Beware of extremism in religion because that was the only thing that destroyed those before you. --Prophet Muhammad, p.b.u.h.

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Egypt’s Grand Mufti says IS groups attack against Coptic Chritians un-Islamic

The highest Islamic authority in Egypt, Grand Mufti Shawki Allam, the Egyptian state’s authority responsible for issuing religious edicts, said on Monday in a statement that the so-called Islamic State’s (ISIS, Daesh) execution of 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya was an act empty of the “great tolerance of Islam”.

He insisted that the militant group has no understanding of the meaning of the Holy Quran.

He added that the IS group’s attribution of certain sayings to Prophet Mohamed was erroneous.

IS published a video on Sunday in which it justified its beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya by quoting alleged sayings by the prophet.

In his statement, Allam mourned the victims.

He said that extremist groups are attempting to spread “sectarian strife and infighting between Muslims and their Christian brethren”.

He however added that he has faith that Egypt will be victorious against its enemies.

The blood of our Christian children and brothers is the same blood as that of Muslims… which belongs to the Egyptian nation,” he said.

Egypt’s only comfort is that its beloved children died on the side of Right in a battle against Wrong, Allam said.

The United Arab Emirates-based Council of Religious Elders, chaired by the Grand Imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayeb, condemned the killings, declaring them to be entirely against the teachings of Islam, and extended condolences to Egyptians, Egypt’s Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the families of the victims.   »»» Ahram Online (Egypt)

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The US is not at war with Islam

President Obama speaking at the Countering Violent Extremism Summit held in Washington, DC, said “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.

He continued, “They (terrorists) try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie. Nor should we grant these terrorists the religious legitimacy that they seek. They are not religious leaders. They are terrorists.

He added, “We all know there is no one profile of a violent extremist or terrorist. There is no way to predict who will become radicalized.” “We are here at this summit because of the urgent threat from groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL and this week, we are focused on prevention,” he remarked.

Writing an Op-ED in Los Angeles Times previewing the summit, President Obama remarked, ‘Groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL promote a twisted interpretation of religion that is rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims. The world must continue to lift up the voices of Muslim clerics and scholars who teach the true peaceful nature of Islam. We can echo the testimonies of former extremists who know how terrorists betray Islam. We can help Muslim entrepreneurs and youths work with the private sector to develop social media tools to counter extremist narratives on the Internet. More broadly, groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives. The world has to offer today’s youth something better.’   »»» MeriNews (India)

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Norway’s Muslims and Jews link up to denounce extremist violence

Norwegian Muslims organised a peace vigil in Oslo on Saturday in a show of solidarity with Jews a week after fatal shootings in Denmark targeted a synagogue and free-speech seminar.

As the mainly elderly Jewish congregation filed out of the synagogue after Shabbat prayers, a group of young Muslims, many of them teenage girls wearing headscarves, formed a symbolic ring outside the building to applause from a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

“This shows that there are many more peacemakers than warmakers,” 37-year-old Zeeshan Abdullah, one of the organisers, told the crowd.

“There is still hope for humanity, for peace and love across religious differences and background,” he added, before a traditional Shabbat ceremony was held in the open air with many demonstrators adding their voices to the Hebrew chants.

Norway’s chief rabbi, Michael Melchior, appeared visibly moved when he said it was the first time the ceremony had taken place outdoors with so many people.

Ervin Kohn, a Jewish community leader, said: “It is unique that Muslims stand to this degree against antisemitism and that fills us with hope … particularly as it’s a grassroots movement of young Muslims,” adding that the rest of the world should “look to Norway”.    »»» The Guardian (U.K.)

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Thousands mourn Egyptian Copt victims of Islamic State

Thousands of traumatized mourners gathered on Monday at the Coptic church in al-Our village south of Cairo, struggling to come to terms with the fate of compatriots who paid a gruesome price for simply seeking work in Libya.

Thirteen of 21 Egyptians beheaded by Islamic State came from the impoverished dirt lanes of al-Our, violence that prompted the Egyptian military to launch an air strike on Islamic State militant targets in Libya.

Black banners hung on the walls of the Church of the Virgin Mary, proclaiming “Egypt rise up, the blood of your martyrs is calling for you to take revenge”. Relatives fainted from grief.

Sheikhs from al Azhar University, the Muslim world’s main centre of Islamic learning, which condemned the beheadings, joined the mourning.

Many could not fathom why men who simply wanted to support their families back home would be butchered by Islamic State, the ultra-orthodox militant group that took over parts of Syria and Iraq and has now expanded its operations to Libya.

“They are not humans. They are monsters. They are holding unarmed people (who) were going to bring bread for their families,” said Father Tawadros, pastor of the church.   »»» Reuters

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Avenging its Christians, Egypt Bombs Libya in first formal campaign in 24 years

The murder by Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) thugs in Sirte, Libya, of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians this weekend provoked the first formal Egyptian military incursion into another state’s territory since the 1991 Gulf War. Egyptian fighter jets bombed warehouses, training camps and other assets of Daesh in Derna.

Cairo-based journalist Bel Trew writes that the Egyptian minister of pious endowments was shown on al-Arabiya declaring that those who beheaded Christians had “departed from the (Islamic) faith.” I.e. he said they are no longer Muslims.   »»» Informed Comment

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said that “People of the Book” (Christians and Jews) who live peaceably in a Muslim land must be protected in their lives, honour and property by their Muslim neighbour. He said that anyone who harms such a person harms him and offends God.

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Muslim clerics denounce ‘savage’ Isis burning of Jordanian pilot

The burning of a Jordanian pilot by Islamic State (Isis) has triggered a unified outcry from senior religious clerics across the Muslim world – including a jihadi preacher – who insist the militants have gone too far.

Abu Mohammed al-Maqdesi, considered a spiritual mentor for many al-Qaida members, said the killing of Lt Muadh al-Kasasbeh was not acceptable in any religion.

At Friday prayers in neighbouring Iraq, where the militant group has seized territory in a third of the country, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a senior Shia cleric, said in a sermon that the “savage” act demonstrated the extremists knew no boundaries and “violated Islamic values and humanity”.

Religious groups, often at odds over ideologies or politics, have increasingly been speaking out against the militants, who continue to enforce their rule in Iraq and Syria through massacres, kidnappings, forced marriages, stonings and other acts of brutality.

This week, Isis militants released a video of Kasasbeh, a Muslim, being burned to death in a cage. While the beheading of hostages from the US, Britain and Japan drew condemnation from most religious sects within Islam, the gruesome images of the airman’s murder served as a unifying battlecry for Muslims across the world.

Jordan joined a US-led military coalition against the militants in September, but said it would intensify its air strikes in response to the killing of the pilot. On Thursday, dozens of fighter jets struck Isis weapons depots and training sites, Jordan’s military said.

Outrage escalated in the capital of Amman after Friday prayers, with demonstrators unfurling a large Jordanian flag and holding up banners supporting King Abdullah II’s pledge for a tough military response to avenge al-Kasasbeh’s death. “We all stand united with the Hashemite leadership in facing terrorism,” one banner read.

Now, even al-Qaida has grown more outspoken against Isis, a former al-Qaida offshoot in Iraq. That criticism has left the Isis extremists increasingly isolated.

Even clerics aligned with Isis are said to be speaking out against the pilot’s killing. Rami Abdurrahman, director of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said extremists dismissed one of its religious officials in Aleppo province after he objected to how the pilot was put to death.

The religious official, Saudi cleric Abu Musab al-Jazrawi, warned during a meeting that such killings contradicted the teachings of the prophet, Abdurrahman said. Other clerics in the meeting in the northern town of Bab launched a verbal attack against the Saudi cleric, who was later sacked and referred to a religious court, he said. The incident could not be confirmed independently.

Grand imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, head of the world’s most prestigious seat of Sunni Islam learning, the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, said this week that the militants deserved the Qur’anic punishment of death, crucifixion or chopping off their arms for being enemies of God and the prophet Muhammad.

“Islam prohibits the taking of an innocent life,” Tayeb said. By burning the pilot to death, the militants violated Islam’s prohibition on the burning or mutilation of bodies – even during wartime, he said.

Iraq’s most senior Sunni mufti, Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaie, said the crime against Kasasbeh was unprecedented, adding that “the prophet Muhammad said that only God can punish with fire”.

Pakistani Sunni cleric Munir Ahmed, in his sermon in Islamabad, also dismissed any theological basis for the crime, saying the “gruesome” death of the Jordanian pilot was “the most horrible act of cruelty”. It was a punishment that “Allah has kept for his own authority and no human is authorised to do it”, he said.   »»» The Guardian (U.K.)

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Muslim hero in Paris grocery attack gets French citizenship

French authorities on Tuesday honored a Mali-born Muslim employee who saved lives at the kosher supermarket attacked by terrorists as a hero and granted him French citizenship.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve praised Muslim Lassana Bathily, 24, for his “courage” and “heroism” during a ceremony in the presence of Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Cazeneuve said Bathily’s “act of humanity has become a symbol of an Islam of peace and tolerance.”

“Tonight I’m very proud and deeply touched,” Bathily said with tears in his eyes, humbly stressing that he doesn’t consider himself a hero. “I am Lassana. I’ll stay true to myself.”

Bathily was in the store’s underground stockroom when gunman Amedy Coulibaly burst in upstairs on Jan. 9 and killed four people. Bathily turned off the stockroom’s freezer and hid a group of shoppers inside before sneaking out through a fire escape to speak to police and help them with their operation to free the 15 hostages and kill the attacker.   »»» New York Post

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: These Terrorist Attacks Are Not About Religion

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a Muslim and a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player speaks out about terrorism.

When the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross in a black family’s yard, Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts

Another horrendous act of terrorism has taken place and people like myself who are on media speed-dial under “Celebrity Muslims” are thrust in the spotlight to angrily condemn, disavow, and explain—again—how these barbaric acts are in no way related to Islam.

For me, religion—no matter which one—is ultimately about people wanting to live humble, moral lives that create a harmonious community and promote tolerance and friendship with those outside the religious community. Any religious rules should be in service of this goal. The Islam I learned and practice does just that.

Violence committed in the name of religion is never about religion—it’s ultimately about money. “Follow the money.” Forget the goons who actually carry out these deadly acts, they are nothing more than automated drones remote-controlled by others. Instead of radio signals, their pilots use selective dogma to manipulate their actions. They pervert the Qur’an through omission and false interpretation.

How is it about money? When one looks at the goal of these terrorist attacks, it’s clearly not about scaring us into changing our behavior. The Twin Tower attacks of 9/11 didn’t frighten America into embracing Islam. The fatwa against Salman Rushdie didn’t prevent the publication of The Satanic Verses. Like all terrorist attacks on the West, they just strengthen our defiant resolve. So the attack in Paris, as with most others, isn’t about changing Western behavior, it’s about swaggering into a room, flexing a muscle, and hoping to elicit some admiring sighs. In this case, the sighs are more recruits and more donations to keep their organization alive. They have to keep proving they are more relevant than their competing terrorist groups. It’s just business.

Knowing that these terrorist attacks are not about religion, we have to reach a point where we stop bringing Islam into these discussions. I know we aren’t there yet because much of the Western population doesn’t understand the Islamic religion. All they see are brutal beheadings, kidnappings of young girls, bloody massacres of children at schools, and these random shootings. Naturally, they are frightened when they hear the word Muslim or see someone in traditional Muslim clothing. Despite any charitable impulses, they also have to be thinking, “Better safe than sorry”—as they hurry in the opposite direction.

When the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross in a black family’s yard, prominent Christians aren’t required to explain how these aren’t really Christian acts. Most people already realize that the KKK doesn’t represent Christian teachings. That’s what I and other Muslims long for—the day when these terrorists praising the Prophet Muhammad or Allah’s name as they debase their actual teachings are instantly recognized as thugs disguising themselves as Muslims.

I look forward to the day when an act of terrorism by self-proclaimed Muslims will be universally dismissed as nothing more than a criminal attack of a thuggish political organization wearing an ill-fitting Muslim mask. To get to that point, we will need to teach our communities what the real beliefs of Islam are. In the meantime, keep my name on speed-dial so we can get through this together.   »»» TIME (U.S.)

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Paris Mayor to sue Fox News over Muslim claims

The mayor of Paris has said she will sue Fox News for its inaccurate reporting about the city following the attack on the magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The US network claimed there were “no-go areas” in the French capital where police and non-Muslims refused to go.

Anne Hidalgo said the people of Paris had been “insulted” and the city’s image had been “damaged”.

The network has since apologised for making “regrettable errors” on air regarding the Muslim population.

Ms Hidalgo told CNN: “When we’re insulted and when we’ve had an image, then I think we’ll have to sue. I think we’ll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed.

“The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honour of Paris has been prejudiced.”

Fox has also apologised for comments by so-called “terror expert” Steven Emerson, who claimed Birmingham, England was “totally Muslim” and ruled by Sharia law.

Fox News host Jeanine Pirro subsequently said Emerson had “made a serious factual error that we wrongly let stand unchallenged and uncorrected”.

In fact, 80% of Birmingham’s population is non-Muslim.

British Prime Minister David Cameron responded by calling Emerson “a complete idiot”.   »»» BBC News

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Misinformed expert or misinformation network?

Terrorism “expert” Steve Emerson is more than a comic buffoon. His claims about no-go zones for non-Muslims in European cities are just part of a wealthy network spreading Islamophobia across the west.

On Sunday, the veteran terrorism expert Steven Emerson appeared on Fox News to discuss Europe’s Muslim population and claimed that Birmingham was an example of a ‘totally Muslim [city] where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in’. The claim led to him being ridiculed online, and after the news media picked up on the story he issued an apology to ‘the beautiful city of Birmingham’ for his ‘terrible error’. So high profile was the story, that the Prime Minister David Cameron felt moved to comment, reportedly describing Emerson as ‘a complete idiot’.

The claims were idiotic. But Emerson is not simply an ‘idiot’, or a hopelessly misinformed ‘expert’. An examination of his background, the sources of his ideas, and the funding for his think tank the Investigative Project on Terrorism, show that he is part of what the Center for American Progress in a widely cited 2011 report Fear Inc. described as ‘a small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts’ that ‘peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam’.    »»» tabsir.net

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