A leading Islamic scholar received a standing ovation Saturday from thousands of UK Muslims as he denounced terrorism and called for peace.
Wembley Arena in north-west London was a sea of colourful robes as an estimated 12,000 Muslims gathered to give their backing to a global declaration of peace.
Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, founder of the “Minhaj-ul-Quran International” (MQI) movement, was repeatedly applauded during a speech in which he said the “terrible” 9/11 attacks in the US had distorted perceptions of Islam over the past decade.
“In spite of statements and memorandum and condemnation of the terror, the voices of the 99% true, peace-loving Muslims have not been heard, they have been drowned out by the clamour and the noise of extremists,” he said.
“Islam has nothing to do with any act of terrorism. We reject every act of extremism and terrorism unconditionally.” Dr Qadri’s speech was the keynote address at the peace for humanity conference organised by MQI.
The conference heard a series of lengthy and impassioned speeches, some in Arabic, from Islamic scholars denouncing terrorism and extremism.
There were also prayers for peace from a range of representatives from different religions including the Bishop of Barking, near London, David Hawkins, Jewish rabbis and representatives from the Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths.
The declaration of peace includes a call for democracy and good governance in the Muslim world, respect for human rights, and alleviation of poverty throughout the world.
Dr Qadri’s speech was made in spite of death threats he has received after issuing a fatwa against terrorism last year.
The conference heard messages of support from public figures including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Other speakers included Mrs Ghazala Hassan al-Qadri, president of the MQI Women’s League.
“Islam teaches love, it teaches compassion, it teaches tolerance, it teaches mercy,” she said.
Shaykh Hassan Mohi-ud-Din Qadri, an Islamic scholar resident in Egypt, told the conference: “Islam is a religion of justice, not a religion of injustice, Islam is a religion of manners and cooperation, not a religion of extremism and radicalisation, Islam is a religion of forgiveness and pardon, not a religion of brutality and revenge.
“Islam is a religion of securing the life of the people, not endangering the innocent life of people.” Mayor of London Boris Johnson also gave his support to the event, as well as deputy mayor Richard Barnes.
Bishop Hawkins, whose diocese includes the headquarters of MQI in east London, was also applauded by the conference.
“I stand with you in your rejection of violent extremism of all kinds,” he said.
“I congratulate you in your efforts to teach and promote a peaceful, moral and moderate Islam among young people growing up in our complex society.
“Christianity, as well as Islam, has been guilty of using violent extremism to promote our religions.”
“This behaviour has no place in Islam or Christianity.”