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Imams refuse funeral prayers for 'indefensible' London Bridge attackers

Tuesday June 6, 2017

People lay flowers after a vigil for victims of Saturday’s attack, at Potter’s Field park in London. Photograph: Tim Ireland/AP

More than 130 imams and Muslim religious leaders have said they will refuse to say funeral prayers for the perpetrators of Saturday’s attack in London.

In a highly unusual move, Muslim religious figures from across the country and from different schools of Islam said their pain at the suffering of the victims and their families led them to refuse to perform the traditional Islamic prayer – a ritual normally performed for every Muslim regardless of their actions. They called on others to do the same.

They expressed “shock and utter disgust at these cold-blooded murders”, adding: “We will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer over the perpetrators and we also urge fellow imams and religious authorities to withdraw such a privilege. This is because such indefensible actions are completely at odds with the lofty teachings of Islam.”

Their move came as senior Muslims and community leaders said they would redouble efforts to root out extremism in their communities after the attack in London on Saturday.

The Metropolitan police commander for engagement, Mak Chishty, the highest-ranking officer of Muslim faith, called for “a step-change – a different direction and a different movement to counter the scourge of terrorism, extremism and hatred that we have in our communities at present”.

In a statement he read out on behalf of Muslim communities, Chishty said: “It is the Islamic duty of every Muslim to be loyal to the country in which they live. We are now asking questions to understand how extremism and hatred has taken hold within some elements of our own communities.”

Harun Khan, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain umbrella organisation, expressed his anger over the London Bridge attack, saying: “We want to do something about it.”

Speaking on behalf of the MCB’s affiliates, he said: “That is why we agree with the prime minister that things must change. Enough is enough. We are ready to have those difficult conversations, as equal citizens with an equal stake in this fight.”

Met commander Mak Chishty, centre, with leaders of London’s Muslim community outside Scotland Yard, where he read out a statement condemning the attack and appealing to communities to root out terrorism. Photograph: London Metropolitan police/EPA

Khan said it was in everyone’s interest to stop the perpetrators of such attacks. “We know that many of these people have previously led a life of delinquency. It is often the case that the path towards extremism is outside of the mosque and at the margins of society,” he said. “We are all grappling with this hateful ideology. This is an ideology that makes killing and hating cool, and uses the words of Islam as a cloak to justify it.”

Mosques would be encouraged to report suspicious activity. “We will also extend our hand of partnership and cooperation to the government and prime minister, to work together to keep our country safe,” said Khan.

Under the banner of “one London, one community” at the East London mosque, Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders condemned the attack and called for unity.

Muhammad Habibur-Rahman, the mosque’s chairman, described the perpetrators as “evil terrorists” who espoused a “twisted narrative and perversion of the religion of Islam”. The mosque had stopped extremists at the door, he said, but they “continue to harass our worshippers” and “their hatred of mainstream Muslims rivals that of the extreme right”.

Mehri Niknam, of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation which comprises Jews and Muslims, welcomed the statements but added: “To condemn is only half way. We must also actively confront loudly and clearly.”

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said religious leaders must take responsibility for tackling actions taken in the name of faith. “Throughout history, religious tradition and scriptures have been twisted and misused by people” to justify violence, Welby told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He said the behaviour of religious leaders sometimes permitted and encouraged that: “If something is happening in our faith tradition, we have to take responsibility for being very clear in countering it.”


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