The recent attacks by Al Shebab on a Nairobi mall, and even more recently the slaughter in their sleep of Nigerian students by Boko Haram added impetus to a global movement of moderate and peace-loving Muslims. They are joined by groups opposed to the bombings in Pakistan, the radicalisation of the civil war in Syria, and the ongoing violence against Christians in Egypt. Iraq is another site of ongoing religious and sectarian violence where the movement is taking hold.
These moderates know that Islam cannot function as a global creed while violence against its own people (such as the age old conflict between Sunnis and Shiites), or other religions, continues to destroy any credibility of Islam as a way forward to stability, justice and tolerance.
The Movement Against Violent Islam acknowledges the supremacy of international human rights agreements and pledges to obey national laws, while rejecting the more barbaric aspects of traditional, tribal, and sharia catechisms.
The moderates also recognise that violence and suppression of women is a big negative for their faith, so they advocate equal opportunity for women in education, the home, and the professions. Part of their manifesto is that no woman should be compelled to cover herself or wear the headscarf. They call loudly for respect to be shown to all women, regardless of their marital status or dress code.
The Movement Against Violent Islam now has groups in all countries with significant Islamic populations. It has also led to ecumenical communication between Hindus and Muslims in India and Pakistan, as a response to the increased awareness of the horrific treatment of women in those countries. This shared concern was triggered in part by the ghastly rape and murder of a young Indian woman and the shooting in the head of a Pakistani girl who advocated education for girls.
This group is gaining strength as the wider world community realises that conflicts generally are not primarily religious, but are about control, often manifested as violence disguising anger at social injustice. The weakest groups, women and children, suffer the most, but no one is spared in events such as we are increasingly seeing. Poverty leads families to place young girls in unsuitable marriages where they are then vulnerable to fatal abuse. In Yemen, for example, a girl bled to death on her wedding night, after being married off to a man 5 times her age. She was 8.
I applaud the efforts of the peaceful Muslim community and their brave leaders, who are often targetted themselves for advocating non-violence in politics and full equality for women. But they can take comfort in knowing that their efforts to end religious and sexual violence is supported in such places as the New York Times. Yoko Ono’s plea for an end to all wars appeared as a full page poem in that paper yesterday, along with a cat drawing by John Lennon.
So, please, gentle readers, if you have a contact or website for the Movement Against Violent Islam, a social media site, or even know of a Twitter feed, please share it. My heart aches to support it.