By Rabbi Danny Burkeman.
In the aftermath of the horrific terrorist attack and murders at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, the hashtag #NotInMyName has been trending on Twitter. This hashtag has been primarily posted by Muslims, who wish to dissociate themselves and their religion from the extremist terrorists who perpetrated the heinous attack.
This campaign may be linked back to a video published in September of last year by the Active Change Foundation on YouTube: “#NotInMyName: ISIS Do Not Represent British Muslims” .
In the video a number of British Muslims express why ISIS does not speak for them or for the Islam they believe in. It is a powerful statement by the voices of mainstream (liberal) Islam and a reminder for all of us that ISIS and the terrorists like them do not represent or speak for all Muslims.
But it stretches beyond Islam, and I believe it is time for those of us who espouse the values of liberalism and tolerance through religion to stand together with mainstream Muslims to collectively declare #NotInOurName.
Today, one of the biggest threats to the world comes from extremists of all races and religions. The people who tarnish the positive messages of religion, and twist them into something hateful and venomous; they use words of truth and peace to promote violence, intolerance, and terrorism. And this is not purely a Muslim phenomenon; it is one that we can see in virtually all religious groups and traditions.
When extremists claim to be acting on behalf of God, or in the name of their religion, they don’t just dishonour their own tradition and community; they besmirch the name of religion in general. Many in the secular world do not distinguish between liberal Muslims and extremist terrorists; all that they see are people who claim to be acting in the name of God, and who shout religious words in the midst of carrying out atrocities that bring shame to God and all who believe.
All of us need to recognise the extremists in our own religious tradition. And then we need to stand against them and remind the world that they do not speak for us, for our religion, or in the name of religion and God as a whole. All too often our collective guilt emerges as a result of the actions of the minority, the worst elements in all religions. The terrorist and extremist actions of the few are unfortunately sufficient for indiscriminate condemnation on any and all religions.
If, in the aftermath of the attack in Paris, we isolate and exclude all Muslims, then we fall into the trap that the terrorists place before us. We sacrifice elements of the very Western, liberal ideas that the terrorists are seeking to destroy. And at the same time we abandon the many Muslims who stand just as appalled and upset by the actions of this vocal, and unfortunately powerful, minority.
We need to be confident and strong in standing up to Islamist terrorism, but we need to do it in union with the many millions of Muslims around the world who say to ISIS, the terrorists, and all other extremists – “Not in my name”.
We need to remember that our religious traditions all emerge from a place that prioritizes, and aspires to, peace. The very word Islam is derived from the Arabic root word meaning submission, wholeness, and peace. It is the equivalent root of the word Shalom.
We need to stand united in the face of the ongoing terrorist threat and remind people of God’s original call and the central messages of peace, justice, and community. And to the terrorists and extremists, with a loud and united voice, we say #NotInOurName.