arrested. The city mayor said he acted alone but fomer NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton alleged that he ‘supposedly’ operated in the name of ISIS; the New York Post are reporting that he told investigators that he acted out of ‘revenge’ for US actions in his home country: “they’ve been bombing in my country and I wanted to do damage here”. The same report says that it is unclear whether he detonated the device at that particular time and place intentionally or whether it went off accidentally.

It is wise to be sceptical about ISIS (Daesh) involvement in this attack. Frequently there have been terrorist attacks recently whose perpetrators have claimed to be acting on behalf of ISIS or which have been claimed by ISIS yet the group cannot have had anything to do with them. Often they do not involve guns or bombs but knives and vehicles used as weapons. They do not have the hallmarks of having been planned by a disciplined terrorist organisation; they are home-grown cells, maybe consisting of people who might have tried to travel to ISIS’s territory when it still had whole cities under its control (or if they had money and passports) but were frustrated, or maybe people with mental health or substance abuse problems. The same was true of the two men who murdered the soldier Lee Rigby near his barracks in Woolwich in May 2013; they claimed to have been associated with the former al-Muhajiroun and the group praised them but even Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police said she did not believe they were aware of the two men’s plans.

In the United States, of course, terrorists have a much easier time getting the wherewithal to carry out attacks than they do here. People not linked to the criminal underworld cannot easily get hold of powerful weapons or explosives and it is illegal to research or possess instructions on how to make explosives. In the USA, a book containing instructions on how to make bombs is readily available online; in the UK, ordering or possessing it is a criminal offence. And of course there is a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and the possession of automatic weapons is currently legal in many states and once in a terrorist’s hands in one state, he only has to put it in the boot of his car and drive it to another. The upshot is that massacres are a regular occurrence, usually carried out by people with no political motive but merely a personal axe to grind, losers who want the world to ‘know them’, but when a minor terrorist incident like today’s occurs, with only minor injuries caused, it is international news.

A young man of South Asian appearance with a shortish beard, wearing a dark suit over a white shirt and red striped tie, standing next to a tall sign which reads "4th Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies: Global Peace and the Fear of Islam -- Roadblocks on the road to Radicalism". Next to that is an ornate wooden table with a jar with a large display of flowers in it.Earlier today I saw some Facebook posts promoting the ongoing “Global Peace” conference in Abu Dhabi, an annual event held by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Middle Eastern Societies (FPPMS), established in 2014 by the Emirates’ government “ostensibly as an Islamic scholarly body that would help promote peace in a region destabilised by violence” whose president is Shaikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, originally from Mauritania though he lives in Saudi Arabia, best known in the West for his long-standing association with Shaikh Hamza Yusuf. The post I saw was from an imam named Umar al-Qadri who studied at the Minhaj University in Lahore (run by Dr Muhammad Tahir al-Qadri) and now serves as an imam at a mosque outside Dublin. He claims:

More than 100 Islamic concepts like #Jihad & #Abode have been distorted. The Forum is launching an encyclopaedia with the correct concepts. Scholars have the responsibility to present the correct concepts to the Ummah. #ShaykhBinBayyah @BinBayyahNet #PeaceForum17 #GlobalPeace17

Some ask me why aren’t there more Muslim scholars speaking out against extremism and reaching out to non-Muslims with the message of Peace like myself. Visit #globalpeace17 to see more than 300 prominent Muslim leaders that each lead organisations with these aims. #peaceforum17

Dr Tahir al-Qadri is already well-known for issuing fatwas which are heralded as ‘historic’ by non-Muslims, such as his fatwa from 2010 outlawing suicide bombings, despite the fact that they are not at all original; many scholars had been saying that for years, including Saudi Wahhabis such as Rabi’ al-Madkhali and ‘Sufis’ from other parts of the world. It would be foolish of them to try to redefine ‘jihad’ in a way that makes it only look like personal spiritual struggle as the whole of early Muslim history and numerous Islamic legal textbooks demonstrate otherwise and both Muslims and those who are opposed to Islam know this.

A Yemeni boy lying on a bed with a drip hanging over with, attached to his arm.But really, any conference in which Islamic scholars and other religious leaders meet to talk about peace and harmony which is sponsored by governments such as the UAE’s is something of a hypocrisy. The UAE, along with its Saudi ally, has been fomenting tension with Qatar in order to intimidate it into shutting down Al-Jazeera and expelling Muslim scholars associated with the Muslim Brotherhood such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi; that feud has resulted in families being split up and some innocent people being trapped at the border as neither side will accept them. The UAE has also been involved in Saudi Arabia’s destructive war against Yemen in which many innocent Yemenis have been killed or had their houses destroyed; the war has also led to an outbreak of cholera which as of this past August had infected more than half a million people and killed 1,975. If you are the cause of this, or you work for the men who are the cause of this, you can’t talk about “peace in Muslim societies”.

So, spare us all the platitudes about how “salaam (peace) is a name of God” and about eradicating misunderstandings between Muslims and others if you are taking your wages off the Saudi or Emirati governments. The worst terrorism going on now is not by lone wolves with knives and vans inspired by ISIS or by Wahhabi extremists enraged by the oppression in Palestine or the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia since the 1990s; it’s by the Saudi air force and the victims are poor Yemenis. The rest of the world knows this — Muslims and others — and isn’t deceived by all the peace and love talk.

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