Keeping it real: How British Muslims responded to the sacrilegious film

Published: October 7, 2012

While some angry Muslims marched through the streets to protest the anti-Islam film by destroying public property in their own homelands, a group of British Muslims decided to use the opportunity to clear misconceptions about their religion. PHOTO BY DISCOVER ISLAM UK FACEBOOK PAGE

While some angry Muslims marched through the streets to protest the anti-Islam film by destroying public property in their own homelands, a group of British Muslims decided to use the opportunity to clear misconceptions about their religion. PHOTO BY DISCOVER ISLAM UK FACEBOOK PAGE While some angry Muslims marched through the streets to protest the anti-Islam film by destroying public property in their own homelands, a group of British Muslims decided to use the opportunity to clear misconceptions about their religion. PHOTO BY DISCOVER ISLAM UK FACEBOOK PAGE While some angry Muslims marched through the streets to protest the anti-Islam film by destroying public property in their own homelands, a group of British Muslims decided to use the opportunity to clear misconceptions about their religion. PHOTO BY DISCOVER ISLAM UK FACEBOOK PAGE While some angry Muslims marched through the streets to protest the anti-Islam film by destroying public property in their own homelands, a group of British Muslims decided to use the opportunity to clear misconceptions about their religion. PHOTO BY DISCOVER ISLAM UK FACEBOOK PAGE While some angry Muslims marched through the streets to protest the anti-Islam film by destroying public property in their own homelands, a group of British Muslims decided to use the opportunity to clear misconceptions about their religion. PHOTO BY DISCOVER ISLAM UK FACEBOOK PAGE While some angry Muslims marched through the streets to protest the anti-Islam film by destroying public property in their own homelands, a group of British Muslims decided to use the opportunity to clear misconceptions about their religion. PHOTO BY DISCOVER ISLAM UK FACEBOOK PAGE

It was meant to offend, and offended they were. But, for them, the appropriate response to the amateur anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims was to spread knowledge, not create chaos.

“We simply reacted to the film in a reasonable and responsible way,” says Walid Kamil, Discover Islam’s public relations manager. “We want to get the message across that we [Muslims] are peaceful people.”

Many Muslims reacted violently in the aftermath of the film; the American ambassador to Libya was killed and as many as 20 people died in rioting across Pakistan. In Britain and Ireland, volunteers of UK-based charity Discover Islam took to the streets as well but only to distribute copies of the Holy Quran and a biography of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

“Islam doesn’t teach us to kill like that and for us the best way to respond is by informing people, not by carrying out violent acts,” says Walid. “We aim to show that Islam isn’t about violence, it’s about compassion and respecting others. So this is the message we are trying to get across through the simple act of distributing the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) biography.”

Launched in 2008, Discover Islam has been advocating for a better understanding of what Muslims represent in response to increasing anti-Islamic sentiment across the UK and Europe. True to their word, when the film was first premiered in the US, they prepared a non-violent protest movement.

Armed with 210,000 copies of the Quran and a biographical account of the Holy Prophet’s (pbuh) life, Discover Islam volunteers covered multicultural events, such as the London Olympics and Paralympics, where they set up stalls, approached people and got positive feedback.

“I’ve had non-Muslims come up to me over the past few weeks, telling me that in the Quran it says to kill and pillage. So I pull out some quotes to help them understand and the reaction is always one of surprise. They always walk away with a better comprehension of what it is we believe in,” says Walid.

Negative perceptions and stereotyping of Muslims as radicals has become a favourite pastime with the rise of far right groups such as the English Defence League and British National Party that deliberately target Islam. Muslims are increasingly ostracised for anything and everything, from hijab to halal meat.

Recently, British market research agency YouGov released alarming poll results, which found that 41% of Conservative voters in the UK believe that the violent attacks carried out as a backlash to the film were supported by all Muslims. The numbers were even worse in the US where 59% of Republicans held the same view.

While Walid cites the media as responsible for sensationalising Islam, he has no truck with those who preach a violent response. “The Prophet (pbuh)  was met with violence on many occasions but he didn’t respond with aggression. He was patient and this is the true meaning of Islam. If someone steals your car, it does not mean you should steal his car. Islam is about peace and patience. Our religion doesn’t urge us to be unjust towards others, it teaches us to be tolerant to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

The response to their movement has been phenomenal. The charity’s Facebook page rocketed from 1,000 to 15,000 likes in a matter of weeks and, since the film’s release, Walid has received calls from all over the world asking for training, advice and consultancy on how to divert angry reactions into peaceful ones.

“Our phones haven’t stopped ringing with calls from Australia to Morocco on how to deal with the [recent] French cartoons and the film,” Walid says. “It’s not to say that we are happy with how western governments dealt with the film. There definitely wasn’t enough done to condemn it because it’s freedom of speech but if you insult the Queen you can be jailed. So in that respect, there is a lot of hypocrisy.”

But Walid is clear that the organisation’s objectives are not evangelical and their only purpose is to promote better understanding of Muslim beliefs among people from other faiths.

“We’re not here to preach or convert anyone. Everybody has a right to be free and believe in what they want whether that is as an atheist, a Jew or a Hindu,” he says. “We’re happy to meet anyone and invite them to come have coffee with us and find out what Islam is really about. We’re not here to judge and just want everyone to get along with one another and live in peace.”

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, October 7th, 2012.

Like Express Tribune Magazine on Facebook and follow at @ETribuneMag

Reader Comments (16)

  • Aheelam
    Oct 7, 2012 - 12:59PM

    This is how SANE people react.
    Hats off to you guys!

    Recommend

  • sana basim
    Oct 7, 2012 - 3:31PM

    Ideal response from the civilized and peaceful umma of Muhammad (pbuh)Recommend

  • Happy
    Oct 7, 2012 - 4:44PM

    I love this article. So positive and really shows that religion in general is a good thing.

    Recommend

  • bilal ahmad
    Oct 7, 2012 - 5:02PM

    Really admire how Discover Islam involves people from all different backgrounds non-Muslims included, in their agenda. This is fantastic and really makes me proud to be a REAL Muslim, not like those yobs burning and destroying our country. That isn’t Islam.

    Recommend

  • AnisAqeel
    Oct 7, 2012 - 5:13PM

    This is ‘just Islam’ and only a handful people act this way. Islam is a religion of peace, integrity and full of forgiveness. Killing people and destroying property to show affection to a Person who was full of help, guidance and forgiveness who must be thinking in the high heavens where His Ummah is heading towards!!!
    The real affection and most difficult Jihad is to control yourself and stay sane while showing your emotions countering the foul and wrong perception about Islam in a peaceful way.

    Recommend

  • Naqvi
    Oct 7, 2012 - 6:50PM

    @sana basim:
    @aheelam
    @happy

    I fully agree with you, gentlemen. Now, if you could also do something about the barbaric treatment of minorities (Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Parsis, whatever little is left of them) in your country, you can be assured of the gratitude of millions of your fellow human beings on this planet. The best example comes from action. If you even put in a kind word to your fellow Pakistanis about your minorities in your day-to-day dealings, it would have been a good act.

    Recommend

  • bilal ahmad
    Oct 7, 2012 - 8:20PM

    @Naqvi I agree with what you said about minorities but this is solely reflective of how Islam is perceived by many and I think the article is about how people misjudge Islam.

    Recommend

  • Oct 7, 2012 - 9:39PM

    Please follow the web and see the great news about the topic considered here.

    Recommend

  • Sameera
    Oct 8, 2012 - 11:37AM

    Unity is needed for peace regardless of your race, religion and faith. Thanks ET this one is great.

    Recommend

  • Rick
    Oct 8, 2012 - 5:00PM

    Islam is considered by it’s followers as the guide to everything in life. When it is questioned or in this case insulted it exposes the insecurity in the muslim mindset. Sorry if this offends people but you need to realise that every non-muslim in the world thinks Muhammed made the whole story up. That is a fact. If we don’t believe it, whether we are an atheist, agnostic, christian, jew, bhuddist, whatever, we think he made lies up to keep hold of power and followers.

    Now, Muslim’s obviously think the contrary and hold Muhammed in the highest regard. I completely respect that view and am happy to go about my business in the knowledge Muslim’s think my beliefs are foolish and they hold the truth. I just wish Muslim’s could do the same to other people rather than throwing their toys out of the cot each time someone spells his name wrong or draws a picture.

    This is the 21st century. You cannot expect people to respect your views above everyone else’s. You have the right to be offended, you DO NOT have the right NOT to be offended.

    I do however, condone this mature reaction by british muslims.

    Peace.

    Recommend

  • Aoun sami
    Oct 8, 2012 - 6:52PM

    Thankful to these guys who have showed courage to bring the real face of Islam.

    Recommend

  • abdurrahman
    Oct 8, 2012 - 9:55PM

    thank you all guys for these deeds
    if you have a link to download this book i will be grateful for this.

    Recommend

  • Zubair Ali
    Oct 9, 2012 - 2:30PM

    MashaAllah. I’m so proud of how my brothers and sisters reacted in the UK.

    On Oxford street (Central London shopping district) muslims were giving out white roses to all people. The following hadith was attached to the single white rose – (roughly reads) he who does not wish for his brother what he wishes for himself is not from amongst us… (forgive me any errors in quoting).

    Lessons learnt: we can use any opportunity to educate ourselves and our wider communities. Love and compassion is a far better tool than hostility and aggression.

    May Allah swt guide us all.

    Recommend

  • shuja ul islam
    Oct 11, 2012 - 10:53AM

    applause..RESPECT..!!

    Recommend

  • Raw is War
    Oct 14, 2012 - 11:40AM

    So I pull out some quotes to help them understand and the reaction is always one of surprise.

    Good. But really does not explain why Muslims are so violent generally, compared to other communities?

    For gods sake do not start quoting Gujarat and all that garbage. Muslims are really happy in India.

    Recommend

  • Tanweer Ahmad
    Oct 15, 2012 - 9:52PM

    “Let it not be that in the name of freedom of speech the peace of the entire world be destroyed.”

    Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad also called on the leaders of the world and members of the public to reflect whether they were playing a role in causing hostilities to rise in the world by supporting, at all costs, the right of people to make films or caricatures that offend religious sentiments and hurt innocent people.

    In reaction to such provocations, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad called on Muslims worldwide to display a collective and mature response. He said Muslim Governments and Muslims who live in Western countries should join together to promote the real and peaceful teachings of Islam and of the Holy Qur’an to the world. He said they should take a peaceful and united stand to defend Islam and the noble character of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at every opportunity and at every level.Recommend

More in Magazine