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Extremism and Militant Ideology

No time should be wasted to empower Muslim communities to reject the culture of fanaticism and to promote moderation.
By Samar Fatany

Religious extremism and militant ideology are the two greatest challenges that the nation of Islam faces today. Researchers believe that Muslim scholars with hard-line views still play a pivotal role in misguiding our youth and allowing them to be easily recruited by militants and terrorist organizations.
Muslim governments have begun a large-scale campaign to address the threat and to expose radicals and fight militants who continue to terrorize innocent Muslims in many parts of the world. However, the campaign remains weak because Muslim scholars of different sects and ideologies are not able to address their differences, and they have failed to promote the genuine message of Islamic tolerance. They need to come up with a stronger narrative to curb the spread of militant Islam and to negate its anti-Islamic views.
In the past, Shariah scholars showed more respect and tolerance for the different schools of thought that have guided Muslims for centuries. Diversity has always enriched the Shariah platform and has not weakened it.
Unfortunately, Shariah experts today remain greatly divided and many of them are intolerant and ultraconservative. There is a dire need for a more tolerant approach to our Islamic teachings. It is really sad how some Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen today remain in conflict and find it difficult to accept the existing diversity. They are out to destroy anyone who does not prescribe to their distorted views.
In Saudi Arabia there are strong voices, such as the Grand Mufti, the Council of Senior Ulema, and various imams of mosques, who have gone on record denouncing the jihadist ideology and extremism, promoting “moderation” and “centrism” and rejecting the Takfiri ideology or the labelling of a Muslim as an infidel or disbeliever. However, there are still others who have maintained an ultraconservative interpretation that divides the world into Muslim and non-Muslim and rejects other sects within Islam. The impact of rejectionist voices remains a major threat in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Muslim world.
No time should be wasted to empower Muslim communities to reject the culture of fanaticism and to promote moderation, tolerance and spirituality. Muslims should be reminded that there is no clergy in Islam. All Muslims are equal before God.
The issue of Takfiri is the main reason behind the intolerance that has spread among many Muslim societies. Many Muslims today don’t feel safe and confident to practice what they believe to be the true principles of their faith. They are afraid to utter something that could be interpreted as blasphemous. Those self-appointed guardians of Islam should understand that only God is the judge of the faithful. Muslims are all required to act according to the five pillars of Islam. In fact it is considered a great sin in Islam to doubt a believer’s faith and label him as a heretic if he declares that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His Prophet (peace be upon him). It is also a great sin to include extremist interpretations of the Qur’an that could impose hardships on Muslims.
There is no compulsion in Islam. Islamic scholars should encourage a strong campaign to save the faithful and declare that Muslims are not at war with other religions and sects.
Councils of senior Islamic scholars across the Muslim world should come up with more effective strategies to confront the menace of extremism that continues to threaten the Muslim world. Many Muslims have been indoctrinated with distorted views; they need direction and an opportunity to live in an enlightened environment. They should be introduced to a more moderate and flexible attitude embracing modernity and progressive thinking. Academic institutions are called upon to monitor the militant literature and distorted interpretations of Islamic texts that have allowed fanaticism to spread.
For a very long time, many Muslims remained passive and did little to stop the fanatics that have gained influence in almost every Muslim country. Today, educated Muslims should be encouraged to speak out and publicly reject radical views that are a threat to peace and global prosperity.
To move Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries forward we need to mobilize all efforts to resolve the ideological crises that have long allowed extremists and terrorists to spread conflicts and destroy the harmony of the Muslim world.
(Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer).