In his meeting with Saudi diplomats and employees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz stressed on the need to focus on shifting the speech and focal points because the current situation regarding “the international relations”, is affecting the interests of the Saudi Kingdom.
If we observe the most recent events of 2016, we find that the main topic in Europe and America was and still is terrorism, and accordingly, distrusting Muslims in general and young Arab Muslims living in the West in particular. The terrorists who threatened Europe and America fall into two categories: youth of the third generation who came from the west to fight in Syria and Iraq, some of which returned home and undertook terrorist activities.
The second category is represented by individual wolves (as they call them); they were amazed by the violence of ISIS, so they carried out or tried to carry out terrorist acts in their home countries, without the need to go to ISIS and get directions from there.
The security topic has become the obsession of Westerners. Therefore, their concern is not only limited to young bearded men and veiled women, but also includes all Muslims.
One of the leaders of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany came to Lebanon last week. His lecture about the successful experience of the Christian Democratic Union, showed that he is a passionate supporter of Chancellor Merkel. However, when explaining the difficulties that the party is facing in the upcoming elections, he made a mistake – if we may say so – and said that the problem with the one million Syrian refugees received by Merkel is not in their huge number but rather in their different culture! I asked him: There are nearly 3 million Turkish Muslims in Germany and we have never heard you complaining about their cultural differences, and what you meant here is the religious differences? After hesitating, he answered: “None of them has ever been violent, while Arab youth and seniors have carried out violent acts for religious purposes. This is my point of view of course; Right and left wings in Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark, etc, believe that Arab and Muslim immigrants affect employment, and they insist on the distinction and isolation.”
One of the Christian participants said to him: but the percentage of Arab and non-Arab violent persons is trivial, so why do we doubt them according to gender and religion? The lecturer surprised everyone by saying: There is a deep conviction that cannot be mostly explained, stating that religious Arabs might justify violence for the least accurate or delusional sense of injustice or marginalization. Look at the justifications of violent Islamists, justifying their acts with the grievance and violence that occurred back in the time of colonization and when the West took over the world in terms of values and practices: didn’t China and India pass through Western or Western-driven colonization and injustices? So why didn’t those huge Nations do what al-Qaeda or ISIS have done? Thus, we conclude that Muslims and Arabs in particular are violent!
This tragedy or irony can be divided into two parts: the first part is the tendency of the Arabs and Muslims to emigrate to the West at any cost, due to poor economic, political and security conditions in their countries. The second part is that most of the Arab and Islamic regimes repel their people and wish that all citizens immigrate even if that would mean that the regime and its devices would stay alone! For instance, Bashar al-Assad objected on the safe haven that Turkey wants to dedicate for the displaced people and refugees in northern Syria; he considered that it would be a violation of Syria’s sovereignty! Nevertheless, he did not ask himself why millions have fled the country and he did not suggest receiving them again in areas that he controls.
On the contrary, he worked on the displacement of the remaining people in those areas! What is ironically more tragic is that those who want to get rid of the immigrants, who might include terrorists, work with Bashar al-Assad to fight terrorism, although Assad was the one behind the immigration of those poor people to Europe and other countries! Let us go back to the consequences: high doubts in Muslims, and thus, doubting the religion which followers easily resort to random violence. Random violence was previously carried out by the authorities but not in the name of the religion. There are also groups that are not affiliated to the authorities that also carried out random violence such as the Qarmatians and before them, the Kharijites. Scholars used to label this violence as “showing off powers” and they used to reject it. They considered the perpetrators as apostates, fools and bandits.
Hatred and distrust
There is hatred and distrust when it comes to Muslims and Islam. It is worth noting that if a western extremist Christian carried out a violent act, even if it was for religious purposes, as has happened in Denmark, no one would label it as a terrorist but rather a criminal! This is because people are no longer used to violence that is triggered by Christian religious causes. Moreover there is unanimity among religious hierarchies to reject violence no matter the reason. So, will the image get better if intellectual, religious and security thinkers insist on fighting violence as Arabs and Muslims are now doing? This will take a long time because it took us hundreds of years to enlighten and build the modern state, and change communities’ way of life. All of that was for the sole purpose of getting integrated in this era and take part in its civilization and values. All the above are mere debris now in the eyes of the whole world. The initiative must first start with renewing the religious and institutional speech, and renewing its national experience that is highly influential if it succeeds in changing the world’s opinion, by the means of religious and political reforms. However, both the work and the result will relatively take a long time. There are huge and enormous non-violent generations born in Europe and America, suffering from the effects that violence has on Arabs and Muslims.
There is a very long way to go; it is a must but the results cannot be guaranteed, and this is completely normal. It may succeed if we were able to restore the communication between religion and religious institutions, culture and intellectuals, as well as encouraging the merge between communities. All we need is to achieve a transformation of religious, cultural, political and ethical policies!
This article is also available in Arabic.
Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.