THE BLOG

Beyond the War on Terror There Is Hunger... And Hope

28/06/2013 08:09 BST | Updated 24/08/2013 10:12 BST

In military speak civilian casualties are simply 'collateral damage'. But a new campaign launched on Friday aims to put faces and names to some of the innocent victims of war - and compel us all to sit up and take notice.

Behind the campaign is Islamic Relief, the UK's biggest Muslim charity. As Ramadan approaches, we're urging the Muslim community and the wider public to look behind the headlines and stereotypes associated with war and terrorism and support our vital humanitarian work in the midst of conflict in South Asia and the Middle East.

Our advertising announces that we've declared war - not on man, but on hunger. Hunger and poverty are serious issues, and they deserve serious attention.

But why Ramadan, and why hunger? Ramadan because it's a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for 30 days and give over £100million to charity as they think about those less fortunate than themselves - including the hungry. Hunger because we've been campaigning on this issue all year as a member of the Enough Food for Everyone IF Campaign, and it's a constant in the areas of conflict where we work.

Some are hungry because they have been displaced and dispossessed by conflict. Some are hungry simply because their communities have been forgotten or neglected as conflict takes centre stage.

When I look beyond the war on terror and the politics of the Syrian conflict I see ordinary people who are suffering in the most extraordinary ways. And Islamic Relief should know - we work in some of the most dangerous countries in the world and we are getting aid through to some of the world's most vulnerable and malnourished people.

We want to show that the answers to hunger lie not only in providing short-term food aid but also in support for agriculture and the water systems, schools, health care and education projects needed to lift millions out of poverty.

Our campaign is supported by three short films focusing on Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which will be shown at events around the country and on the Islamic Relief website. Each film includes harrowing accounts of innocent people caught up in conflict or neglected because of it, but also highlights how Islamic Relief is making a world of difference.

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Dera'a grandmother Salima

The Syria film features Salima, a grandmother from Dera'a whose murdered son's dismembered body was returned to her in a bin bag before she escaped to Jordan. With her is her little grandson Jalal, who never knew his father because his mother was pregnant with him when 23-year-old Jabar was killed.

Islamic Relief is providing food for Salima's family and over 90,000 others in northern Jordan as part of its major relief operation in the region, which has so far assisted 1.1million people inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.

Personally, I find the kind of violence that Salima has experienced physically and morally repugnant - whether it is in Syria, on my doorstep in London or on the streets of Kabul or Mogadishu. I don't think belief of any kind should be used to try to justify it.

As a Muslim, however, fighting poverty, hunger and injustice is right at the heart of my faith. Islamic Relief is talking about waging war on hunger because we believe it is a scandal that one person in eight goes to bed hungry each night when there is enough food for everyone.

We are very clear that for us 'waging war' means fighting in peaceful ways but with real courage and conviction to challenge hunger and injustice - by donating to the work of Islamic Relief and campaigning for change.