We are reposting an article excerpt with permission from MuslimMatters: “Muslim Scholars–West’s Natural Allies in Fighting Scourge of Terrorists” by Tawfique Chowdhury, the director-general of Mercy Mission and AlKauthar Institute. The full post is here on MuslimMatters, with interesting past conversations on this topic in the comments section. Please leave a comment here in the post below if you wish to continue this conversation here on Inside Islam.
Muslim Scholars-West’s Natural Allies in Fighting the Scourge of Terrorism
Ladies and Gentlemen, hundreds of years before the anti-terrorism policies of the West, approximately 1400 years ago, Muslims were fighting the intellectual battles that terrorism presented in the battle between the Khawarij of the past and companions of the Prophet.
This continued throughout the ages – where independent Muslim scholars presented the best defense against distorted terrorist ideologies. Today, this is also seen in the manner in which Saudi Arabia has tackled their terrorism problems by putting independent credible Muslim scholars at the forefront in the intellectual battle for disproving terrorism. By equating these Muslim scholars representing orthodox Islam with religious extremism, the war on terror will lose its greatest ally in this long drawn saga.
If we make a search for the causes of extremism and terrorism, some suggestions come to light, such as social injustice or terrorist ideation or political disenfranchisement. But not all people who suffer from these disillusionments become terrorists. The stronger argument is that these conditions are merely the fertile plain, but the common pathway or the motivating context for raising terrorists is through ideological persuasion. It is this ideological distortion that is the cause of extremism and violence perpetrated in the name of Islam, and it is best tackled by those who are the most qualified to deal with it.
The best strategy for prevention is to dismantle terrorist ideologies using the same Quran and the same narrations of the prophet that are misunderstood by them. This is a task that can only be accomplished by established independent credible Muslim scholars. The war on terror therefore is as much a war on ignorance and misguidance, as much as it is a war against the terrorists themselves. Modern anti terrorism strategies need to do more to tackle the greatest draw card for extremism – that of the terrorist ideology. This is an intellectual academic war before it is a battle with bullets and bombs. Who better to fight the war than Muslim scholars who:
- Speak the language and refer to the same evidences and jurisprudential sources
- Those who understand the textual distortions that led to extremist ideology
- Those who can dismantle the misunderstanding and the deviated logic
- Who are themselves pinnacles of goodness and mercy to all men and women – whether Muslim or not.
- Those who uphold the common shared values that both the Islamic and Western civilizations agree to.
- Those who appreciate that we can all live together with understanding and tolerance.
To illustrate my point, allow me to share with you the example of 2 simple arguments frequently used by terrorists to justify their deviation:
- For example, how would you respond to a young man who says – how can I be a good citizen of a country that is one of the very nations committing acts of violence in Muslim lands? They continue: Rather, their participation in the wars on Muslim lands is a testament to the fact that we are in a situation of war with them.
- So how could we address this?
- What could we do to refute this mistaken argument?
- Who better to argue this than Muslim scholars who can tackle this on the same grounds?
- Another example, how would you respond to an extremist that says – you want us to integrate, but how can I integrate with a society that has so many social ills? Rather, the people of vices were destroyed by God, so should those of today.
- So who better to address this argument than through Muslim scholars?
- Who better to clarify the correct way to view this matter?
If this is clear, then I propose a more proactive collaborative strategy for dealing with extremist ideology.
I propose that Muslim scholars that are credible in the eyes of mainstream Muslim populations – and not only those scholars who come from a particular viewpoint – be used to educate the masses. Our anti terrorism strategy should be to build – theological resilience within the Muslim youth. Such a clear focused program would develop the necessary firmness in susceptible sections of the community towards distorted ideology. There is therefore a deep need for establishing a concerted medium for education that aims to build this inner resilience in our people.
I suggest the countering of media hostilities against mainstream Muslim organizations, since it plays directly into the hands of extremists and makes the moral position of these same organizations that are proactive in fighting terrorism – all the more difficult. I suggest the formation of a concerted marketing campaign to help push out the key messages of independent Muslim scholars to the vulnerable sections of society. Since the war on terror has been a very visual and digitally laid campaign, the best way to counter this is with a profile based marketing campaign that gets the right message to the right person at the right time. A mass media campaign to general Muslim public would not be very successful since 99% of the Muslim population is not interested in terrorism and not directly drawn to it. It should be targeted at the most vulnerable sections of society. With modern technology at our disposal these days, we can ensure that proactive positive messages can reach the right people.
I suggest that a strategy be developed to engage the average Muslim towards becoming proactive participants in their community. This can be achieved through an emphasis on knowledge followed by a focus on engaging them in their local problems. A person that has ownership of their society and community will never act in contravention of that trust. I call for the support of grass roots Muslim organizations that are proactively working to build ownership of community issues.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Islam is a religion of peace and enough is history – world history over the past 1000 years a proof of this fact. Terrorism and extremism is not a result of attachment to Islam, rather it is entirely due to a long seated detachment from it! The earlier that we realize this point, the better we can all prepare to cooperate and collaborate in making this world a safer place for us and our children.
I thank God for this opportunity to share these words with you and my deepest regrets for any inconveniences for the delay in my arrival.
AlKauthar Institute and Mercy Mission
3rd December 2008