MIDDLE EAST

What angered the Al-Azhar sheikh?

Who is responsible for interpreting Islam? How can one deprive extremists and terrorists from the weapon of religion, which they wield at all people including Muslims?

Whose task is this? The obvious and quick answer is clerics, religious scholars, jurists and muftis. We say so considering that the issue is religious and those are the people specialized in religion.

Is this true? I will try and answer this in a while. These questions crossed my mind as I read the comments of Al-Azhar Sheikh Doctor Ahmed al-Tayeb during a conference organized by Al-Azhar on Tuesday. Tayeb said: “Exonerating religion from terrorism is no longer enough.

It is sad to picture the Islamic faith as the fire igniting wars thus leading people to conclude that Islam is behind explosions at metro stations, at the world trade center and at churches in the East and the West. It is both catastrophic and terrifying the manner in which this faith has been understand and this is due to deceitful misinterpretation of religious texts at the hands of a criminal few with a rifle taken on rent.

We are faced with a problem that has historic, social, economic, psychological, media and political dimensions. The religious side is only part of the answer

Mshari al-Thaydi

“Exonerating religions from terrorism is not enough. We must take the initiative and get in touch with the disturbed reality and provide the necessary preparations to end tensions between religious leaders as there are no justifications for them,” Tayeb added.

Tayeb is right that clearing religion from terrorist criminals and extremists – even those who do not carry arms – is no longer enough. Allow me to add, it is also not effective.

Culture of extremism

Is it not enough because of clerics’ little activity in warning of the culture of religious extremism and terrorist rhetoric, which tempt some people to join groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda or the Houthis in Yemen or the Popular Mobilization in Iraq? Or it’s not due to this little activity and few statements but related to their effectiveness and influence? When it comes to Muslims, I think that the point from which we launch this confrontation against terrorism and extremist ideology is wrong.

If your work has a faulty beginning, you will inevitably reach wrong results no matter how active you are. On the level of strategy and wars, it’s said: War is too important a matter to be left to the military. I say addressing extremist religious rhetoric, the father of terrorism, is too important a matter to be left to the clerics and sheikhs alone.

We are faced with a problem that has historic, social, economic, psychological, media and political dimensions. The religious side is only part of the answer. This is another topic, which I may return to later.

The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
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Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.

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Last Update: Thursday, 2 March 2017 KSA 13:20 - GMT 10:20
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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