More than 130 imams and Muslim religious leaders from the UK and other Western countries have said they will refuse to perform funeral prayers for the London and Manchester attackers who "defile" the name of their religion — and urged fellow imams to "withdraw such a privilege."
The leaders called the acts "cold-blooded murders", and said they were "deeply hurt" that a spate of terror attacks had been committed in Britain by "murderers who seek to gain religious legitimacy for their actions."
"We seek to clarify that their reprehensible actions have neither legitimacy nor our sympathy," they said, adding they refuse to "perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer over the perpetrators."
It's considered an unprecedented response from Muslim faith leaders from diverse backgrounds – including both Sunni and Shia imams.
The faith leaders — including Dr Timothy Winter of University of Cambridge; Sheikha Selina Begum Ali, the director of the Beacon Institute; and Imam Qari Asim of Leeds mosque — said they will refuse to perform Salat al-Janazah due to "ethical principles which are quintessential to Islam."
"This is because such indefensible actions are completely at odds with the lofty teachings of Islam," the imams said.
The letter added that the imams mourned the attack and prayed that "the perpetrators be judged in accordance with the gravity of their crimes in the hereafter."
They added the "wilful dismissal" of religious principles had alienated the perpetrators of the attacks from "any association with our community for whom the inviolability of every human life is the founding principle."
"These vile murderers seek to divide our society and instill fear; we will ensure they fail. We implore everyone to unite: we are one community. In the face of such dastardly cowardice, unlike the terrorists, we must uphold love and compassion," the imams wrote.
The letter comes a day after the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body with over 500 institutions, held a press conference in which its the secretary general hinted at the decision.
"The level of our anger is such that some imams from a cross section of Islamic traditions say that these people should be denied an Islamic burial," he said at the time.
Muslim faith leaders have repeatedly condemned terror attacks and signed letters in recent years, even urging British Muslims not to travel to war-torn regions. In 2014 UK imams had published a four-minute video condemning ISIS.
British Muslim leaders have previously been targeted by ISIS – a hitlist published in Dabiq, the terror organization's English-language magazine in April last year branded high profile UK Muslims as "apostates".
Responding to the death threat, Ajmal Masroor, a British imam and broadcaster, said at the time the death sentence by ISIS was: “a badge of honour.”
Read the letter in full:
Muslim Imams and religious leaders condemn the Manchester and London terror atrocities and urge fellow Imams to refuse to perform Islamic funeral prayers for the terrorists
We, as Muslim Imams and religious leaders, condemn the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London in the strongest terms possible. Coming from a range of backgrounds, and from across the UK; feeling the pain the rest of the nation feels, we have come together to express our shock and utter disgust at these cold-blooded murders.
We are deeply hurt that a spate of terror attacks have been committed in our country once more by murderers who seek to gain religious legitimacy for their actions. We seek to clarify that their reprehensible actions have neither legitimacy nor our sympathy.
Though at no time is it acceptable, that such ruthless violence was perpetrated during the season of Ramadan, in which Muslims worldwide focus on pious devotion, prayer, charity and the cultivation of good character, demonstrates how utterly misguided and distant the terrorists are from our faith and the contempt which they hold for its values.
Alongside our friends and neighbours, we mourn this attack on our home, society and people, and feel pain for the suffering of the victims and their families. We pray to God that the perpetrators be judged in accordance with the gravity of their crimes in the hereafter. Their acts and wilful dismissal of our religious principles alienates them from any association with our community for whom the inviolability of every human life is the founding principle (Q.5:32).
Consequently, and in light of other such ethical principles which are quintessential to Islam, we will not perform the traditional Islamic funeral prayer for 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.
These vile murderers seek to divide our society and instil fear; we will ensure they fail. We implore everyone to unite: we are one community. In the face of such dastardly cowardice, unlike the terrorists, we must uphold love and compassion.
Such criminals defile the name of our religion and of our Prophet, who was sent to be a mercy to all creation.
We commend our police and emergency services – with whom we stand shoulder to shoulder – for their rapid response, arriving at the scenes while risking their own lives to protect the victims and public. Their response exemplifies the courage, humanity and honour we must exhibit in such difficult times.
We pray for peace and unity, and for all the victims of terror both at home and across the globe, who are targeted, irrespective of their faith.
Aisha Gani is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Aisha Gani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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