Report reveals how extremists narrowly apply scripture, distort interpretations

Published: Updated:

Islamist extremists narrowly apply scripture and distort interpretations from the mainstream to further their agenda on a regular basis, a new research report has revealed.

The research report says that much of the current counter-narrative literature falls short of competing directly with these distortions.

According to the report – Struggle Over Scripture: Charting the Rift Between Islamist Extremism and Mainstream Islam – released by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, there is a deficiency in evidence-based research into how the ideology that drives this violence warps mainstream religious principles.

ALSO READ: Annihilating extremism is my mission: Head of Saudi-based Muslim World League

The political Islamism practiced by groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, across its use of scripture, scholarship, and content, is far closer to the ideology of violent extremism espoused by ISIS and al-Qaeda, than it is to the religious mainstream, says the report.

Mainstream text

The report says that extremists rely on Hadith considerably more than the mainstream does to justify their theological arguments, largely echoing the relative usage of the Quran across these categories.

It says that the data reveals a 50 percent crossover between the 50 most referenced verses of the two samples. In contrast, there is only a 16 percent and a 14 percent similarity when comparing mainstream content with Islamist texts, respectively.

Violent and apocalyptic Hadith verses are often held up as examples of the Islamic origins of ISIS’ and al-Qaeda’s ideology. It is therefore significant that mainstream use of Hadith is statistically distinct from that of extremists, says the report.

Tracing the schism

In her foreword, Dr Emman El-Badawy, Head of Research, Co-Existence, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, says through its analysis of the use and application of scripture, religious scholarship, and doctrinal concepts, this research traces the schisms and overlaps between mainstream and fringe interpretations of Islamic doctrine and dogma.

ALSO READ: Saudi Crown Prince: ‘Terrorism won’t distort Islam’s peaceful image’

“As the findings for scripture and scholarship also attest, Islamists’ attempts to present themselves as part of the religious mainstream are not borne out by our conceptual analysis”.

“This research also exposes that much of the current counter-narrative literature falls short of competing directly with these distortions, often missing the balance between broad and targeted scriptural rebuttals,” she says.