PROMINENT leaders, an Islamic scholar and members of the public came together recently to reflect, evaluate and pay respects to the Paris attack victims.

A candle-lit vigil was held in Burton upon Trent to mark the tragic events of over two weeks ago.  More than 150 people were present at the solidarity event including councillors, representatives from a local school, Staffordshire Police and East Staffordshire TUC. In addition local members of the public were also present and Shaykha Safia Shahid, a speaker, teacher and a renowned Muslim scholar from London.

Enlightening talks given by the speakers in a bid to educate and inform  those present on the realities and dangers of groups such as Isis was also a key part of the event.

12291891_789645987827644_478319324794488406_oOne of the speakers was Amjid Raja, an IT consultant, from the town, who opened the event, explaining the importance of working hard to protect young people being influenced by extremists. He also highlighted the need for people to work together to build and sustain a diverse yet united community.

He said: “We are against all forms of extremism regardless of colour of skin or religion of the perpetrator. Extremists want to divide and create an atmosphere of them and us. We need to create a community where we live freely and safely without fear. I speak for Muslims in Burton when I say this is our home and we are committed to promoting these values to ourselves, children and local community.”

Staffordshire police were also represented at the event and highlighted the importance of reporting hate crime and assured the community of proactive efforts by the police in continuing to keep the town a safe place to live.

Shaykha Safia recently received an award for ‘outstanding contribution to women’s empowerment’, awarded by The British Imams and Scholars Contributions & Achievement (BISCA).  The non-sectarian, non-political community venture highlights positive work of British Imams and Scholars. It seeks to promote good work, encourage excellence, and create a positive environment for the UK society by showcasing inspirational work of Imams and Scholars.

Shaykha Safia airing her concerns against the extremists said: “This is an important subject that affects us all, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I have been heavily involved in refuting Isis in the UK and abroad. It is a pressing need that requires immediate clarification; thus, I have spoken out on various platforms and media about refuting its barbaric ideology.

“I wish to extend my deepest sympathies and prayers to those killed and wounded in the recent Paris attacks and to their friends and families. Nothing in Islam justifies such an atrocity.12308157_789645971160979_266180707279157532_o

“Islam guides to virtue, mercy and forgiveness. Isis misguides to vice, cruelty and hatred. My concern is that these extremists are striving to bring death and destruction to the world. We should not allow Isis to divide Muslims and non- Muslims. In Islam, there is no black or white, nor is there an ‘us against them’ dogma. Let us foil Isis by not falling into their trap and co-existing peacefully. Do not be inspired by Isis’ superficial authenticity; its actions do not represent Islam in any shape or form.”

Shaykha Safia studied under the guidance of Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi, a renowned scholar from Syria currently residing in Morocco, and author of Refuting Isis. Shaykha returned to the UK to teach traditional Islamic studies in the UK at different levels from children’s classes, to courses and at university level and is a regular speaker on TV and radio.

She described ‘Refuting Isis’ as an invaluable book that destroys Isis’ allegations; by providing authentic religious quotes demonstrating the group does not represent Islam or its values.

An excerpt from the book reads;

‘Isis quotes the Quran and Prophetic narrations in abundance and without any relevance to their own behaviour, simply in order to provide Islamic credentials for their wicked actions. What legitimacy does Isis have without the Islamic rhetorical cover of an alleged Caliphate and a self-proclaimed Caliph? Isis’ actions reflect nothing more than sectarian, barbaric and vengeful terrorist organisation that bears no relation to the beautiful character and practice of Prophet Muhammad (s). The use of Islamic rhetoric is an abusive tool in order to obtain worldly power and territorial control.’

The Shaykha has also published a profound letter aimed at young girls in Haqiqah magazine, created by British Imams to directly challenge ISIS (known in the region as Daesh).  An extract of her letter reads; “Do not be inspired by Isis’s superficial authenticity; its actions do not represent Islam in any shape or form.” The full letter can be read here http://haqiqah.org/article/message-to-my-sisters/

Shaykh Muhammad Al Yaqoubi appeared on CNN earlier this month. He spoke about not falling into the trap that Isis wants, which is a clash of civilisations and requested for Muslim and non-Muslim governments to remain united. A copy of his book was handed out to all attendees of Thursdays’ event.

Cllr Neil Tilley, Labour councillor for Swadlincote in nearby South Derbyshire said he was impressed with how the community came together and showed how united Burton was with the mix of attendees at the event.

“I was impressed by the community feel to the vigil with speakers from the TUC, police and Muslim elders. I was particularly impressed with Shaykha Safia Shahid, who spoke perfect sense and the feeling of condemnation rather than retribution came through strong and clear.”

Adding his thoughts on the Refuting Isis book he said: “Refuting Isis by Shaykh Muhammad Al Yaqoubi pulls no punches and is a powerful script and a must read for those of us who only scratch the surface of the Isis problem”.    

Shaykha spoke after the event adding: “I received such positive responses and wonderful comments from both speakers and attendees. The event was a great success.”

The event was organised by local East Staffordshire Borough Councillor Syed Anwar Hussain.

He said: “We held the vigil to show solidarity with the recent events in Paris. It was great to see more than 100 coming together at very short notice to support the victims of Paris and similar atrocities all over the world. I wanted to send the message that everyone stands united against atrocities wherever they occur. Thank you to everyone who attended and supported”.

At the end of the evening, a buffet meal was provided and a marking of remembrance for terrorism victims all across the world took place.  

By Asimah Alam