In a lecture at the University of Washington, a professor provided multiple justifications for the current worldwide surge in extremism and terrorism. For instance, he claims that it is a hostile reaction to modernity and Western lifestyles that attack conservative cultures. Another justification can be attributed to the marginalization of millions of young individuals, which forces them to express their psychological frustration by resorting to extremism.
And finally, he cited the classical justification that explains the surge of extremism as a response to Western and American imperialism in particular.
All these shaky justifications serve extremists and give them what they want on a silver platter. Extremists can use these justifications for mobilizing and stirring up millions of young Muslims by playing on their feelings and emphasizing that they are isolated and alienated in a world that does not belong to them.
They can even claim that they are being subjected to a relentless crusade targeting their religion and culture. These are all half-baked justifications that have been repeated even by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in order to give legitimacy to the criminal actions of his organization.
These dangerous justifications dismiss the fact that the real reason behind current developments lies in the prevailing culture of extremism and hatred that creates mentally disturbed characters, such as “Jihadi John” who was seen in videos beheading his victims.
As a matter of fact, suicide bombers and terrorists have always been clear regarding their motives. Many of them have openly revealed what drove them to commit such heinous acts, which is the elimination of all nonbelievers. This has been the main driver of their extremist ideology, and they never attributed it to modernity or imperialism as Western universities arrogantly claim.
Allow me to point out that admitting that the real cause behind terrorism and violence is extremism does not solve the problem; however, it can be considered the first step towards finding a feasible solution to this complex issue in which history plays a fundamental role.
Just like all other civilizations throughout history, there are always different sides to every story, and it is not surprising to say that there is a bright and a dark side to Islamic history. The bright side speaks of a period of stability, coexistence, tolerance, and enlightened thinking as well as impressive figures including leaders, thinkers, doctors, scholars and poets.
Meanwhile, Islam’s dark history was shaped by extremist preachers, leaders, secularists, and historians driven by corrupt ideologies. Unfortunately, this dark side has overshadowed all the remarkable achievements of the Islamic civilization and erased them from Western minds. New generations have grown up with an inaccurate historical background, which only recalls the dark side of their past.
It is not surprising for these extremists to promote and celebrate Western justifications of the phenomenon of extremism, especially since they have long waged a relentless war on the Islamic and Arab golden age. They have accused celebrated Islamic figures of heresy and deviation, not to mention engaging in character assassination in order to diminish their influence.
Upon examining their motives, we would see that their actions are reasonable and easily justified. These extremists cannot stand to back inspirational figures from Islam’s bright history since that could destroy everything they have worked to achieve.
Muslims have a glorious history of tolerance and enlightenment, and it is our duty to revive and polish this positive image in the minds of younger generations which will enable them to successfully integrate into the modern world, without feeling a sense of guilt or facing identity conflicts.
The aim behind this article is to address the latest commendable measures announced by France to fight extremist associations and centers. All previous measures adopted so far have relied on the same justifications, namely attributing extremism to fear of modernity, and marginalization.
Instead of solving the problem, this has only made matters worse. Instead of witnessing an emergence of Islamic figures influenced by European ideals who are capable of contributing scientifically and intellectually to effectively address the crisis of terrorism, we have come to see preachers, associations and politicians in the largest Western cities that not only promote a culture of hatred and xenophobia, but also badmouth the courageous social and intellectual reforms spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and many other Arab countries.
These dated justifications that were given in the lecture are mere delusions and the real solution lies in getting rid of the culture of extremism, as well as uniting against the political forces that provide extremists with funding to serve their twisted agendas.
On a visit to Sweden with a group of journalists, the imam of a mosque spoke at length about coexistence and how welcome Muslims feel in this hospitable country, but at the end of his speech he poured a small drop of poison into a glass of water, and said: “despite all this, we will remain opponents forever.”
In my opinion, perhaps the most important step to take moving forward is to prevent any poison droplets from infecting the minds of young Muslims.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi Arabian outlet Asharq Al-Awsat.