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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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.