Last Friday (June 26) was indeed a painful and sad day in the month of Ramadan, yet it is no more sufficient to merely express sorrow and abhorrence and call for national unity. As targeting mosques and murdering innocent people continue, all talk may be both useless and meaningless.
Some may link the Al-Sadiq Mosque bombing in Kuwait to the escalating sectarian tensions in the Gulf region—a direct result of the Khomeinist revolution sowing the seeds of extremism only to make us all reap Al-Qaeda’s discourse and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) atrocities.
What happened in Tunisia may, in turn, be attributed to the accumulating bitterness within the country’s hardline religious communities against the era of Habib Bourguiba’s secularism. Such a phenomenon is given credence by the exceptionally high percentage of Tunisian nationals in the ranks of extremist groups fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. In this instance it is worth mentioning, too, the effects of Libya’s chaos and tentacles of extremist current in the Sahara and Sahel.
As for the heinous atrocity committed in France, those still trying to defend it, and interpret crimes like it, may claim that it was a natural negative outcome of cultural alienation, a reaction against religious and racial prejudice, and a case of escapism from an ethnically rejectionist society.
There is little doubt that each of the three crimes committed in the same day across three continents has its own specific traits; however, the common denominator is much more significant and dangerous. Furthermore, it is the main issue while the rest are details. It is up to Muslims – particularly, Arabs – either to ignore the bitter truth and so leave the disease to get worse until it turns fatal, or to admit its existence as a first step to radically treating it.
The three crimes are nothing but parts of a whole. They are examples of criminal actions committed in the name of the “true Islam” for years all over the world, without being firmly encountered, although they are pushing all Muslims in a real war against the whole world.
What is even worse is that the criminals are either intent on provoking such a global war against those they label as the people of the “territory of war” (Dar Al-Harb); or they do not care about how the world would react. With the latter point in mind, it has to be said that the international community is quite capable of exterminating its enemies, but will stop short of that because it follows democratic processes and institutions and respects human rights.
Murdering innocent men and women in Kuwait, Tunisia, and the Isère department in France must not be treated separately from crimes committed by several groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, its Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization, Hezbollah, Abu Al-Fadhl Al-Abbas Brigade, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Taliban, and all other “Islamist,” Sunni and Shi’ite, militant groups operating under the “true Islam” slogan.
What sort of logic makes us believe that our extremism is attractive to others and our insistence on exclusion and elimination may neutralize them?Eyad Abu Shakra
This reminds me of an article written by my friend and colleague Nadim Koteish in which he commented on the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last January, and the Muslim voices condemning it as being “not representative of the true Islam”!
Koteish asked in his brilliant comment: “What is this ‘true Islam’ those condemning crimes committed in the name of Islam are talking about, and where is the post-condemnation confrontation fought by the pro-‘true Islam’ since the demise of the Mu’tazilites that marked the defeat of rationalism in Islam, more than 1100 years ago?”
After giving several examples of crimes committed by extremist Sunnis and Shi’ites, Koteish said: “All perpetrators belonged to this ‘true Islam’ in its details, texts and margins. They belong to discourse and broad jurisprudence. Here is the battleground. The Islamic text itself, whether it is a Quranic text, Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), or Hadeeth (of the Prophet)”
“Murderers are not murdering wantonly, but rather quoting books, religious fatwas (legal opinions) and a long heritage that is an inseparable part of ‘true Islam,’” Koteish said. He added: “They [the murderers] are Muslims in as much as they declare the two attestations, and that no religious authority is courageous enough to update and categorize the requirements that define what being a Muslim is all about. Those murderers are us. They are [representatives of our] religion in its extremist form. They are ‘our true Islam’ taken to its furthest limits. Those [in short] are not out of context.”
I think here is the gist of the matter.
Causality, reaction and counter-reaction
There is a real problem lying at the core of our thinking, and it is engendering our bad actions, and pushing us from a setback to a defeat, and from a defeat to a disaster.
In one way or another, this problem has also contributed to the negative international attitude towards our great causes. Why should the international community agree with our concepts and principles when we disagree with its concepts and principles?
Subsequently, how could we ask it to side with us – from a standpoint of human rights and protection of civilians – when from our midst emerge individuals and gangs that monopolize belief, religion, virtue, legitimacy and patriotism?
What right do we have to call upon the countries of the world to help us and alleviate our suffering when we harm not only our own interests, but also our own people, killing each other and declaring segments of our people apostates or traitors?
What sort of logic makes us believe that our extremism is attractive to others and our insistence on exclusion and elimination may neutralize them?
We simply refuse to understand causality, reaction and counter-reaction! In Iraq, where ISIS frontline is only 50 km from Baghdad, there are 7,000 Sunni Muslims facing execution if Parliament abolishes the requirement of presidential signature; and yet the Iran-backed leadership acts as if there is nothing wrong, with scant regard to potential sectarian consequences!
In Syria, too, where the regime has become nothing but a tiny cog in Iran’s regional wheel, opposition groups are in a race against time to control their hardline elements who until this moment refuse to comprehend that their excesses have extended the life of a regime that has already lost its legitimacy and loyalty of the majority of the country’s population.
And finally, in Lebanon and Yemen, Iran’s well-armed henchmen are driving the two countries to the brink of a sectarian abyss, as Hezbollah and the Houthis are presenting themselves to Washington as the avant-garde of its war against Sunni “takfirists” in their ISIS and Al-Qaeda versions. By doing so they seem oblivious to the inevitable bloody reactions which we have seen and continue to see everywhere, including the Gulf states that have long been the last bastion of moderation and stability in the Middle East.
The time for excuses and apologies has long gone; and what we need now is radical solutions.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat in June, 2015.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.