By Ivan Dobsky -
It's a common refrain: if muslims are so opposed to terrorism, why don't they do something about it? Let's have a look at some of what's going on -- stuff the media has studiously ignored.
First, a bit of context
Like Christianity, Islam is made up of different branches, schools of thought and sects. Imagine sitting down for tea with Martin Luther King, Brian Tamaki, Cardinal Pell, Joseph Kony and Cliff Richard.
More to the point, what do you think about Anders Breivik's claim that he is "100 percent Christian"? His stated goal was to save Christian Europe. Both he and Brenton Tarrant saw themselves as Templars.
No doubt you are thinking that some of the abovementioned people are not 'real' Christians. But there is always some argumentative sod (in this case me) who will reel off names such as:
- Slobodan Milošević's Bosnian Serb army
- The Christian militias in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic
- The Ku Klux Klan
- The Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda
- The Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries that created 'The Troubles' in Ireland
- The Ustaše in Croatia
- The Falangist forces in Spain, Bolivia and Lebanon
All of these murderous groups claim(ed) to be marching under a Christian banner. If you're a Christian yourself, you'll be starting to feel a bit exasperated about all this. "They are not real Christians!!"
That's exactly the way most Muslims feel.
Islam is not being heard
Every time a terrorist attack occurs, the Islamic community makes public statements and issues media releases decrying the event. You'll find millions of these statements online. However, you'll almost never hear them mentioned in the mainstream media.
Here are some other stories you may have missed:
- In 2005 the Council on American-Islamic Relations coordinated the release of a fatwa by 344 American Muslim organizations, mosques, and imams. It stated: "Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram or forbidden—and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not martyrs." (more) In 2016 they also published an open letter in Arabic, signed by more than 120 international scholars of Islam and Muslim leaders, refuting the ideology of ISIS and urging its supporters to repent and "return to the religion of mercy." (more)
- In 2010 the revered scholar Shaykh-ul-Islam, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, issued "The Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings" full text. In it, he demonstrated from the Quran and Sunnah that terrorism and suicide bombings are unjust and evil. It was one of the most extensive anti-terrorism rulings in Islam -- a total condemnation of terrorism, without "any excuses or pretexts". It should be noted that issuing a fatwa is forbidden in Islam without all the necessary learning requirements, and it must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts.
- In 2014 the world's largest independent muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, launched a global campaign against extremism. As part of this, they built a "prevention center" to train Arabic-speaking students to combat jihadist rhetoric. With about 50 million members, Nahdlatul Ulama's stated goal is "to spread messages about a tolerant Islam in their respective countries to curb radicalism, extremism and terrorism". (more)
- In 2017 twenty thousand Ahmadiyya Muslims met in Canada, where they heard why violent extremists have nothing to do with Islam (more). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama is established in more than 200 countries (including New Zealand) and has about 12 million members. It is the fastest growing Islamic group in the world. It has printed millions of books, articles, letters, and flyers condemning religious extremism and violent Jihad. They also host annual peace conferences in around 200 countries. (more here and here)
- In February 2019 Shaikh Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and Pope Francis co-signed "The Declaration of Human Fraternity", agreeing that Christians and Muslims should recognize and respect each other for the good of humanity (full text). This document is hugely significant: two of the most preeminent figures in Christianity and Islam have now jointly resolved to mend hatreds that date back to the Crusades (more)
- You'll find many more statements by Muslims organisations and scholars and political figures from Islamic countries here.
These stories should come as no surprise. After all, the vast majority of victims of terrorist extremism are Muslim (more). It would be pretty weird if they did not want the violence to end. I'd suggest that is also why 78% of Muslim Americans believe military attacks on civilians are never justified. It's a rate that is higher than that for Protestants, Catholics, Jewish people, Mormons and those with no religion. (more)
The far right position
Those on the far right inevitably produce quotes from the Qur'an to show that Islam is inherently violent. Unfortunately, Muslims are forbidden from cherry-picking in this way:
"It is... forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur'an and Hadith teach related to that matter." (more) In other words, they cannot reply in kind. I can, though.
- "You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors." (Holy Qu'ran 2:190)
- "You may also fight them to eliminate oppression, and to worship GOD freely. If they refrain, you shall not aggress; aggression is permitted only against the aggressors." (2:193)
- "O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of satan. He is an outright enemy to you." (2:208)
- "There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned." (2:256)
- "Thus, if they let you be, and do not make war on you, and offer you peace, God does not allow you to harm them" (4:90)
- "Whoever kills a person, unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a person, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (5:32)
- "Surely, those who believe, those who are the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians, - whosoever believed in Allah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (5:69)
- "And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds." (6:108)
- "And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah." (8:61)
- "Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes." (60:8)
- "And feed with food the needy wretch, the orphan and the prisoner, for love of Him (saying) : We feed you, for the sake of Allah only. We wish for no reward nor thanks from you." (76:8-9)
- "To you be your religion, and to me be mine." (109:6)
- "We have appointed a law and a practice for every one of you. Had God willed, He would have made you a single community, but He wanted to test you regarding what has come to you. So compete with each other in doing good. Every one of you will return to God and He will inform you regarding the things about which you differed." (Surat al-Ma’ida:48)
- "God does not forbid you from being good to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. God loves those who are just." (Surat al-Mumtahana:8)
Author and scholar of comparative religion Karen Armstrong is one of leading 'western' authorities on Islam. Here's how she describes the broader situation today, pointing to fundamentalism (across religions) as the central problem:
"Constantly Muslims are enjoined to respect Jews and Christians, the "People of the Book," who worship the same God (29:46). In words quoted by Muhammad in one of his last public sermons, God tells all human beings, "O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another" (49:13) -- not to conquer, convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter but to reach out toward others with intelligence and understanding.
"So why the suicide bombing, the hijacking and the massacre of innocent civilians? Far from being endorsed by the Koran, this killing violates some of its most sacred precepts. But during the 20th century, the militant form of piety often known as fundamentalism erupted in every major religion as a rebellion against modernity. Every fundamentalist movement I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out religion." (more)
Armstrong's point is important. Who is committing brutalities in the name or religion? In the case of Islam, it is fundamentalists movements such as Wahhabism from Salafism (more). They were the driving force behind the 9/11 attack, the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS (more). There is a huge correlation between fundamentalism and ultra-conservatism; this is true of Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Muslims and pagans. If we look across cultures and religions, it is almost always ultra-conservatives and fundamentlists who are behind the trigger.
Sociologist of religion Tex Sample goes one step further. He argues that it is a mistake to refer to a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian as a fundamentalist. He believes that a fundamentalist's fundamentalism is their primary concern, over and above any denomination or faith considerations*.
If he's right, then a white nationalist who wants an ethnostate has more in common with ISIS than they do with Judeo-Christianity. Their position in society and their pathway to radicalisation is probably the same (more). We are talking about people such as Anders Beivik, Brenton Tarant, Dylann Roof, Robert Bowers, John Ausonius, John Houser, John Earnest and Patrick Crusius. If we really want to oppose terrorism then it is our primary job is to reign in these far right fundamentalists.
We find ourselves in exactly the same position as Islam.