'Muslims are on the front line against ISIS' - Journalist Shiraz Maher explains impact of Medina bombing

Four security officers have been killed and five others wounded in a suicide attack outside one of Islam's holiest sites

The attack took place close to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Journalist Shiraz Maher has explained why the recent attacks in Medina will have a lasting impact on the Muslim world. 

Four security officers have been killed and five others wounded following a suicide bombing at The Prophet's Mosque, one of the most important sites in Islam. Simultaneous attacks occurred across Saudi Arabia, in the cities of Qatif and Jeddah. 

Maher, who works as a Senior Research Fellow for the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College, London, explained why this attack on Medina will have left Muslims particularly shaken.

"It's a tremendously important site for Muslims - regarded as one of the holiest sites in Islam," he told Julia Hartley-Brewer. "It was the first point where the Prophet Muhammad fled to once he started the message of Islam. 

"Medina became the sanctuary, the base from which the religion spread across the Arabian Peninsula and more broadly. 

"It is where the prophet is buried, and so it's an incredibly important site. 

"And of course, this comes during the month of Ramadan, which is the most holy time of the year for Muslims."

Suspicions about who is responsible are currently focused on Islamic State, who are the culprits behind a number of recent terrorist attacks.

If they announced their responsibility, Maher, the author of Salafi-Jihadism: The History of an Idea, says the timing of the attack will raise further opposition against their "secular views". 

"It will fuel this perception that Islamic State has taken itself beyond any form of normative belief," he added. "Muslims regard the month of Ramadan as a time of penance, they fast, they pray because they believe it's the time when god is most merciful. 

"They [ISIS] have used the opportunity with the huge blast in Baghdad, the bombings in Istanbul, the attacks in Orlando – they've created this notion of Jihad being like an act of worship.

"This really does put this into sharp relief, as you're more likely to die at the hands of an Islamic extremist if you're a Muslim living in the Muslim world. 

"Muslims are really on the front line in the struggle against groups like Islamic State."