Islam and Jihad

The truth about Islam and war and the way fundamentalists have manipulated the term 'Jihad'

Islam has been the subject of considerable controversy. One of the accusations made against it is that it is inherently violent with the term jihad translated as ‘holy war’. The term ‘holy war’ originates from Christian crusaders who first used the term to justify a battle for land and trade routes.

In Islam, war is never holy. It can only be just or unjust. War is only considered just if it is in self defence or to prevent injustice. "Fight in the way of God those who fight you, but do not begin hostilities; God does not like the aggressor" 2.190 "if the [enemy] desists, then you must also cease hostilities" 2.193.

Peaceful resolution is Islam’s default position. Jihad literally means ‘a struggle‘ or ‘a striving’, and refers primarily to the spiritual struggle against the ego. Modern day Islamist fundamentalists have manipulated the term Jihad for political ends so it resonates with the Christian meaning of holy war and violence.

With the advent of Islam came rules of how to conduct war that for the first time in the history of warfare drew a distinction between combatants and non-combatants. The modern day Geneva convention on human rights can trace it’s origins back to Islam. How ironic is it therefore that today’s Muslim terrorists have usurped this principle and turned it on its head. Not only justifying the slaughter of non-combatants, but considering it an Islamic duty.

So where are today’s moderate Muslims to reclaim jihad? Well they exist - they just don’t make the news. So let me quote here from a recent letter from the world’s leading Islamic scholars clarifying for the Pope’s benefit the Islamic rules of war: 1) Non-combatants are not permitted or legitimate targets. This was emphasized explicitly time and again by the Prophet, his Companions, and by the learned tradition since then. 2) Religious belief alone does not make anyone the object of attack. The original Muslim community was fighting against pagans who had also expelled them from their homes, persecuted, tortured, and murdered them. Thereafter, the Islamic conquests were political in nature. 3) Muslims can and should live peacefully with their neighbours. "And if they incline to peace, do thou incline to it; and put thy trust in God (al-Anfal 8.61)." However, this does not exclude legitimate self-defence and maintenance of sovereignty."

The full text of the letter and signatories can be viewed here

I should add that the Pope's apparent reversal in some of his views with his recent comments in Turkey are to be welcomed as a step in the right direction.

Extremism within Muslim societies is a result of the decline in Muslim scholarship. Ignorant people are easily manipulated by charlatans. The west’s display of aggression against certain parts of the Muslim world have been used by those that are opposed to any constructive engagement with the west and an appreciation of it socio-political advancements as a recruiting sergeant for their vision of a disengaged future.

Asim Siddiqui is Chairman of the City Circle, which provides a place for British Muslim and non-Muslim communities to engage. More details can be found on www.thecitycircle.com. He works as a forensic accountant.
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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.