Barbarism has struck Sri Lanka.
The jihadist group Islamic State claimed credit for the attacks on Sri Lanka churches and hotels, which killed 359 on Easter Sunday. Islamic State’s propaganda organ, Amaaq, released a video praising the suicide bombers, as well as a statement detailing the attacks and the names of the "fighters" who allegedly committed them.
The world is in shock. The attacks are the deadliest in the history of Sri Lanka. Its intelligence services were failing. The island, which was just recovering from a long civil war between Hindu terrorists and the Sinhalese Buddhist majority, had not seen the threat of Islamic radicalism. Muslims make up fewer than one out of ten Sri Lankans.
The Arab-Muslim world has an important role to play. Beyond counter-terrorism and police work, there is an ideology to fight. Religious education in all Muslim countries is not free from reproach. It always mixes the Koran with human or tribal prejudices. Jihadism comes in several types: Wahhabi of the Saudi missionaries, the Salafism of the Muslim Brotherhood and smaller variants. All variations share the goal of global conquest, where believers rule unbelievers. This Gordian knot — between true Koranic Islam and jihadism — must be cut if we want to stop future terror strikes.
Jihad’s chief preacher, Youssef al-Qardawi, is the founder and dean of the first University of Islamic Studies and Science, established in Qatar in 1977. His program is "Al-Sharia wa al-hayat" (in English, the way to God and life). This is what he writes: "Islam has twice entered Europe, and twice has left it ... Perhaps the next conquest, with the will of Allah, will be through preaching and ideology. Any land is not necessarily conquered by the sword ... We want an army of preachers and teachers to present Islam in all languages and dialects ... " Note his use of the word “conquest.”
These extremists represent a real threat to the lives of millions of us, Muslims included.
Finally, we should acknowledge that it is logical and legitimate, to return to religion, including Islam. Faith plays an important role in human flourishing.
It is too easy to defend the soft practices of Islam (alms for the poor and so on), when one does not have the courage to denounce barbarism, the attacks. Putting all responsibility on the historical aggression of the West vis-à-vis the Muslim East is nonsense.
The great failure concerns the texts and their interpretation. The refusal of contextualization leads to a fundamental misunderstanding of central Muslim texts. Thus, Jews and Christians are designated as perennial enemies. Whereas the modern world is not one of religious wars, but of interests. Just as the warlike aspect of some of the Koran's suras was very dated, and the context, 14 centuries later, is no longer the same. There is no justification for requiring believers to prepare for war, as they did in the seventh century.
We must reform the conception that Muslims have of their own religion. The corpus is common to all monotheisms. What is history is human and not sacred. The Muslim world is out of touch with the evolutions of the world and it must accept that its texts need to be read with a modern understanding.
The elites, lacking in courage, do not play their part. They accept the taboos made by the radicals and prefer to blame the West for the attacks against it. In reality, they are justifying barbarism, not promoting tolerance.
This fight must be fought on all fronts. The community of all Muslim believers (the Uelema), has the heavy burden of demonstrating that Islam can adapt to our time. Philosophers, professors, politicians, must offer a different perspective to the Muslim world than the adversity of otherness.
We must start by acknowledging an obvious truth: Yes, it is necessary to question the representatives of a religion, who have had magnificent periods in their history, but which today too often justifies violence, suicide, and murder.
Finally, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, are the antidotes available to humanity. We should use them.
Ahmed Charai is a Moroccan Publisher. He sits on the Board of Directors of The Atlantic Council in Washington and International Councillors at The Center for Strategic and International Studies. He's also on the Board of Trustees of the The Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and member of The National Interest’s Advisory Council. Mr. Charai is a Mid-East policy advisor in Washington whose articles have appeared in the major U.S. media. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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