Voice of Reason
face I see staring at me from the newspaper is of an old man
haggard and tired wearing a blindfold. It is nothing like
the picture next to it of a laughing, carefree man with what
almost looks like a twinkle in his eyes. His name is Ken Bigley,
a Liverpool born, yet another hostage taken in Baghdad by
a group known as al-Tawhid wa-al-Jihad (Unity and Holy War)
under the leadership of the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The militant group has already beheaded two Americans, Jack
Hensley and Eugene Armstrong, who were abducted with Bigley.
The brutal decapitation of Armstrong was even put on an Internet
website used by the group. This is the new face of Islam as
seen by the rest of the world. It is with growing dismay that
we observe Islam gradually becoming synonymous with barbarism
and extremism and Muslims the perpetrators of an ever growing
wave of violence and terrorist activity.
made by the militant group are for the release of Iraqi female
prisoners held in the two jails Umm Qasr and Abu Ghraib. The
US claimed that they were not holding any Iraqi women prisoners
apart from two female "high-value detainees" - Dr
Rihab Taha, and Dr Huda Ammash, who were both said to be involved
in Saddam Hussein's biological weapons programme elsewhere.
We have seen heartfelt pleas by Bigley's family including
his mother and Thai wife for his safe release. But all they
can do now is play the waiting game. There has also been a
direct plea by the hostage himself to Tony Blair. In his speech,
Ken Bigley pleads with Blair to "please show some of
the compassion you say you have" he also adds to the
utter poignancy of the situation by saying, "I'm nothing
to you … am only a small man." But Britain, like
the US, is reluctant to start bargaining with terrorist demands.
In response, the Bigley family has taken matters into their
own hands by speaking openly on national television and has
even tried to appeal to the terrorists themselves despite
Foreign Office recommendation to refrain from doing so.
good thing to come out of an utterly wretched situation is
that The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has sent a delegation
of British Muslims to Baghdad to plead for Ken Bigley's life.
It said the mission was, to some extent, intended to show
that British Muslims were as appalled by Bigley's predicament
as anyone else, and to reiterate the conviction among British
Muslims that Islam forbids the taking of civilians as hostages,
let alone their killing. It represents the voice of every
moderate, right-minded Muslim that is usually drowned out
by the deafening roar of the fundamentalist factions. The
British group of representatives sent by the MCB consists
of Daud Abdullah, a respected community leader, and, Musharraf
Hussein, a senior scholar from the Muslim Council of Britain.
The council's secretary general, Iqbal Sacranie, said even
in this 'dire situation' they still had hope. Abdullah said
that he believed they could exert some influence on the kidnappers.
"I believe and always maintain hope in the mercy of Allah,"
(Guardian). We can only sit and wait to see if in the next
few days they will be able to assist in the safe release of
Bigley or if it is a fait accompli as far as the terrorist
organisation is concerned.
organisation that caught my attention was the Muslim Association
of Britain (MAB). My first introduction to the MCB and MAB
was during the 9/11 disaster where at a time where Islamophopia
was rife. I was heartened to hear them condemning the actions
of Al Qaeda and trying to make the British public aware of
the disgust felt by Muslims not just in Britain but around
the world and to put forward the fact that Islam does not
propagate violence. As always, not much notice was given to
organisations that actually reflected the views of the vast
majority of Muslims in the UK at the time. Moderate views
never make the news. During the war in Iraq, they were responsible
with other anti-war groups for organising one of the largest
peaceful anti-war demonstrations in British history.
last few days, media coverage has been given to the actions
of the MCB and also that the Muslim Association of Britain
has said that it had made a direct appeal to the kidnappers
on Arabic television station Al Jazeera for Ken Bigley's release.
In fact, at the Ar Rahma mosque in Toxteth, Liverpool, Muslims
met for Friday prayers where they dedicated part of their
prayers to Bigley and his family. We can only pray with them.
Being a British Muslim, living in the U.K., it gives me a
sense of relief that finally the media is waking up to the
fact that not all of us are members of some Islamic fundamentalist
or terrorist group, nor do we condone acts that are barbaric
I can only
hope and pray that by the time you read this, Ken Bigley will
be a free man reunited with his loving family.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004