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Why Muslim imams have refused to pray for terrorists

Odd Andersen | AFP

This has been an unprecedented condemnation.

Whoever says “imams do nothing against terrorism” should be aware of this fact: 185 British Muslim imams and representatives have refused to perform the funeral prayer (salat janaza) on the bodies of the terrorists responsible for the London attacks. It is an unprecedented sentence, and a straightforward condemnation coming from within Islam itself.

Although the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) had already stated 130 imams would support the motion, more joined it yesterday, and prayed together for the victims of the attacks.

The expert on Islam, the Catalonian Jesuit Jaume Flaquer, who has a PhD in Islamic Studies from the EPHE (Sorbonne), speaks on this refusal to pray for terrorists: “This certainly brings forth a different perspective into the issue, as the recourse to use violence does not have the same meaning in Islam as it has Christianity. It is necessary to remember a religious funeral can lead to think religious authorities – or the religion itself — supports the actions of the deceased. Denying a funeral prayer is a way of declaring the attacker is not shahid (a martyr-witness of God).”

In addition, “In this funeral prayer, words wishing eternal life in Paradise are whispered in the ears of the deceased, and one wishes peace for them. Condemning the terrorist, denying them this funeral prayer, means declaring the doors of Paradise are closed for them, forever.”

It is important to remember, says Flaquer, “the Church also refused to give the suicidal attackers a Christian burial.”

In London, the imams have asked God to “let terrorists be judged according to the gravity of their crimes.” This fact is, in Muslim eyes, a straightforward condemnation of both the attackers and their acts. The number of leading Muslims adhering to this call is expected to grow in the coming days. British Muslim Scholars have also launched a public message, already subscribed by more than 500 imams in the United Kingdom, against violent extremism.

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