Let There Be Peace

The brutal murder of shopkeeper Asad Shah in Glasgow on Maundy Thursday is a tragic and powerful confirmation of things I have been saying for a long time on this blog and elsewhere – often to the irritation of people who would like to see a more black-and-white approach to the “Muslim problem” in Britain.

I regularly rail against the demonisation of Muslims in our society and refute the notion that we have a Muslim problem. Saying we do is to tar all Muslims with the extremist and terrorist brush and infers that the man who sells you your paper in the newsagent and the people who wait on you in your favourite Tandoori restaurant are secretly vicious killers who ache for the moment they can slit your stinking infidel throat. There are some for whom this awful depiction of all Muslims serves their own nefarious ends but it is both grossly untrue and deeply offensive.

I am told by people whenever I blog on these matters that there are is no such thing as a decent Muslim and that no Muslims are civilised. The ignorance of these people is quite stupefying to behold. They clearly know nothing about the contributions to art, literature, commerce, architecture and science of Islamic civilisation in times past.

The truth is that we do not have a Muslim problem. We have a radicalised Muslim problem. Islam has a history of bloodshed and aggressive colonisation but so does Christianity. As a Christian, I would argue vociferously that many shameful episodes in the history of Christianity were not true representations of the Christian faith. In short, Christianity is not the same as Christendom. There are Muslims who would also aver that an Islam that wages war on infidel peoples and nations is not a true expression of the Islamic faith.

Asad Shah was one of them. He belonged to a Muslim sect that preaches love and tolerance to all people. His “crime” that cost him his life was to wish people a Happy Easter and telling them to follow the “Beloved Holy Jesus Christ.” The person who killed him in a frenzy of religious hate apparently drove over 200 miles to do so. I don’t need anybody to tell me that there are Muslims in this country with such hate for my faith and for our Christian heritage. Neither do i need told that these people are dangerous. Asad Shah’s death is startling proof of that. But it is also his death that gives a powerful reminder to us that not all Muslims are bloodthirsty fanatics waiting to pounce on all who oppose them.

The truth is that Asad Shah is proof that not all Muslims are bad and dangerous. Ironically, his shocking slaying places him alongside many in our nation’s history who were killed for preaching that men should follow Jesus Christ. There is a lesson in there for those beating the drum that we should treat all Muslims as savage enemies. Here is a Muslim who died for witnessing to Christ – something many Christians who foment intolerance of Muslims have not done. And Shah’s choice of reverent words concerning Christ would not be uttered by many who decry Muslims.

I am all for taking a tough stance against groups that pose a genuine threat to national security and the safety of our citizens. I agree that many who follow a radicalised version of Islam are in that category. But tarring all Muslims with the same brush is very deceptive and deeply wicked. So is some of the media coverage of Shah’s murder as it leads to the impression that Shah’s killer was anti-Muslim. The evidence points to this being an assassination by an enraged Islamist who did not approve of Shah’s goodwill messages towards his Christian friends and neighbours. It could be argued that this killing was a terrorist atrocity carried out by a lone wolf madman.

The Ahmadi sect, of which Mr Shah was a fervent member, are well known for being friendly toward Christianity and for their patriotism towards the UK, as well as their opposition to terrorism in the cause of Islam.

It is interesting to note that also in the news alongside Asah Shad’s brutal murder was the story of the Imam of the Glasgow Central Mosque, Maulana Habib Ur Rehman, who had apparently praised a Muslim terrorist for killing Salman Taseer, a governor who opposed blasphemy laws. This is depressing because it clearly indicates that there is some very real support for those who use violence and terrorism as a means of “demonstrating” their devotion to their warped cause.

We can take heart from people like Asad Shah, a man of peace who was very highly thought-of in his community while rightly being vigilant about those who use religion as an excuse for murder and violence. There is no acceptable use of terrorism which results in the deaths of innocent people. Equally, there is no acceptable justification for smearing an entire people group as terrorists to further any prejudiced agenda.