To start with the positives, I suppose this letter is better than nothing, and certainly better than a letter encouraging British Muslims to get involved in fighting in Iraq or Syria. But it seems a bit limp, tiptoeing around the main issues at stake. Here’s a comment on the text by Qari Mohammed Asim, Imam at Leeds Makka Mosque.
“The scale of the humanitarian disaster in Syria and the escalating violence in Iraq calls for an unprecedented response. As we near the end of the first week of Ramadan our message is simple, we have come together to urge British Muslim communities not to fall prey to any form of sectarian divisions or social discord.
Although ‘sectarian divisions’ and ‘social discord’ are indeed best avoided, that’s a pretty weak and roundabout response to what ISIS – or I.S. – represents. The letter itself is not actively objectionable – with its emphasis on charity and compassion, and its urging of Muslims who are concerned about events in Syria and Iraq only to take action from the UK, and in a way which is ‘safe and responsible’. But there is no comment, from a theological or simply from a moral perspective, on the actions of extremist forces. Is the only problem with the extremists their ‘sectarian’ (anti-Shia) approach? Perhaps this is unfair on the signatories, but such a weak letter invites this kind of challenge. And their emphasis on the dangers of sectarianism is ironic if, as seems to be the case at first glance, there are no Ahmadi signatories included here.
Update The MCB response is stronger – and helps underline the problems with the letter.