The brutal attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has thrust Islam in to the spotlight once again. Even though Muslims across the world are unanimously condemning the attacks, many critics are claiming that Islam goes against European values. Protests in Dresden this week against the supposed Islamisation of Europe appear justified to some as liberals and conservatives alike seem to agree that Islam is just an authoritarian religion that promotes nothing but violence and hate.
Government ministers in the capitals of Muslim nations took to the media to voice their sympathy and solidarity. The Muslim Council of France, and of Britain, have denounced the attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
It is thought that this attack was backlash against the magazine, which had reprinted Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad and named him editor-in-chief for a week's edition. It also published a "halal" comic book on the life of the Prophet. In the past the French satirical magazine has pushed the boundaries of free speech to the limits of offence and degradation. And while the cartoons were considered very offensive to Muslims, nothing in Islam justifies such violence. Muslims like myself are equally pained by such horrible attacks which is why it is so important that we create open dialogue between different faiths and cultures to show that religion can also be a uniting force for peace.
Islam is not the first religion to be manipulated by criminals for their own socio-political agenda, but unfortunately the glaring voices of extremism have overshadowed the moderate majority, who much like the rest of the world, strongly condemn such horrific acts of violence.
It was the Prophet Muhammad that once said: "Forgive him who wrongs you; join him who cuts you off; do good to him who does evil to you, and speak the truth although it be against yourself."He was a man who suffered great persecution but he never promoted unmitigated violence against those who mocked him.
Its ironic that the gunman thought that the only way to 'avenge' the Prophet Muhammad was through death and bloodshed. Throughout his life The Prophet Muhammad had always supported freedom of speech because it was that freedom that gave Islam the opportunity to preach its message of peace. And it's that same freedom that allows Muslims all across Europe to practice and preach their faith without any hindrance. Unfortunately the stories of the Prophets Compassion and kindness have been tarnished by modern fanatics.
He encouraged free thinking and individual thought, in Al Tirmidhi the Prophet was quoted to have said: "Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good if people do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil."
The Prophet had people swear at him, spit on him and throw garbage on him as he walked through the street but never once did he respond with hate and aggression.
This is because such violence and terrorism is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people. The Qur'an says: "There is no compulsion in religion." Attacks like this are an assault on religion; by gathering the best of religion we can defeat those who represent the worst of it. The majority of Muslims living in Europe stand for the values of peace and humanitarianism but the acts of a few crazed criminals has whitewashed their efforts. Ed Husain said it rightly in the Guardian: "The killing of journalists in Paris on Wednesday was not only an attack on France but also an assault on Islam and the very freedoms that allow 30 million Muslims to prosper in the west."