On this day, the 14th of June 2016, the 9th day of Ramadan, we as a central mosque in Scotland have taken the decision to launch a distinct programme of teaching and study in response to an act of extremism which has yet again sent shockwaves of grief into our hearts as our religion yet again comes under the spotlight. We have called this programme simply Against Extremism. It stems from our deeply rooted belief that we must do all we can to live in peace and harmony, but we must also be realistic, dynamic and proactive in our approaches to the challenges we face. When the Paris attacks shook our community in November 2015, we came out saying that we needed to go beyond condemnation because that alone was empty. We promised ourselves that we would not crawl into our shells and allow the tiny elements of evil stigmatise us as a community. We reached out, engaging in further interfaith relations, building bridges across the community and opening our mosque to increased visits. When the Asad Shah stabbing occurred in April this year, we launched a whole week’s lecture series on dealing with sectarian and doctrinal differences. We were even honoured by hosting a delegation of leaders and members of the St. Andrew’s & St. George’s West Church congregation discussing how to live together in peace.
The events which unfolded in Orlando indeed shock and sadden us as human beings sharing this earth. What furthermore grieves us is the fact that this very sanctified month of fasting has been hijacked by individuals and groups with certain extremist agenda to mar its beauty. Instead of being remembered for Islamic piety, generosity and service to mankind, senseless acts of violence, hate and extremism seek to remind us of bloodshed, fear and anxiety. We wish to take a stance against that and reject this narrative of hate and fear. It is for these reasons therefore that we launch Against Extremism. This serves as a marker of where we stand in rejecting extreme interpretations of our faith, but also as a point of departure for our contribution to global peace. Extremism has strong ideological roots which drive its destructive machinery. We aim at the very root of this problem by educating ourselves and the community about this extremism which seeks to overwhelm our global society. It aims at answering some of the key questions like: where did this extremism come from? How has it reached this level? And how can we uproot it?