President Obama is correct to characterize efforts against terrorist groups as a struggle against violent extremism and not as a struggle against “Islamic” terrorism. He is correct to deny groups such as Islamic State/Islamic State in the Levant/ Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (IS/ISIL/ISIS) the imprimatur of Islam, to deny them the cover of religion.
Just as words have multiple meanings, groups, individuals, acts, and texts have multiple meanings. Meaning comes not only from what an individual or a group says it is, but meaning also come from what we agree, to what we say: “yes and amen.” When IS says it is Islamic, we can agree to that or we can say no. I say no. President Obama and other world leaders also say no. ISIS is not religious, and it is not Islamic. It is a death-dealing cult of destruction. It deserves no respect. Thus, let us call it by its Arabic name of derision: Daesh. (pronounced daEEsh or dash)
Some people argue that the reason to say “Islamic” terrorism is because to deny the so-called Islamic elements of its ideology would cause misunderstanding and miscalculation in war. It would break an important rule of warfare: “Know the enemy.” I say it is possible to know the ideological goals of Daesh while demonstrating how its ideology falls short of the goals of Islam and is not religion.
Let us consider the meaning of Islam – submission to the will of God. The Koran refers to God as the Most Gracious, Most Merciful Master of the Day of Judgment. Thus, Islam is submission to a gracious and merciful God. The concept of radical means extreme, basic, the root of the thing, so radical, extreme Islam would require an extreme, basic submission to a God of grace and mercy. Too often we use the term radical as a synonym for violent. Further, in Islam, Jesus is a revered prophet whose teachings ought to be obeyed. So Muslims, like Christians, have an obligation to love one’s enemies, to turn the other cheek, and to go the extra mile. So to refer to Daesh and other terrorist groups as Islamic is to insult Islam. To even refer to Daesh as religious is a mistake.
by: Jacob Klein on February 12th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
The news that three young people – Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha – were killed Tuesday near University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is finally making its way into the mainstream press following social media outcry over an initial silence on the evening news and in local newspapers.
We must take action in memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha so Islamophobic violence like the Chapel Hill shooting doesn't happen again. Credit: Our Three Winners (www.facebook.com/ourthreewinners).
The media’s slow response to this tragic loss – something that would otherwise be all over the 24-hour news cycle – is a painful reminder of how racism and Islamophobia distort reporting on crimes like these. This wasn’t a favored story because the victims were Muslim, and because their alleged killer is a white man.
Most sources that have reported on the Chapel Hill Shooting, as it’s come to be called, make mention of a parking dispute as a potential cause for the killings. Some highlight this more than others, a Fox Nation post going as far as to say in the headline that “Parking dispute, not bias, triggered triple murder.”
However factual the parking dispute may be, how does it come to pass that neighbors disagreeing over parking turns into an execution-style murder spree? Police have reported that all three were shot in the head, an act that undermines potential arguments of a heated fight. And according to some reports, gunshots may have numbered up to ten.
It’s been almost two weeks since terrorists entered the offices of a satirical magazine in Paris and killed more than a dozen in the name of Islam, allegedly to avenge the insulting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Two weeks of anger, confusion, heartache and a loud cacophony of voices. Two weeks of Muslims being asked to condemn the terrorists, asked to condemn ISIS and Al- Qaeda, asked to prove that we stand with freedom of speech and not violence and terrorism. It’s an old, tired subject that we have literally beaten to death, yet we continue.
by: Huma Munir on January 12th, 2015 | Comments Off
The Liwa-e-Ahmadiyya is the flag of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Credit: Creative Commons / Ceddyfresse
During my second year of college in New Jersey, another Muslim student stopped me in a hallway and said Ahmadis can never be Muslims. He told me if he had his way, he would make sure everyone converted to the ‘true’ Islam.
For those unaware, the members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community are persecuted in different parts of the Islamic world for their beliefs. Many clerics in Islamic nations believe that Ahmadi Muslims are a threat to their brand of Islam because millions have joined the Community since its inception in 1889.
In countries like Pakistan, where I am from, Ahmadis face government sanctioned persecution because the government itself declared them non-Muslims in 1974. Hundreds of Ahmadi Muslims have been targeted and killed because of this state-sponsored persecution.
by: Juan Cole on January 12th, 2015 | Comments Off
Originally published on Informed Comment
When American commentators like Carl Bernstein complain that Muslim authorities have not sufficiently denounced the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris, they show a profound ignorance of the current situation in the Middle East.
The fact is that both governments of Muslim-majority countries and the chief religious institutions have been engaged in a vigorous war on religious extremism for some time.
Egypt has gone too far in this direction, criminalizing the activist members of the Muslim Brotherhood. But it is also committing troops to fight extremists in Sinai. Egyptian acquaintances of mine in Cairo say that it has become unpleasant to wear a beard there (for long a sign of religious commitment).
Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke to an audience of clerics at the Department of Religious Endowments a few days ago. He made waves by denouncing terrorism among Muslims, and said it wasn’t right for the rest of the world to be afraid of 1.5 billion Muslims. He pointedly insisted that the al-Azhar clerics do something about this stain on the honor of Islam, implying that they were not effectively combating extremist ideas. He called for a new sort of “religious discourse” and a “new revolution” to combat extremism.
This morning I woke up unaware of the ordeal hundreds had endured overnight while I slept. Terrorists had entered a school in Peshawar and killed more than a hundred innocent children while my own safely dreamed in their soft beds. My Twitter feed alerted me to the calamity that had befallen the land of my birth, and the rest of the day was spent in a strange kind of agony. How many of us sleep safely in our beds without a thought for those who are killing and being killed in other parts of the world? Perhaps we have become immune to the suffering of others because that’s the only way to survive the mental and emotional stress of living in a violent and cruel world.
by: Metis on December 11th, 2014 | Comments Off
Credit: Creative Commons/ Haifeez
Some years ago my hijab wearing friend was approached by an older woman in Melbourne and told to “go back home”; there was no place for her in Australia. My friend is Caucasian Australian. She was at home!
Earlier this year I was making small talk with an acquaintance, a hijab wearing Indian Muslim woman, as I waited for my pizza order. She asked me what I was doing these days. I told her that I was comparing two major tafasir (exegesis or explanation of Quranic verses) on women’s issues and collecting various interpretations for verse 4:34 of the Quran. Without a moment’s thought she said, “Oh, wow Mashallah! I didn’t know you’d be interested in something like that, I mean I’d understand if a woman with hijab did that!”
So when I read this article, American Hijab: Why My Scarf is a Sociopolitical Statement, Not a Symbol of My Religiosity, it perplexed me.
I am very happy that the author wrote this article because I’m old enough to see the shift in clothing symbols for Muslims pre and post 9/11. I was born Muslim in the West, in a world when Muslim majority countries were more secular than religious and grew up in the pre 9/11 time when Islam was being revived so I see post 9/11 world through the eyes of an older adult who has experience of what it was like before it.
by: Huma Munir on December 8th, 2014 | 9 Comments »
Thomas Friedman wrote a recent article for the New York Times in which he extensively quoted a Muslim turned Christian Arab activist, Brother Rachid.
According to Rachid, President Barack Obama should stop being “politically correct” and label Islam as an extremist religion that promotes the views of ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab. After all, he says, they are all “made in Islam.”
To add a sense of credibility to his claims, Rachid says he was born in a Muslim household and knows first-hand that the teachings of the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) support extremism.
As a Muslim, I fail to understand how Rachid’s view of Islam became so skewed because the Islam I know teaches the opposite of what he describes. I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community that preaches love for all, hatred for none. The Holy Quran I follow equates the killing of one person to the killing of the entire mankind (5:32). It forbids compulsion in religion and admonishes human beings from creating disorder on Earth (2:256; 7:57).
The same Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) Rachid labels as a supporter of violence said that mankind should suffer no loss at the hands or tongue of a Muslim.
The teachings of the Prophet of Islam and the Islamic scripture seem to be in direct contradiction to mass executions and beheadings ISIS and other extremist groups are responsible for.
by: Ro Waseem on December 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
After I published “15 Progressive Islamic Pages You Should Really Check Out” a couple of weeks ago, I came to observe that there is a somewhat skewed understanding of what “Progressive Islam” really is. People who had come across this particular flavor of Islam for the first time deemed it to be a movement to “Westernize” or “Modernize” Classical Islam, and that Classical Islam and Progressive Islam are completely at odds with each other. This hasty conclusion, if I may call it that, lead to some negative feedback – so I thought it pertinent to address this topic to break some stereotypes & generalizations.
They laid his body in the street, in a row with other dead bodies. He was not dressed all in black as he had been dressed on the video where he beheaded an American. He wore street clothes, and his face was naked, visible, recognizable, not wrapped in black. At this place, at this moment, he was just another in a long line of dead bodies stretching from this 21st century Syrian city to the beginning of human history. No breath, no heartbeat, no sign of life, except that his mind was alive. His eyes refused to close, and he could see. He could see the blue cloudless sky, but he could only see up since he could not move his eyes or turn his head.
The men laying the dead in rows tried to close his eyes, but they could not. The dead executioner had no way of communicating that he was alive. He could hear and smell and feel. His skin burned in the sun and hurt. He heard the screams and the lamentations of women mourning the dead. The wailing women called on Allah for mercy and for revenge. Their tears streamed down their faces carving a path through the dust on their cheeks. He could not see their tears but he felt every tear as a drop of fire on his skin. He wanted to scream, but he could not. His vocal cords could not vibrate, still he could feel the pain of every tear, every lamentation.
The bodies were soon to be moved to a mass grave. “I’m alive,” he shouted inside himself. Creation heard no sound. He could not blink, so dust grated against his eyeballs. His own tears were dry, creating another kind of pain. So he concentrated on the blue sky above him, a refuge, and a calming friendly presence. Then he saw a thin silver line, a vertical line from the earth to the sky to somewhere beyond. He was not aware of the tradition that on Halloween, all Hallows Eve, the Day of Death, the silver thread that divides the living from the dead appears and disappears. The dead come back. They return for a reckoning. Suddenly the sky burst in flames and a series of images emerged, the first of which was a headless horseman riding from the sky fire straight toward him. He wanted to run, but he could not move. “I am alive,” he thundered to the Cosmos inside himself.
The headless horseman spoke one word. “Think.”