Islamism and the Cult of Violence

By Dr Salim Ibrahim:

I believe getting clear on the issue of religion and all that is associated with it, is imperative, not only due to the difference which religion makes to the lives of people and our understanding of the universe, no matter how unscientific its explanations are, but for purposes of conceptual clarity.

It is important that we know what actions religion prescribes, and what actions it proscribes. Apparently no version of Islam promotes, sanctions or justifies violence, except the perverted form of Islam, which is pursued by terrorist groups, such as ISIS. This group proclaims itself to be an Islamic entity, but whether or not there is anything Islamic about groups of such nature, is a matter of where Islam stands when it comes to the civil way of life, i.e. where Islam stands in regard to religious freedoms, individual liberty, issues of violence committed against people due to their religious differences or their unwillingness to succumb to the Islamic way of life or due to the challenges they pose to the validity of Islamic claims. It is this which Muslim scholars should clarify and it is this where they should draw a line between what Islam is, and what it is not, so real Islam stands out, so people know what real Islam is.

Even though I do not wish to lump together violence with any religion, the latest terrorist attacks and terrorist threat of attacks on humanity have made it imperative for scholars and journalists to get clear on the question of Islam and violence. It is especially important in order to refute the connection between Islam and violence. Violence is not and shall neither be inherent in any religion that defines itself as divine and humane, or it is neither divine nor humane. The public discourse is that Islamist extremists have given this image of violence to Islam. Islamism or political Islam is a perverted version of Islam, it is religion redesigned and redefined with a political agenda through terror and violence. It is this version of Islam that has given rise to Muslims being perceived as either an actual or a potential threat to public order.

Taj Mahal Agra India

Taj Mahal

People of Islamic faith are Muslims, as is a person of Islamist faith, at least this is what they call themselves, or what they can be called if we take religion as a hereditary thing, providing that they come from an Islamic background. That is, Islamists are referred to as Muslims too, both holding the same essential Islamic faith, but of different paths and principles. Islamists are known to have pursued the path of violence in order to advance the Islamic way of life. It is this path which detracts from the real value of Islam as a religion of self-attributed virtues of peace and good, and it is this path that needs to be declared non-Islamic and non-religious, something that requires a central authority within Islam which does not exist yet, due to its divisive paths and principles.

The war on terror shall not only be the pursuit of bad guys, but eradicating ideas that promote or justify violence. We should contain these extreme ideas and prevent terrorist diaspora. Furthermore, we should reform undemocratic political systems which host these extreme versions of Islam in the Middle East, tackle unemployment, eliminate social injustice and youth despair. Educational institutes, schools, media and academics too have a responsibility to raise social awareness as to how we should live and what the good way of living is like, instilling the spirit of respect to human life and the feeling of responsibility to common good, building hope and tolerance in the minds and hearts of the youth, neutralizing the cult that glamorizes and glorifies violence. This is in addition to the sweeping reforms which Islam needs to bring about to the substance and its way of religious teaching, embracing modernity and adapting itself with the modern world. It is the failure of Islam to appropriately adapt and respond to the constantly changing social and scientific world, which accounts for these extreme versions of Islam, causing this destruction and violence.

This way, in the presence of tolerant and peaceful religions, people can live together in peace and be happy with one another, no matter how different their religious beliefs are.

Dr Salim Ibrahim is a Kurdish academic who writes on the foundations of civil society, the meaning of life, individualism, and other contemporary matters.

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