Is political Islam an obstacle to peaceful coexistence?
Muslims all over the world have condemned this terrorist brutality yet the bigoted rhetoric of Islamophobes continues to fuel hatred
News of the brutality of Da’esh (the self-proclaimed ISIS) and the latest discovery of massive graves of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Syria murdered in cold blood is alarming and devastating. What makes it worse is the fact that these atrocities were committed by people who claim to be Muslims and say that their cause is to advance Islam. Can any sane person believe that they have good intentions or have a noble cause?
The Arab and the Muslim world remain the real victims of these atrocities. Muslims all over the world have condemned this terrorist brutality yet the bigoted rhetoric of Islamophobes continues to fuel hatred against Muslims in the West while the frustrations of Muslims over the situation in Iraq and Syria is fueling further rage and mistrust against the war policies of Western superpowers in the region.
Muslim radicals use religion as a political justification to publicize their terrorist propaganda. They have politicized Islam and distorted its teachings to promote their own selfish agendas. Islam is a religion of peace and compassion and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to perfect good manners. Politicizing Islam has distorted its message of peace and compassion. Politics are based on deception and selfish agendas for military and economic gains.
Religious leaders who have politicized Islam claim that they are the true defenders of the faith and that it is their duty to preserve the teachings of Islam. However, in reality what they advocate is contrary to the Islamic principles of peace, mercy and compassion toward mankind. Their distorted ideology is based on bigotry and intolerance.
Although Western media is full of doomsday scenarios for the region and many economists and global experts remain very skeptical, opinion leaders in the Arab world have a responsibility to inspire hope and change for a better futureSamar Fatany
Impediments to peace
Political Islam has no place in our world today as it is an obstacle to peaceful coexistence and an impediment to global prosperity. It has alienated Muslims everywhere and continues to threaten the lives of innocent believers all over the world. Rejectionist voices who maintain a negative stand and impose their ultraconservative interpretations of Islam to gain power are impediments to peace in the region.
Religious leaders failing to overcome theological differences have not been able to provide spiritual grounding to help people hold on to their own religious truths, without disrespecting the religious truths of others. Sound grounding in religious education can help people differentiate between right and wrong, recognize the truth and reject the distortions.
The Kingdom continues its efforts to unite leading religious figures from different sects not only at home but in Yemen, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. However, hardline scholars persistently refuse to accept the other and the threat of sectarianism still prevails.
The Council of Senior Ulema, which represents the consensus of officially recognized senior Islamic scholars, has a responsibility to reject ultraconservative interpretations that influence ongoing divisions between sects. It is critical to preach mutual respect and dignity among all Muslims, denouncing incitement, violence and intolerance. The religious environment can become dangerous when unqualified scholars promote sectarian discord.
Wider acceptance and tolerance of diversity of opinions is the key to our regional prosperity. It remains critical for reformers to engage different religious sects in dialogue to end divisions and establish a commitment to coexistence between all nations.
The silent majority should not remain complacent. It is time to mobilize a moderate front with more commitment and resolve to defeat the evil that has spread like cancer destroying the homes of the innocent and killing their loved ones. The level of frustration among young people is very high due to inadequate opportunities for social mobility and their limited participation in social, cultural, economic and political life.
There is an urgency to promote a viable civil society and to build strong civic institutions to complement economic goals and targets. It is critical to develop a sense of optimism among the Arab masses and promote meaningful change.
The region needs to strengthen the role of NGOs to promote nonviolence and prepare for peace building. Moreover, peace could be achieved if more women were encouraged as decision-making partners in international security assistance programs. They can be agents of change and the driving forces to stabilize an insecure and troubled region.
Although Western media is full of doomsday scenarios for the region and many economists and global experts remain very skeptical, opinion leaders in the Arab world have a responsibility to inspire hope and change for a better future.
The global community can also play a bigger role by initiating a more serious and constructive dialogue with community leaders around the world. This could expose the global enemies of peace and curb the escalating conflicts that exist and continue to be a threat to humanity and global prosperity.
Enough blood has been shed, politicians and religious leaders need to change the direction of existing religious and war policies through peaceful global initiatives and regional social development. There is an urgent need to invest in peace and development to end the global terrorist threat and the raging civil and proxy wars in the Middle East.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Sept. 03, 2016.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”