The terms “Islam” and “Muslims” are now mostly used to designate extremist groups whose crimes have now conquered the reputation of the religion and the people. Limiting “Islam” and “Muslims” to terrorism is certainly unfair. When I wrote yesterday about two concept of two “Islams,” differentiating between moderates and extremists, I did not only intend to correct the term and the image that has been tinted with unfair discrimination and generalization; I did not want us to be dragged behind the propaganda that is being used by regimes and evil groups to justify misconducts in the name of Islam and Muslims. Their radical Islam has nothing to do with our Islam.
Fundamentalist religious concepts have accompanied political confrontations between the Iranian regime and the West. Then, al-Qaeda, ISIS and other groups have copied the Iranians and started promoting the rejection of other communities and reprisal instead of coexistence. They considered that Western or modern issues are meant to attack their sacred past. Ideological cleansing has invaded every aspect of the Iranian life, and gone beyond the borders to infect other countries. Similar to the Maoist Cultural Revolution in China, the Iranian Islamic Revolution initiated a cultural extremist project that intruded Islamic societies and Muslim communities in the West. Islamic movements were founded on this project to copy its extremism.
Cultural extremist project
These groups have undertaken cleansing operations, raising the sword of atonement and intimidating moderate Muslims. They considered the moderates as enemies of the religion. These groups have also fought the regimes that stand in their ways to achieve their ideological and interventionist projects. The majority of Muslims suffered from extremists, and unfortunately, governments have only taken action to fight extremism, when they saw that they are becoming a project that would threaten their existence. Today, there are extremist schools in Islam, calling for war and conflict. There are indeed extremist Muslims who are dangerous to the world; those who deny these facts are either arrogant or ignorant.
If governments had made coexistence part of the education system, extremists would not have found a place for them between us.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
When they point out in the West to “radical Islam”, they mean a regime like the one in Tehran. When they say “terrorist Islam”, they mean organizations like ISIS, the “Muslim Youth Movement” in Somalia or “Ansar al-Sharia” in Libya. They are all terrorist groups and that does not mean that Islam is extremist or radical in general. I admit that radicalism and extremism might be true in the above-mentioned context but I refrain from using these terms to avoid comparison and generalization that can hurt the majority of Muslims that have nothing to do with these organizations and do not even embrace takfiri ideology.
We can say things the other way round; they should not generalize and be unjust to all Muslims. The same applies to us, as we should not defend all the ideas that are used by Islam for political purposes against others.
We will neither defend the Wali al-Faqih Islam in Iran, nor Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Islam in Raqqa, Syria. They exploit issues like the caricatures in Denmark or a satirical magazine in France for their own purposes. They desperately want to mobilize Muslims. There is enough room in the world for believers and non-believers as well as followers of other religions.
Muslims need to believe more in the possibility of co-existing with other religions and their followers because there are 1.5 billion people around the globe coexisting with each other, from Buddhist China to Catholic Brazil. The other reason is that those who suffer from wars and hunger represent the majority of refugees in the world and are in need of shelters and charitable and humanitarian support.
All the above leads me to one last point, which is the most important one. We should not only be aware that we are suffering from these ideological and organizational problems and reject them in general, we should also work on including coexistence as a culture and curriculum taught at all educational levels. If the governments had made coexistence part of the education system, extremists would not have found a place for them between us.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 11, 2017.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed