By Preeth Vijay
April 8, 2016
“The Search For A Scapegoat Is The Easiest Of All Hunting Expeditions.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower
It’s a stalemate that’s caused a lot of grief, pandemonium and too many unjustified deaths. It’s a stalemate powered by atrocities and a lack of perspective on both sides. It’s a stalemate that is, unsurprisingly, prolonged and augmented by politics.
I’m talking about no other stalemate than that between the United States and the adherents of radical Islam. In the United States, we know those people right now as ISIS, but they’re also al-Qaida, Hamas, Boko Haram and al-Shabab.
The distinction I’ve made here is very important. With the recent attacks in Brussels that claimed the lives of at least 35 people and wounded 300 more, as well as Paris, Charlie Hebdo and all the other tragic attacks before them, the line between “radicals” and “Islam” seems to get blurred. In our anger and frustration to make sense of the chaos, it’s common to scapegoat all of Islam and its 1.6 billion adherents for the actions of a loud, angry few, simply because it supplies an easy answer for our questions.
For some, I know I must sound like a broken record. You’ve most likely heard so many people talk about this before, but that does not make it any less important. The majority of Muslims in the United States and around the world disapprove of terrorists, and the larger Muslim community often issues Fatwas (religious edicts) that condemn suicide bombings, the killing of civilians and other acts of violence.
It’s important to separate fact from the fiction you may hear from politicians, biased news programs or even your next-door neighbour. Around 7 percent of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are considered radical according to multiple news sources. And according to a 2014 report by CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, of that 7 percent, only between 0.00076 percent and 0.00095 percent (85,000 to 106,000 people) take radical actions.
Historically, we’ve seen much bigger threats: During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries could assemble a ready force of 6 million troops to attack the West. Also, the vast majority of these extremists are primarily focused on local affairs in their countries instead of actively conspiring against the United States or Europe.
If not all Muslims are the problem, then one might say, “There has to be something inherent to the religion that makes Muslims so likely to commit acts of terror.” But this is not true, either. Islam is actually a religion of peace. One of the Prophet Muhammad’s most important goals in revealing the Quran was to end the kind of bloodshed that Islamic terrorists commit today, as that bloodshed was rampant all throughout pre-Islamic Arabia. Essentially, Muhammad brought peace to the previously war-torn Arabian Peninsula single-handedly, and he did so through a campaign of nonviolence and the creation of a peaceful coalition of tribes.
While many verses of the Quran deal with war, the onlywars permitted by the Quran are ones of self-defence. The Quran considers war to be evil, but sometimes necessary to prevent persecution or maintain decent values.
British author Karen Armstrong explained how the Quran condemns spreading Islam through violence in an article for Time following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, writing, "The Quran insists, 'There must be no coercion in matters of faith!' (2: 256). Constantly Muslims are enjoined to respect Jews and Christians, the 'People of the Book,' who worship the same God. (29: 46)."
A misunderstood definition of “jihad” is another common justification used by Islamic terrorists; however, “jihad” is not a true pillar of Islam and its foremost meaning is “struggle,” not “holy war.”
Armstrong wrote how jihad “refers to the difficult effort that is needed to put God's will into practice at every level — personal and social as well as political.”
An important quote from Muhammad shared throughout the Muslim community is when he and his followers return from a battle and he says, “We are returning from the lesser jihad (the battle) to the greater jihad.”
There’s a wealth of history on this topic, and there are aspects I haven’t even covered, such as the fundamentalist rise across all religions as they attempt to stay relevant in a world that is becoming more and more secular. Islamic fundamentalism appears to be the most impassioned of these, and understanding what Islam truly is versus its narrow-minded radical interpretations shows Islamic terrorism for what it truly is: a gross misrepresentation of an otherwise ordinary religion that has historically seen as much violence, corruption and other vile acts as Christianity, Judaism or most other major religions.
Muslims are peaceful people following a peaceful religion, and while there are Muslims who sympathize with groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, such support stems from their own radical political beliefs and religious interpretations. But radical views are not unique to Islam. Every country or faith’s people have radical beliefs; it just so happens that in our modern world, the radicals who make the biggest waves are Islamic terrorists.
Abdelrahman al-Rashid, the managing director of the Arab news channel Al Arabiya, said in a 2004 editorial for BBC News where he attacked the radical perversion of Islam, “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.”
It’s imperative that we do not let tragedies like Paris or Brussels become skewed into the fear-mongering and xenophobic propaganda they so often turn into. We need to rise above that kind of simplistic and hateful thinking. It prevails with the masses, sure, and as I said above, it quenches our aggravation in the pursuit of answers, but it’s not that simple.
After the attacks in Brussels, Secretary of State John Kerry said about ISIS, “We will not be intimidated, we will not be deterred, and we will come back with greater resolve with greater strength and we will not rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of this Earth.”
That is something we should all wholeheartedly agree with. Let’s just make sure that we’re waging that war against the right people.