Friday, October 9, 2015

Ever since This Anti-Muslim Thing Broke Out . . .

. . . I've Been Wondering When the Islamic Community Base Would Respond.

And now a network of religious leaders in the UK,, has risen to the occasion. According to a Guardian UK article by Alexandra Topping, “Imams and Muslim community leaders have launched an online magazine in an effort to counteract “poisonous” views peddled by Islamic State.”

An Imam leads prayers in a mosque; for Shiites an imam is a recognized authority on Islamic theology and law and a spiritual guide. ‘Shiite’ is important, because ISIS is a predominantly Sunni organization and Sunnis and Shiites are deeply split. In any event, it is progress long awaited.

I have for years believed that the traditions of Islamic teachings implored Muslims to act in moderation, in kindness and with justice. As a kid (and into adulthood) in Evanston, Illinois I was fascinated by the nearby Bahai Temple in Wilmette. My religious understandings are fuzzy here, but as I understand it, Bahaism was founded in Iran in the mid eighteen hundreds and incorporates aspects of Christianity and Islam.

At any rate, I couldn’t help but believe that Islam had been hijacked by fundamentalists, just as certain elements of Christianity were (in my view) hijacked by the same extreme groups. It’s a turn toward darkness when any religion gets taken over by extremists.

Back to the Guardian article: “Haqiqah (Reality) aims to show young people tempted by Isis propaganda that the extremist group’s message has no theological basis. It is the work of, a network of religious leaders in the UK.

The frontline for imams in the 21st century is not the pulpit, it is online, on social media, on YouTube, on Twitter,” said the site’s editor, Shaukat Warraich. “There is a perception that Islamic institutions are not doing enough to fight against Isis but this is clearly evidence that imams are coming together to make themselves heard. British imams in particular are saying we are going to take this on.”

One can only hope this move takes root among Imams worldwide and at least opens a discussion in the Muslim communities, both Shiite and Sunni.

According to Qari Asim, senior imam at the Makkah mosque in Leeds, “Any solution to the problem of extremism has to come from the community,” he said. “The Muslim community has suffered more at the hands of these extremists than anyone else. It is not in our interests at all to condone what they are saying, it brings our faith into disrepute, it poisons our young people and it fuels anti-Muslim sentiment.

(Guardian) Writing in the magazine, Mohamed el-Sharkawy, of al-Azhar College of Islamic Studies, says: “Under Daesh [Isis] rule we have seen indiscriminate mass murder (Muslims and non-Muslims), the killing of imams and scholars that exposed them for the irreligious beings they are, the corruption of sacred laws, the destruction of mosques and places of worship, the unjustifiable enslavement of innocent young girls.

Time and time again the Qur’an and the prophetic teachings implore us to act in moderation, to act in kindness and with justice. Nowhere in the Islamic tradition do we see any justification for what Daesh are doing.”

Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon claims to be another ISIS offshoot and their crimes are beyond description.

(Wikipedia) Over two million people have been displaced by the conflict since May 2013. 250,000 have left Nigeria and fled into Cameroon, Chad or Niger. Boko Haram has killed more than 17,000 people since 2009, including over 10,000 in 2014. The group carried out mass abductions including the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in April 2014.

So there’s much work to be done in the majority Muslim world and I certainly only hope it has begun with a dedicated group of British Imams.

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