A HARTLEPOOL Muslim leader has condemned the Paris terror attacks and defended people’s right to free speech.
Tahir Selby, the Imam of the Nasir Mosque, in Brougham Terrace, said ordinary Muslims “absolutely condemn” the shocking events in France and others carried out in the name of Islam.
Mr Selby, who has worked for a number of years to change the public perception of Islam, said he does not support the publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed – or Jesus, but defended the importance of free speech.
He was reacting to the shocking events of the last week in France when gunmen killed 12 journalists of the magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons of Mohammed.
He said: “Showing any pictures, of the Holy Prophet is forbidden in Islam.
“We are also offended by such depictions of Jesus Christ, a prophet in Islam.”
He added: “Ordinary Muslims absolutely condemn the terrible crimes by the terrorists in Paris. Our thoughts are 100 per cent with the families of the dead and injured.
“The people who committed this crime are not portraying the real Islam and, in fact, they often kill Muslims in their terrorist attacks, as they did in Paris.
“Their actions have nothing to do with real Islam. They have perverted its teachings.
“The Quran says that if you kill one person, you kill all mankind.”
Rafiq Hayat, National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK, added: “It is a great source of regret that such violent acts and terrorist activities continue to be associated with Islam – despite the fact they have nothing to do with Islam’s true teachings.”
Mr Selby described people’s freedom of speech as a “great blessing” but is a right that must be treated wisely.
He added: “The community I represent, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, a sect of Islam, believe very strongly in free speech and we are totally against any blasphemy laws.
“In Pakistan they have such a law and people can be imprisoned for three years or even put to death for the crime of blasphemy.
“That includes people in my community.
“We believe that a sub-ordinate prophet to the Holy Prophet, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, has come among us to revive the true peaceful religion of Islam by highlighting its teachings on love and forgiveness.
“Some people have condemned our belief as blasphemy. So we know how such laws can be abused.
“So, for us, the liberties and freedoms in this country are a great blessing and I gave a sermon last Friday stating that we cannot afford to lose these precious freedoms in this country, especially given what is happening in Pakistan.
“Like most British people we simply believe that freedom of speech is a great right but must have limitations.
“The Islamic way of reacting to offence is simply to approach the people causing it and explain, to talk and discuss peacefully.
“That is what the vast majority of Muslims believe: the way of peace.”
Mr Selby also praised the reaction of Hartlepool people to the town’s Muslim community following the France attacks.
He said: “I would like to commend ordinary Hartlepudlians for their behaviour shown towards us and all the Muslims in Hartlepool in these last few days.
“In spite of these atrocities and media attention, they have continued to be supportive and warm to us.”