Muslims Must Condemn Religious Extremists
by Sheila Musaji
I am reading and hearing in the media a barrage of articles and editorials demanding that Muslims take a stand against those who condone or commit acts of violence. I would like to go on record as condemning all religious extremism, bigotry, violence, hatred, and terrorism by both Muslims and non-Muslims. I see no difference between any of these. These merchants of hate no matter what their supposed religious affiliation have more in common with each other than they do with the majority of individuals in their respective religious faiths.
In the aftermath of the Fort Hood Tragedy (which was condemned by every national Muslim organization, as Muslims have condemned all other acts of extremism, violence, and terrorism), there have been many who have attempted to claim that the religion of Islam is the problem, that the Qur’an is the problem, that we are at war with Islam.
The most commonly repeated claims about Muslims are that “everyone knows” that most or all terrorists are Muslims, and there are no Christian and no Jewish terrorists (or terrorists of any other religious stripe). Everyone also knows that Muslims are not equivalent to real Americans, that they are the enemy within, that good Muslims can’t be good Americans, that they are all militant, that Islam is “of the devil”, and an ”evil encroaching on the United States”, and this is a Christian nation, which everyone knows the Muslims are trying to take over, starting with getting an Eid stamp which is the first step towards shariah law. Everyone knows that Muslims are given a pass by the elite media. It’s ”us versus them”, and even those Muslims who do speak up or seem moderate are simply lying or practicing taqiyyah. The problem is that what “everyone knows” is wrong. These self-righteous and incorrect statement are usually followed by a demand that the Muslim community do something about rooting out such criminals from their midst or face the inevitable consequences. NOTE: It is for these reasons that this article focuses primarily on specific non-Muslim examples in order to make it clear that the entire premise of this “only Muslims” argument is false.
I would like to point out that although this “only Muslims” claim has been repeated thousands of times, it simply is not true. How do you explain just the few examples of such acts of violence and terrorism listed at the bottom of this article that were committed by individuals who are not Muslims. Some of these folks attempt a religious justification (holding up their distorted interpretations of Christianity or Judaism or Hinduism, etc. to explain why what they did was right). Whether these criminals use religion to salve their conscience, or whether they tell themselves that they are promoting liberty and democracy, or some other political cause, it doesn’t matter.
As to the claim that Islam is the problem, or that the Qur’an are the only scriptures containing problematic verses that can be variously interpreted, that claim is also false. Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler were reading the same New Testament, Osama bin Laden and Abdul Ghaffar Khan were reading the same Qur’an, Baruch Goldstein and Rabbi Arthur Waskow are reading the same Torah. The truth is you can take opposite messages from every religious book that exists. All scriptures can be abused. People have always done this and will continue to do so.
Sadly, history will repeat itself. There will be future cases of violence, bigotry, even terrorism that will be committed by members of different religious groups, races, nationalities, and political groups. Some of these acts will be carried out by individuals espousing some particular cause, and others will be carried out by psycopaths or mentally ill people. In every case, no matter what their motivation or justification, they will be wrong, and in every case innocent people will suffer.
Our society is whirling down a spiral of violence of which terrorism is the face, that is currently at the front of our minds. There is a growing exploitation by religious extremists, political extremists, nationalist extremists, etc. All of these share a “religious” element in that they are all convinced that they are God’s agents to bring about and enforce their “right” belief on everyone else, and that they, and they alone – know the “right” way. This “religious” element is particularly dangerous because it is devoid of spirituality.
More innocent lives are in danger today than in any previous period of history. The entire world is in danger. We are at the beginning of a new century and a new millenium, and it is possible that we will not complete either without destroying ourselves.
We are in the midst of wars between the different families of Abraham – Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Some of the family members actually define these wars as religiously required. Even worse, there are groups within the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities that are trying to incite and create an all-out war between Islam and “the West.” Such a war would bring misery upon the peoples of all nations. Some of these people believe that the Apocalypse is not a teaching story (about what could happen if we don’t take the heart of our religious teachings seriously) but, a goal to be achieved.
We need to attempt to do something about this tidal wave of violence. We can only do this together. What we need right now is for all Americans to work together to try to understand what we can about what are the red flags that might indicate when individuals holding extremist views about religion, politics, or anything else might be ready to go from expressing those views to acting on them with violence, so that we might find a way to stop them before they act.
Instead of a violent World War III, I would hope to see a Spiritual battle, a battle for hearts and minds. This would be the greatest jihad. In this counter vision of war, the goals would be to see: compassion win the war over anger; forgiveness win the war over revenge; intelligence win the war over passive acceptance; truth win the war over lies; love win the war over hatred; creativity win the war over continuing on a well worn and tired path of endless violence. The only way this can happen is if there is a real coming together of our spiritual brothers and sisters across the globe from heart to heart and spirit to spirit and mind to mind to end the madness of fighting and create a better world.
I know that the examples given below do not represent the ideals upon which America was founded; they do not represent the ideal of Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any other religion; they do not represent humanity. I know that all religious groups are currently experiencing a struggle for the soul of their respective religions, and each faith community needs to whatever possible to combat extremism within their communities. I also know that our nation is experiencing a struggle for the soul of our nation. How we choose to respond to the many current crises facing us including this crisis of senseless violence will say much about who we are as a people. Future generations will read about this time in their history books, and either curse or praise us. We are the ones who must choose how to act and how to respond.
As a Muslim, I will engage in a spiritual jihad against terrorism and extremism in my own community. And, I base this on my understanding of the Qur’an. “Oh you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor, for God can best protect both. Follow not the cravings of your hearts, lest you swerve, and if you distort justice or decline to do justice, verily God is well acquainted with all that you do.” Qur’an 4:135. “If anyone slays a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people.” Qur’an 5:32. “The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree), but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from God, for God loves not those who do wrong. But indeed, if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong done to them, against such there is no cause of blame. The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice. For such there will be a penalty grievous (in the Hereafter). But indeed, if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an affair of great resolution.” Qur’an 42:40-43. “Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune.” Qur’an 41:34-35. “Oh mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (Not that you may despise each other).” 49;13. “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.” 5:48
This article is written in the spirit of improving mutual understanding and respect as the basis for preventing further ‘civilisational clash’ in our already fractured world. It must be noted that I condemn any or all statements of hate or bigotry and any and all acts of violence committed by Muslims unconditionally. In this article I have not listed them in detail as I have been on record, as have many other Muslim individuals and organisations, in reupudiating such behavior as totally antithetical to the principles of Islam.