At the weekend I had the honour of being invited to speak at and then chair, Inspire’s “Speaking in God’s Name: re-examining gender in Islam” conference. Aside from engaging with a range of forward-thinking and inspiring women – many of whom are seen to be contentious and controversial by some – Inspire used the event to launch it’s Jihad Against Violence.
In a bid to reclaim the term jihad from extremists, Inspire’s campaign seeks to combat all forms of violence placing a particular emphasis on crimes including terrorism, domestic abuse and female genital mutilation: all crimes that some attempt to justify in the name of Islam.
As Sara Khan, Inspire’s Director explained in Monday’s Guardian newspaper:
“People think ‘jihad against violence’ is a contradictory statement but our jihad is for peace…Islam has become synonymous with all things violent and the repression of women. We thought we couldn’t sit back and stay silent while our religion is being used to carry out acts of violence”
Inspire wants to put pressure on Muslim leaders to confront what Khan says are currently “taboo” subjects.
Central to this is the Declaration of Jihad that Inspire are asking people to sign up to on their website. I have added my name to this and would ask as many of you as possible to do so, whether Muslim or non, male or female. You can add your name to Declaration by clicking here.
Whilst I have reproduced the Declaration below, it is important that if you agree with the sentiment you sign the Declaration on the Inspire website. Thank you.
THE DECLARATION OF JIHAD AGAINST VIOLENCE
Violence is a human phenomenon that exists across diverse cultures and all communities. It remains an ever-present reality in the lives of millions of people, preventing entire societies from flourishing in religious, cultural, political, and economic spheres.
Terrorism, war, violent extremism and violence against women in particular, continue to devastate individual lives, families, and societies. This is a clear injustice to those who suffer such indignities.
Those affected by such violence often remain unheard. Now more than any other time, we as Muslim women must reclaim the mantle of cultural, intellectual and moral authority, declaring our opposition to violence – especially violence carried out in the name of Islam – with a powerful and unified voice. Inspire is a partner in the Jihad Against Violence campaign, produced by Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council; a program of the American Society for Muslim Advancement.
PART 1 – A JIHAD ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN & CHILDREN
We believe in the dignity of all human beings to be able to live in peace and security and therefore abhor all violence against children, women and men.
We are alarmed that up to 3 million women and girls across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, trafficking, female genital mutilation or other violence each year.* We believe such violence destroys the ability of women to thrive within their families, communities and nations. Violence against women is an obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace.
We are concerned that in many Muslim communities, women are often held responsible and stigmatised for the violence against them. Rape and sexual abuse continues to remain a taboo subject and in some cases women will face discrimination instead of the recognition and vital assistance they need after being abused.
We can no longer remain silent in the face of such injustice; we must take a proactive stance in reclaiming the rights and dignity of women and girls.
We call upon Muslim societies to value their daughters and sons equally and to eradicate the excessive notions of “honour” attached to their daughters that often lead to honour-based violence and even murder.
We call upon Muslim leaders to work towards eliminating domestic violence completely. We urge them to confront those who propagate the false idea that domestic violence is somehow a “God-given right for men,” based on misinterpretations of the Noble Qur’an.
PART 2 – A JIHAD AGAINST TERRORISM & EXTREMIST VIOLENCE
We believe, as the Muslim community has done for over fourteen centuries that Jihad (struggling and striving in the path of God for a just cause) covers at least four levels, as revealed in the Qur’an and understood clearly by the believers:
Jihad al-nafs: striving against the lower desires of the self.
Jihad bi l-lisan: speaking up for truth and justice, especially in the face of tyranny and injustice, and inviting others without coercion to the ways of God.
Jihad bi l-mal: struggling against our natural inclinations towards wealth in order to support charitable and humanitarian causes, irrespective of the race or religion of recipients.
Jihad bi l-yad: as a last resort, physical or military action taken by representative governmental authority for self-defence and to combat crime and injustice. This form of Jihad is strongly conditioned by strict rules such as the rule of law, adherence to international peace treaties and agreements and the prohibition on attacking civilians, non-combatants and of harming the earth and environment.
We are appalled by the distortion of Jihad into terrorism by various extremist groups around the world. We urge Muslim communities and leaders not to remain silent whilst extremists hijack the sacred Islamic scriptures to justify their acts of evil against humanity, but to actively reclaim scripture as a force for goodness and justice in the world.
We condemn the sectarian and political violence that plagues many Muslim countries. We call upon Muslims to settle their differences through peaceful dialogue and debate, rather than through intimidation, bombings, shootings and assassinations.
We unequivocally condemn the targeting of civilians by terrorist groups around the world, as well as the state terrorism inflicted by powerful militaries against civilian populations. We urge the nations of the world to resist militarism and to work actively towards the peaceful settlement of international conflicts by addressing root injustices.
A FINAL NOTE
We announce our commitment to resisting injustice and violence specifically through peaceful means and from the unique perspective of women. We must act to prevent our children and members of our communities from subscribing to a deviant understanding of faith and by creating institutions and systems to successfully combat violence.
We must affirm peace. We must think, speak and act with courage to establish mercy, justice and peace amongst the human family.
This, in our view, is one of the noblest forms of Jihad that we can wage in this day and age.
This is our Jihad Against Violence.
This is our Jihad For Peace.
You can add your name to Declaration by clicking here.