SHAFAQNA exclusive report: Muslim Voices – Breaking the silence against extremism and terrorism

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SHAFAQNA- Ever since France came face to face with radicalism this January, voices across Europe and the western world have called on Muslims to denounce terror radicals, arguing that since extremists claimed themselves Muslims, the Muslim community shared in the responsibility of their crimes.

But there lies a dangerous analogy. Muslims and Islam cannot share in the blame of a handful of “illuminated” psychopaths because those men and women are not of Islam. They might claim to be, but that does not make it so.

On this point all Muslim scholars and clerics agree – terrorism was not born in Islam, it is an apostasy, a lie fomented to destroy the sanctity of Islam and wield as a weapon against the Muslim Ummah.

After all, terror continues to wage a cruel and brutal war against Muslims across the world. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have suffered by the hands of terror, millions were displaced by its black army. Millions have mourned and cried the loss of a loved-one — a mother, a father, a son, a daughter…

And yet,  even though the Islamic Ummah has paid with its blood and with its tears, the world demands that it shares in the blame of an ideology which it rejects.

Extremism and Islam do not sit on the same plane, actually they are antithetical. Radicalism is  a negation of everything which is Islam.

And while Muslims should not feel obligated to defend and justify their faith, an overwhelming number of them have however felt compelled to stand against radicalism, just as they would any other form of tyranny.

To better illustrate Muslims’ rejection of extremism and terror Shafaqna gathered reactions, interviews and commentaries from across Europe and North America, hoping to demonstrate that Muslim values are universally and inherently peaceful.

Of course Muslims are not alone in their rejection of violence, tyranny and bloodshed; for before evil all men, women and child stand in similar opposition, regardless of one’s faith or ethnicity. If anything, terror has united all manner of folks.

So what are radicalism and extremism? What do those concepts represent, and how do people position themselves against it?

Speaking of western leaders’ calls for Muslims to address extremism and radicalism, Tariq Ramadan stressed that while Islam should never be pinpointed as the root cause of terror, Muslims should all work together to defeat and denounce extremism as a religious heresy.

He said, “Muslims need to ensure that Islam does not become a weapon in those who wish to pervert its message. Faced with legitimate fears, Western Muslims can not simply minimize or avoid questions. It is urgent that they develop a critical discourse that rejects victimhood and denounce radicalism in all its forms.”

He added, “What the jihadi extremists are doing is hateful and anti-Islamic. Mistreating Christians and removing crosses from churches is a clear betrayal of Islamic principles. These men, supposedly acting in the name of Islam, must be confronted, first, by the Muslims from around the world, determined to denounce them (and those who control them), condemn their behaviour and resist their actions, in the very name of Islam. This is our dignity, this is our duty.

And, of course, we must also condemn what they do to their fellow Muslims and all the people of other faith, without exception.

In the United States, one organization has been most vocal about its stance against radicalism – Free Muslims Coalition, a not-for-profit organization which aims is to denounce and oppose terror in all it forms.

“The organization is made up of American Muslims and Arabs of all backgrounds who feel that religious violence and terrorism have not been fully rejected by the Muslim community in the post 9-11 era.

The Free Muslims Coalition was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts,” said the Free Muslims Coalition.

Kamal Nawash, President of Free Muslims Coalition explained how his organization is working to promote interfaith tolerance and understanding, urging Muslims to stand by and stand for religious minorities against terror militants.

He noted, “The last 10 years have not been easy for Arab & Middle Eastern Christians. Numerous events, including the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Israel’s continuous killing of Palestinians with the perceived support of the United States, have inspired the belief that the “Christian West” has declared war on the Muslims of the Middle East. Unfortunately, some radical Muslims have attacked Christian Arabs in retaliation for America and the West’s attacks on majority Muslim nations. Most notably, churches have been attacked in Egypt, Iraq and Syria by extremists who now view their Christian countrymen with suspicion because they share the same religion as the West.”

He added, “The relationship between Arab Christians and Muslims has not always been tense. In fact, the history of Christian/Muslim relations in the Arab world has been historically remarkable and beneficial for the entire world. In the early days of Islam, Arab and Middle Eastern Christians translated scholarly Greek philosophy and religious work into Arabic. This helped propel the Muslim nations into a global power with advances in science, mathematics, astronomy, and arts while Europe was blinded by the dark ages.”

Countless Muslims, have bravely spoken out against terrorism, yet their voices failed to reach western media. For example, a group of Moroccans posted a video on the internet in late 2014 where they declared that terrorist organizations like ISIS, Jabhat Al Nusra or Al Qaeda, don’t represent them. The name of the video is titled “Not in my name” and includes Moroccan men and women from all age groups. It was translated into English by MEMRI.

In the video, a young man declared, “Torturing the innocent is barbarism.” Another young man states, “Our religion commands us to help one another,” while still another one stresses, “Islam is freedom and respect.” Even little boys participate, declaring, “Islam is the religion of my forefathers. Islam is good conduct and moral values.” A little girl emphasizes, “Islam means to love one another.” An old woman wearing a hijab proclaims, “Islam is a religion that requires good conduct in practice.” It concludes with a young man stating, “The youth say no to terrorism.”

A group of British Muslims performed a similar “Not in my name” campaign to take a stand against terrorism perpetrated by radical Islamists and posted their statements to YouTube. A British Muslim woman wearing a hijab proclaimed: “ISIS does not represent Islam or any Muslim. We must all unite together and try to stop this group from damaging Islam and damaging Muslims because my religion promotes tolerance for women and you have no respect for women.” Another British Muslim accused ISIS of being un-Islamic, because they kill innocent people. Still another one proclaimed that their Caliphate does not represent the Umma, while another one emphasized that what ISIS is doing is inhumane.

Only this week a young British-Yemeni published a video on YouTube in which she denounces extremism by underscoring their betrayal of Islamic values and principles.  (see video at the end of the report)

But Muslims are not alone in their opposition of radicalims and where western mainstream media have been quick to align Islam with radicalism, not all have fallen victim to such prejudice. Many are those who understand that extremism knows no religion and hails from no religion.

Shafaqna asked members of the public what they thought.

Michel Harris from London (Doctor) – “I’m a practicing Catholic and it is clear to me that radicals ahev used Islam as a political tool and a powerful weapon to justify their rampage across the Middle East. Religion is never ever the problem, men and ideologies always are.”

Rebecca Levy from Brighton (Sale representative) – “I’m a Jew and while my people have a complicated history with Islam, it is evident that radicals are serving an ideology which is divorced from Islam. Every faith has suffered from extremism … Christianity, Judaism … everywhere men have tried to distort religions to make it fit a particular agenda. We should all respect one another.”

Niala Shah from Birmingham (Law student) – “I’m a Muslim and I categorically reject any form of extremism. By definition terror and radicalism can never be linked to religion … Such concepts stand in opposition of religion. Islam is peaceful. Islam teaches to respect the people of the book (Christians and Jews) therefore radicals have acted outside Islam.”

By Catherine Shakdam

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