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Interview: Islam & Terrorism

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Islamic Articles - Contemporary Issues

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For this months issue, the Advent Editorial Team interviews one of AIM’s Religious Advisors; Sayyid Nabil Al-Haidari. Sayyid Al-Haidari has for many years been active in lecturing and research on various topics associated with Islamic affairs. He is at present monitoring the current state of affairs of the Muslim community in the wake of new terrorist attacks in the West and is an advocate of building stronger relations between different faiths. In this interview, the Advent has questioned Sayyid Al-Haidari on the relationship of Islam with terrorism.

We all know that Muslims condemn terrorism; however there remains some who try to use the Qur’an as a source for legitimizing their terrorist activities. What is the stand of the Qur’an on terrorism?


The Qur’an contains many verses that can be interpreted in different ways. Unfortunately, there are extremist groups who have selected verses and interpret them in a way that suites the mentality of the terrorists and justifies their activities. These verses which they often use, speak of specific cases, with specific conditions during the time of the Prophet. Therefore, these verses do not convey a generic meaning, and are abused and mishandled by some, for their own political gains. In addition, these extremist groups neglect the numerous verses which preach love, peace, prosperity and so on, which are far more generic in their meanings. Such as the saying of Allah in the Qur’an: “Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of (your) religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice.” [60:8] It is due to the peaceful and love abiding nature of Islam, that many people convert daily to this religion and it is possibly the fastest growing religion in the world today.

Do you agree that the Muslim community needs to make more effort in uprooting terrorism?


There is no doubt that there is a responsibility on the Muslim community to be more firm handed because these extreme groups harm us all, in particular Islam and the Muslims. When these groups decided to carryout their attacks they did not differentiate between Muslims and others; they simply killed innocent people. Islam teaches that every individual has a responsibility to safeguard himself and all those around him. All efforts must be made to tackle these problems and guide those who have gone astray. It is essential for the Mosques to take more responsibility in making sure that the youth in their congregation do not fall prey to these extremist groups. It is unfortunate that some of the Imams of our Mosques do not have enough awareness and education to guide the congregation, in particular simple things like the English language is often lacking. A lot of them are unaware of the laws and lifestyle in this country and assume they are still living in their country of origin. It is therefore vital that the whole Muslim community works together to solve these pending problems. We need to set goals and try to achieve them in the long run so that we may see improvements in the near future insha’Allah.

Why do you think some Muslim youth become extremists?


Firstly, we must point out that these youth you speak of are a tiny minority and it is very unfair to generalize this matter. In addition, these people who become extremists generally belong to one particular sect which the overwhelming majority of Muslims do not agree with. This sect is of Wahhabi or Salafi tendencies, who often declare other Muslims as disbelievers based simply on a disagreement in viewpoints. In the past we have seen their applications used in the Taliban who killed thousands of Muslims for very futile reasons. In particular, the Shia Muslims in Afghanistan, who are called Hazara, were victimized and ethnically cleansed simply because they belonged to a different sect. This is the mentality of the Wahhabi tendency that we have to be aware of and need to tackle strongly. Unfortunately, some of the youth who do not have a firm background and are generally uneducated, have taken on these tendencies and use them for political gains. They live in a very fixed and limited environment that does not allow them to reach out and understand the world around them. In addition, there are some clerics who feed these youth with unfounded claims that inspire these youth to commit suicide. These youth are usually uneducated and from simple families who are given promises of paradise in return for becoming  a ‘martyr’ without questioning why these clerics or their families who give such promises do not likewise become ‘martyrs’ for the cause.

Why are these terrorists attacking the West?

It’s not only the West. Terrorism is a worldwide threat and has killed more Muslims than non-Muslims. It is a frequent happening in Iraq today and these attacks specifically target Shia Muslims who are innocent and are simply targeted because they happen to be Shia. These attacks often kill women and children and show no mercy between young and old. These attacks also happen in other countries around the world like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania and Kenya. The question should ask; why are these terrorists attacking the world.

Do you think there is a relationship between Western foreign policy and terrorist activities?

Generally speaking, the Western foreign policy has a lot of double standards. Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kashmir to name a few are dealt with in a complacent manner; and this ultimately affects the Muslim general opinion on those Western countries that carry these policies. When Western countries support dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world against the Muslim people, it creates a backlash against the West. Especially, when after some years these same countries return to make war in order to clear up the mess they once started. This gives an opportunity for extremist groups and clerics to use such complacent policies of the West in their advantage to rally support for their views. Ultimately, this fuels the youth with reasons to become extreme. So yes, in my opinion there is a relationship between the foreign policy of the west and the terrorist activities that are prevalent in the world today.

What is your opinion on the Media coverage with regards to Islamic issues?

With all honesty, the media has oppressed us Muslims by misrepresenting us in an alarming fashion. The individuals who are often featured on our TV screens as Muslim clerics are usually of a small minority who are extreme and it is as if these represent us Muslims. In Britain, there are close to 2 million Muslims and yet the most famous clerics are extremist and have a tiny following amongst the community, such as the likes of the notorious Omar Bakri or Abu Qutada. This is a complete misrepresentation of the Muslim community on behalf of the media, which is very unfair and creates much animosity between Muslims and the wider public, because the image of the Muslims to the general public has been tarnished by the likes of these extremists. In many ways the media is helping the extremists against the mainstream Muslim community.

Almost on a daily basis we hear news of terrorist activities coming from the Muslim world. Do you not think that terrorism has a strong connection with the Muslim mentality?

Firstly, it should be mentioned that terrorism has been around for a very longtime and predates Islam itself. This is because in all war there is also terror. In addition, in today’s world we see many activities that include terror which are not related to Muslims, such as the IRA in Northern Ireland, ETA in Spain, the Oklahoma bombing, the killing of occupying Israeli Prime Minister Isaac Rabin and many other situations. There is also need to mention the numerous incidents of state terror such as the first and second world wars which at the peak resulted in the Atomic bomb which was dropped on Japanese soil in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on behalf of the American administration. Therefore, the terrorist activities around the world are many, and one can note that none of them are attributed to religion, so it is unjust to relate the activities of a minority of extreme Muslims to Islam which is a religion adhered to by more than 1.3 billion people around the world.

What is the solution to the problem of terrorism?

I believe there needs to be more stress on dialogue between different civilizations. In addition, there must be more emphasis on the promoting of non-violence, peace, equality and world harmony. In particular the promotion of respect for others, for no race is superior to another. When the Prophet Muhammed (p) was asked: “What is religion?” he famously replied: “Religion is but love.” In addition, Imam Ali (p) said: “People are of two kinds; either your brother in faith, or your equal in creation.” I also think it is necessary for us to academically research the roots and causes of terrorism in order to tackle the problem, because one can not solve a problem unless he understands the causes of it.

Source: http://www.aimislam.com/advent

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