‘Fear None but Allah’
The following is the text of a speech delivered by Yvonne Ridley at a meeting of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) held at Cairo, Egypt, in November 2006
The Arabic language is one of the cornerstones of Islam, as we have heard today from our brother, so I do apologize in advance that this is one of the many areas of Islam I’ve yet to master. Islamically, I am very young, having reverted in 2003. And while I have much to learn I can identify with the frustrations shared by young Muslims today. I know 9/11 had a huge impact on the world, but it wasn’t really the start of something. It was the continuation of a legacy of US imperialism and its fear of Islam.
Just over ten years ago, fit, young Muslims across the globe flooded into Bosnia to help their brothers and sisters fight for their survival against the Serbs who were carrying out a genocide sanctioned by the silence of a watching world. The Jihad brought together Muslims from all nationalities, status and culture. All were united; even those who could not travel to fight helped in other ways such as fundraising, public awareness events and demonstrations. The impact was to stop the genocide. Western intervention, when it happened, came only after it was apparent that that the Bosnian Muslims were heading for victory. The establishment of an Islamic state deep in the heart of Europe was simply too much to bear and so the West intervened. This is not my conclusion, but US President Bill Clinton admitted it in his autobiography.
This fear of Islam has now evolved in the last ten years to such an extent that the blood of our brothers and sisters is now flowing like rivers across Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and we saw recently what happened to Lebanon. I have walked through many of those killing fields and let me tell you the twisted, blown up limbs of our Muslim brothers and sisters look exactly like those pulled from the rubble of the Twin Towers. Yet the message of today is quite clear. Muslim blood is a cheap commodity.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of innocent Muslims continue to be tortured in far away dungeons and cages in Guantanamo Bay, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, Diego Garcia and ghost prisons throughout the world. Others are tortured in Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria and even here in Egypt. Brothers are being tortured at the behest and request of the United States.
So what sort of message does that send out to our young people? They read about the heroic exploits of Salahudddin Ayyoubi, Khalid bin Walid, Tariq bin Ziad and listen intently to stories of courage and bravery about our beloved Prophet Mohamed. Do you know, five years ago I had never even heard of the Prophet, but now I would give my last drop of blood to protect his name, his honor and his memory. Even in death he continued to show how strong he was by uniting the Ummah in protest at those vile cartoons from Denmark.
Our modern day heroes include those two sixties’ martyrs Malcolm X and Sayyid Qutb, both whose writings have helped define me as a Muslim. These are the sort of role models and influences our youth need to follow, but instead they receive confused and mixed messages. One minute they are told to fear no one but Allah while the next minute they are told to dilute their Islam and keep their heads down.
Since the events of 9-11, there has been an unrelenting campaign launched to change Islam into something more palatable to Western society. The vision is a secular and cultural Islam at peace with the world through her submission to her oppressors rather than to Allah; an Islam devoid of Jihad, Shariah and Khilafah: the very things we are commanded by Allah to implement in order to establish Allah’s Deen on this earth. And it is in evidence everywhere I look. Hijabs are being ripped off the heads of my sisters in Tunisia, France and Turkey. Sisters in Holland and Germany are also in the firing line. And in Britain, we have Jack Straw, the former British Foreign Secretary, who questioned the veil! I am not having a white, middle-aged man telling me how to dress. Keep out of my wardrobe and that of every sister on this planet.
I pick up the newspapers in Cairo today to discover the Minister of Culture has called the wearing of the veil a regression. How dare he say that! Why are the men in Egypt standing by and doing nothing to silence him? He is insulting the honor and dignity of every Muslim woman who chooses to cover.
Farooq Hosni is a disgrace to Islam! What sort of message does he send out to our young people with his weasel words! The Niqab, like the veil, like the Hijab, has become a symbol of a rejection of those negative Western lifestyles like drug-taking, binge-drinking and promiscuity. It is a statement telling the West, ‘we don’t want to be like you.’
These Arabs who choose to be more western than Westerners make me laugh! Do they realize how pathetic they look in the eyes of the rest of the world? This Minister should be sacked from his post for dishonoring every sister who chooses to cover. I suppose he hides behind such descriptions as ‘moderate’! Again what sort of message does that send to our young people? If we ask them to be moderate, does that not suggest that there is something wrong with Islam that it needs to be toned down, diluted?
The last time I came to Cairo I was called an extremist by none other than the Sheikh of Al-Azhar: Sheikh Tantawi. The reason for this? Because I would not shake his hand. What is a moderate and what is an extremist? I really don’t know. I am a simple Muslim. I follow no scholars or sects. I merely follow the Prophet and the Sunnah. Does that make me an extremist? I once said being a Muslim is a bit like being pregnant. You are or you are not. Whoever heard of anyone being moderately or extremely pregnant?
Islam has been under attack for 1400 years and we should have learned by now to put our trust in no one but Allah. Yet there are those who continue to kiss the hand which slaps them. I am afraid that we can no longer put our trust in to someone just because they might wear Islamic dress or have a long beard! I notice quite a few long beards in here today, but I am not referring to you, brothers. There are those Muslim leaders who claim to guide and protect us but not all of them have our interests at heart.
Our young people are going to have to be very discerning since the events of 9/11, Bali, Madrid and the London Bombings, to name a few. There are individuals who for years rallied the masses to stand up for justice and support mujahideen groups around the world and now some have become embarrassingly silent while others condemn armed jihad, portraying mujahideen as terrorists and extremists who follow a distorted version of Islam.
In some ways we are all to blame. Our greatest shame has been our silence while martyrdom operations in Palestine and other occupied lands have been condemned as acts of terror as witnessed in 9/11 and the July 7 bombings. Our young people have to be taught that what is happening in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan is legitimate resistance against a brutal military occupation, while crimes like 9/11 and the London bombings are blatant terrorism. Equating the two only betrays our brothers and sisters who have no other option but to fight or face being wiped off the face of this planet.
The new slaves of the West criticize Islamist parties and governance by Shariah. Even student and youth movements which consistently campaigned for Palestine and Iraq have suddenly lost their tongues in a bid to be seen as Moderate!
In Britain we have an invasion of what I call the Happy Clappies. They are being flown in by the Government from the US, Canada, Yemen and Mauritania to preach a diluted form of Islam. They are poisoning the minds of our youth and we should be very wary before the Happy Clappies spread across the world. They attack Wahhabi groups in the most cynical manner! Some even misuse Nasheeds, and I am deeply afraid that the Happy Clappies are infecting our Nasheeds with the excesses of western pop culture.
The end result of all this has been a dilution of the Deen of Allah, a weak and pacified Islam willing to accept the status quo in which Muslims are oppressed and subjugated; an Islam in which Muslims are content to sing and dance the night away to Nasheeds, to concentrate on bettering their life in the West and to condemn the actions of their brothers and sisters who courageously resist occupation and oppression with whatever they have. Even making dua for them now has become a crime! How long before we are told not to even pray for the Mujahideen?
One of the greatest military generals the world has known, Salahuddeen Ayyubi, the liberator of al-Quds, was once asked why he didn’t smile. He answered back (with a counter question as to) how could he smile while knowing that the Masjid al-Aqsa, remained under Crusader occupation. I wonder what he would make of the state of the world today. I wonder what advice he would give our youth!
This is a world where Arab leaders belly-danced shamelessly in front of America while handing Iraq over on a plate. The same Arab leaders look the other way as our beautiful Palestine is continually raped and sodomized. And that other great daughter of the Arab world, Lebanon: where was the Arab world when she was so brutally assaulted? And the war-drums are beating again. Not only is the whole world watching, but so are our children, our youth, and our future. We must nurture them, and inspire them with tales of the Prophet and the Sahabah. As long as the Ummah continues to throw up figures like Khalid bin Walid, Salahuddeen Ayyubi, Sayyid Qutb and Malcolm X, all is not lost.
The more we are oppressed by the tyrants, the more we will fight back. That is the nature of Islam. And this is the Islam our youth need to follow, be guided by and inspired. Farooq Hosni and his ilk are pale imitations of real men! They have castrated themselves in a pathetic attempt to become more Western than the Westerners. He will be consigned to the history books with barely a sentence while the courage and heroic resistance of our brothers and sisters will go down in chapters.
A rapidly increasing number of Muslim youth are now realizing that no matter how hard they compromise their Deen to blend in with the wider society, when things go sour, they will be treated with suspicion. The more we are told to forget Shariah, Khilafah and Jihad, the more Muslims will pay the blood price to uphold these values. The Jihad we are witnessing in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir and Chechnya is something noble, a just war against injustice and tyranny. The actions of the Jihadists pose absolutely no threat to the West or Western lifestyles and their resistance is not only justified but embraced and encouraged by international law.
The real religious extremists who pose the greatest threat to radicalizing our youth are the Christian Fundamentalists in the White House and Downing Street. Bush and Blair have become al-Qaeda’s finest recruiting officers.
More and younger Muslims are waking up with the realization that it is not terrorism or extremism that is being targeted but Islam itself. It is up to the Ummah to lead and inspire our youth, just as the Prophet led and inspired millions and continues to do so. And the first lesson we must teach our youth is to fear none but Allah.