Rescuing Authentic and Peace-Loving Islam from the Hijacking of Violent Religious Extremism

Islam has been falsely portrayed as 'violent and non-compatible with life in 'secular' democracies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Factually speaking, the current global terrorism that is presently sponsored by so-called “Islamist” extremists and violent “jihadists” are targeted towards both the non-Muslims and the Muslims alike. Muslims who do not adhere to the extremists’ violent ideology are considered enemies of this so-called “Islamist” extremists. Religious extremists have killed thousands and thousands of innocent lives, both Muslims and non-Muslims without conscience and without humane compassion. These extremists are hijacking the basic tenets of the peaceful and universal religion of Islam and seek to destroy its 1,443 glorious years of cosmopolitan, multicultural, pluralistic and tolerant Islamicate civilization.

We need to move away from Samuel Huntington’s skewed and erroneous scenario of “clash of civilizations” between non-Muslims and Muslims since these different terrorist groups of so-called “Islamist extremists” and violent jihadists do not represent the peace-loving religion of Islam as presented in the Qur’an and in the exemplary conduct of the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad. Terrorists are simply terrorists and they do not represent the religion they self-identify with; no matter how these terrorists vehemently declare themselves as protectors of these religions. Religious extremism of all types is an enemy to all peace-loving human beings. Truthfully speaking, so-called “religious” terrorists have no religion since their murderous actions strongly belie their own self-identification to belong to a particular religion.

Religious extremism, specifically the so-called “Islamist” type has a naïve, simplistic and violent-prone bifurcated worldview. Religious extremists partition the world into “Dar-ul-Islam” (Realm of Islam) and “Dar-ul-Harb” (Realm of War) in which there is unending conflict between these two realms. However, in their terroristic acts, even the so-called Realm of Islam is likewise the domain of the extremists’ commission of murder, violence and wanton destruction. Innocent civilian Muslims living in Islamic countries are not immune from attacks by violent extremism. Observing news depicting terroristic attacks worldwide, one can notice that most of the victims of terroristic attacks done by extremists who call themselves mujahidins (jihadists) were innocent Muslim civilians in predominantly Muslim countries.

Many violent religious extremist and jihadist groups justify their attacks on Muslims in predominantly Islamic countries by saying that these Muslims have become kafirs (unbelievers) and the government as well as leaders of these countries are purveyors of kufr (apostasy) since these regimes in these Muslim countries do not adhere to the violent-prone ideology of these religious extremists. This is why religious terrorists target progressive, secular and socialist leaders of Islamic countries who adhere to a view of Islam that is peace-loving, cosmopolitan, pluralistic, inclusive and tolerant: the genuine Islam of the Qur’an and the practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

It is really very sad to note that religious extremists and jihadists have threatened to destroy the wholesome fabric of Islamic civilization and the cosmopolitanism characterizing the tolerant and diversified Islamicate heritage of worldwide Muslims. These violent religious extremists are destroying the enlightened classical Sunni Islamic civilization famous in world history for its culture of synthesis, universal education, progressive pioneering of development in the sciences, literature, mathematics, philosophy and arts, as well as its advocacy of pluralism and tolerance. These extremist groups have totally thrown-out the regulative Qur’anic principles governing just and defensive warfare, the peace-loving Islamic ethics and the Islamic civilization’s history of tolerance and toleration. These violent extremist groups who claim to be Muslims victimize the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims by committing terroristic acts against innocent Muslim civilians in many Muslim countries who do not subscribe to religious violence and terrorism.

The true goal of any authentic faith-tradition is ultimately geared towards universality, tolerance, amity and harmony. Authentic religion awakens in its adherents the feelings of well-wishing and goodwill towards other human beings. Its exponents strive peacefully to pass on the truth that they have discovered for the benefit of their fellow humans. Such religion, far from causing harm to society, becomes a driving force towards ethical and social development of all humanity if utilized for beneficial ends (Cf. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, The Age of Peace. New Delhi: Good Word Books, 2015; pp.1-26.). 

It is therefore a very urgent task for the Islamic World and for global Muslims to undertake proper information and educational campaign as to the genuine and pristine teachings of Islam by making use of the independent media on a full scale in order to make people aware of the fact that this violent interpretation of Islam—as capitalized by both extremist groups and by Western mainstream media in describing the terroristic activities of so-called Islamic extremists—is absolutely devoid of basis either in the Qur’an or in the examples (As-Sunnah) set by the Prophet Muhammad. As opposed to this misinterpretation, the true values of authentic and peaceful Islam, based on global amity, universal fraternity, goodwill and sincere well-wishing for one-and-all should be presented to the general public by the international independent media, the academe, religious scholars, clergies and international peace advocates. 

By Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu –

Edited for space by The Islamic Post