As we take a look at the latest news, we can see that there is an abundance of violence, slaughter, and bloodshed. How do we begin to explain what is happening, can we attribute this aggression to ignorance, or does it have to do with the opportunistic politicization of most disputes that we are witnessing as of late?
As readers, we are aware that violence has long been a part of society throughout history, especially in modern and contemporary history. However, most of what is written on the issue of violence is merely a description of the phenomenon rather than an in-depth explanation of its causes.
Eighteen years ago, the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in 2006, released a novel entitled ‘Snow,’ which was translated into Arabic. In one of the chapters, the author describes the scene of the killing of a teacher in a café in a Turkish village by an extremist, because the teacher refused to teach a (hijabi) student, which was a decision supported by the state. The extremist took out a pistol and emptied a few bullets into the head of the teacher after forcing him to read a text that said, ‘I am an atheist.’
This narrative describes details reminiscent of the killing of the French teacher Samuel Paty two weeks ago. This indicates that this phenomenon is not new, and it has been a tangible reality in a number of societies for a long time, especially in the last quarter of the last century and the first quarter of this century.
This era has witnessed the spread of Islamist inaccuracies among the common folk. For instance, let us consider the issue of the ‘hijab,’ there is no clear mention describing the hijab in Islamic texts, and there is also no clear punitive text for giving up the hijab.
The hijab has become more of a social tradition and not a religious obligation. This can be noted by the fact that Turkish women wear a hijab in a manner that is entirely different from Afghan women. It is safe to say that it has become highly politicized and used as a symbol by certain political powers that are not necessarily religious.
The hijab has acted as a political statement in past, for instance, it was used as a means of resistance to the rule of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in the seventies, and today, taking off the hijab has become a manifestation of the resistance to the religious rule in Tehran. In the eighties, the hijab was used in Syria as a means of protest against the rule of Hafez al-Assad. I am certain that many will attempt to refute this notion and claim that all Muslim women are in fact obligated to wear a hijab.
Extremism can be defined as the strict unwavering conviction of a group of people who have a certain ‘divine’ political agenda.
This group imposes its beliefs and forces everyone to obey their directives meticulously, and if anyone commits even the tiniest infractions then they are excommunicated and accused of being non-believers. This ignorant and oppressive approach has also been common in the past, and it was either used for religious or secular purposes. Nowadays, people are no longer willing to allow a group of people to take over and claim that they have all the answers and let them call all those who have opposing beliefs heretics that should be killed!
There is a common misconception that Islam is an extremist religion, but this reflects the public’s lack of knowledge in the true values of Islam. Our efforts should be directed towards challenging the way certain beliefs are translated into actions. Recently, we are witnessing major crimes being committed in the name of Islam, like the killings taking place in France. We can say that there is intolerance on both sides, from one end, the freedom of expression for some is infringing on the beliefs of others, while on the other hand, this disrespect of Islamic beliefs is met with violence. Opposing views must be met with rational debates and not with murder!
There is no rational justification for committing such brutal crimes merely due to a difference of opinion. If we look deeper into the heinous crimes committed in France, whether by the Chechen or Tunisian extremists, we can note that they are both young in age and they have very little experience, and certainly a superficial knowledge of the values of Islam. Any impartial book written in any language about Islam and its emergence and development throughout history can demonstrate the exemplary human values that this peaceful religion promotes.
Let us look at the big picture, the emergence of what is known today as "political Islam" is merely an excuse to misuse and exploit Islamic sayings for political purposes. This can be clearly noted upon looking at a number of activities carried out by countries in the past or carried out by other countries today. So, instead of building modern schools and medical facilities for the needy, some countries chose to focus on building religious schools. Countries like Turkey and Iran continued to exploit Islamic sayings to serve their political agendas.
Meanwhile, the "Muslim Brotherhood" movement continued to promote their ideas and carry out isolationist recruitment until it reached a despicable level of extremism, claiming to be the only savior of the Islamic world. Their radical agenda was served due to poor quality education, an abundance of ignorant preachers, and a nefarious exploitation of social media. Furthermore, Western countries driven by political opportunism saw it as a chance to intervene and exploit this chaos to serve their interests.
In light of this complex reality, the main issue we must address at the moment is how some of us violently respond to insults. We must do everything in our power to teach younger generations to contain their anger and avoid resorting to violence and murder.
This article was originally published in, and translated from Annahar Al Arabi.