Political Leaders Encouraging Islamic Extremism

I live in a land where my right-wing political leaders openly and unabashedly encourage the Muslim population to hate and kill non-Muslims. They explain that it is my duty to hate and to act violently against non-Muslims until they accept Sharia Law. For those of us that are too weak-hearted or Westernized to do, they assure us that we will come around eventually.

Every major media outlet in my country affords them endless airtime to preach this message of hate.  I’m constantly told by my political leaders that “Islam hates [them]” and that it is an Islamic imperative to wage “civilizational Jihad” against the West. Even some of the religious leaders on the Right have been so explict as to say that Islam is at war with the world.  The message of hate that seemed pervasive in the Islamic State now seems to be inundating my country as well.

Meanwhile, the voices that preach peace, forbearance, patience, civility, and patriotism are rarely heard. The radial, religious-political firebrands in my country command too much control to allow these messages of peace to be heard. Their voices of anger and hate drown out the voices of sympathy, while claiming that the voices of anger speak representatively of Muslims and these voices of peace do not.

So I’ve turned off the TV. I don’t have cable. I don’t watch CNN, FoxNews, or MSNBC. I’m tired of being told that it is my duty to kill and murder. When I stay away from watching the news, I can focus more on the general peace that my Muslim community enjoys with our surrounding non-Muslim community. I can more clearly hear my local religious leaders, at every mosque across the country I’ve ever attended, ever, continue to explain, with proofs from the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, that Islam seeks peace, even when there is fighting, and that if there is fighting that it is our duty to drive to peace at any possibility and as early as possible. I can focus on the messages from these people that have spent much of their time and energy studying at respected, historical, Islamic institutions, and have lived in the United States for years. I can tune-out these messages from these laymen and politically motivated demagogues in the US and the IS who wish to use anger and discontent as their motivator rather than unity, peace, and compassion.

Just as there are right-wing Constitutionalists that espouse ideas of American governance far outside of the mainstream, who are widely-considered flatly wrong despite their ability to quote historical texts and history, such is the case for far right Islamic (or anti-Islamic) extremists. The fact is clear that most Muslims aren’t at war with anyone except those that are killing them (i.e. extremists). Between every Belgian and Parisian act of terrorism are dozens perpetrated against Muslims by those same perpetrators and ideologies. The solution isn’t as simple as “they need to turn them in.” That would be convenient if we all knew who that person was that ever wanted to commit a murder. It would be convenient if we all knew the tipping point from being angry about a situation and being violent about a situation. Yet, after all of my years of attending the mosque, going to events, talking with and hanging out with a wide range of Muslims, I’ve never had anyone even joke about committing an act of terrorism. While I am only one person, I have no reason to think I am any different from most Muslims or people in general.


In Re: Paris Attacks (part deux)

Whether reading a liberal publication such as The Guardian or a conservative network such as Fox News or Breibart, every post-mass terrorism analysis always includes mentioning that Muslims must denounce the extremists within our communities. I don’t disagree with this statement. However, my issue is that I’ve never heard of these extremists. I think I’ve seen a pretty wide cross section of Muslims in America, from the relatively liberal to the relatively very conservative, and I go to the mosque regularly, and to Islamic classes, and I’ve never even so much heard anyone joke about an act of terrorism, let alone attempt to provide any sort of legitimacy to these actions.

If my experience is average for Muslims, then while we condemn these acts of terrorism in general and when they occur, I don’t know how we can condemn any specific person within our communities because we, or I at least, have never seen or personally heard of anyone openly supporting these actions. Furthermore, I am certain that in this age of mass surveillance, the proper authorities are well aware of anyone that is openly supporting these actions, or is at least attempting to provide any sort of legitimacy. They’re probably more quickly aware of them than we are ourselves.

Now the investigation so far is leaning toward Paris being a pre-planned, well coordinated attack involving outside elements, and not just disenfranchised French minorities. But if it were just disillusioned, angry men, then Muslims are being asked to know something that other groups aren’t able to know for themselves; when someone’s mere discontent is actually leading toward murderous action. While it’s generally easier to think of this in a minority context, this still applies to any other mass shooting, whether in Oregon, or Louisiana, or Connecticut, or South Carolina, or Norway, involving angry white males. Does anyone expect the community of political conservatives to know when one of theirs is getting ready to go on a murder spree?

However, since the preliminary results are pointing to ISIS, what is the Muslim world to do? We’re tired of the bombing campaigns because they’ve proven to be indecisive, leading to a perma-war stasis in every place the US has bombed in the last decade. I would be in favor of a major ground campaign, particularly by the surrounding Sunni Muslim nations, but I doubt that would happen. These countries are no more than lines in the sand. My father is as old as their national history. Given this lack of identity, these nations are fragile; their governments have more interest in maintaining power through suppression than through love of country. Suppress by force and suppress by welfare, as long as the people and society stay stunted in their development. Given that, I doubt they could engage in a major ground offensive without imploding.

It is also this dynamic that causes Muslims to appear hapless. We love being in the West but we don’t condone the endless wars. Nor do we support the inept governments in the Middle East (which is all of them). And we certainly don’t support the likes of ISIS or Al Qaeda, who kill and maim more Muslims, let alone non-Muslims, than any government. Our only viable choice is the only thing I’ve said in this entire blog; alleviating our own ignorance of Islam and Muslim history while also doing the same for the non-Muslims around us.

In Re: Paris Attacks

Paris holds a special place in the hearts and imaginations of seemingly anyone around the world, regardless of faith or background.  For anyone blessed to have been able to visit, let alone multiple times like myself, it is truly a beautiful city; a pleasant place to simply be a tourist or just soak in the environment.

Unfortunately, that juxtaposes against the squalor and hopelessness in the banlieues; the suburban ghettos located around the city where the poor and colored scratch out a living in the margins. This topic alone is worthy of its own school of study in a university. Whether it is the welfare state of France acting as an opiate while those citizens brew in economic discontent, or the idea of “Frenchness” seemingly never evolving to include the one-third of French citizens of North and West African origin for several decades now. Some may say today’s events were inevitable, or at least predictable.

But that shouldn’t be the case. Notwithstanding any of this discontent, if a Muslim really knew what the Quran says about warfare, or the example set by the Prophet Muhammad (saw), then we would know that this living situation, no matter how depressing, or even presumably of the victims being partygoers engaging in whatever sin, is far from meriting a violence and death upon anyone.

Extremists, both pro- and anti-Islam, are quick to point to the portion of the Quran that says to kill the idolaters. But neither group recognizes its context; that the land in question (Mecca) was and is regarded as sacred such that any warfare was forbidden by Arab custom, pagan or not, as well as in Islamic belief.  Yet, inside Mecca, Muslims were being persecuted and tortured and outside of Mecca Muslims were under attack.  Basically, by custom and belief, prior to the verses in question, Muslims could not go on the offensive because their attackers resided in sacred land that was forbidden from attack.

Let’s go further. The first major battle in Islam – the Battle of Badr – was in the context of Muslims attempting to intercept a caravan owned by the Quraish (the primary and most powerful tribe that was attacking the Muslims) in order to regain some of the monetary assets lost when they were forced out of Mecca. The Quraish found out about this, amassed a very large army, met them on the battlefield, and lost. The Battle of Uhud was a sort of rematch that ended in a draw. Then there was the Battle of the Trench, which was a massive attack by essentially all of the non-Muslim tribes across Arabia against the Muslims in Medina.

Badr was a success because so few Muslims beat a force of more than three times its size and better equipped.  Uhud was a lesson to Muslims for losing sight of their real source of victory and motivation – God Almighty, not numbers and material. Then the Battle of the Trench was a victory because 1) the Muslims successfully defended themselves against a massive siege and 2) such a disappointment by the Quraish, despite the overwhelming numbers and coordination, laid the groundwork for the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, which created a peace that lasted for years. It was during that peace that Islam saw its most significant growth. This point is important; Islam saw its significant growth not because of warfare but instead because of the time of peace where Muslims were finally free from persecution.

After that peace treaty was broken by the Quraish, when the Muslims marched upon Mecca, there was no battle. There was surrender. By the law and customs laid out in the Quran and tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), the Muslims had shown a level of civility and mercy that the pagans were not showing. The Islamic rules of engagement were radically different from those of the norm of the day to the point that opposing forces had a large incentive to surrender and survive with their lives, their families, their religion, and their homes. This is well documented by Muslim and non-Muslim historians when Umar conquered Jerusalem and Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem. It is also well documented by all sides of the sheer brutality by the crusaders against all residents of Jerusalem (as in, non-European Christians, as well as Jews and Muslims) when they conquered Jerusalem from the Muslims in between Umar and Saladin.

My long-winded point is that Muslims have rules of engagement as revealed to us in the Quran and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. I am no scholar but it is clear that gunning down anyone in the streets is not within those rules. Whatever frustration there is about any sins and elicit behavior by people in general should be directed to informing people of a better path. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) spent 13 years in an openly hostile environment preaching about the need to worship one, incomparable deity without partners or associates; to raise the status of slaves, women, and the poor; and to remind the rich that any person is only better by piety and actions and not by material well-being.

Most Muslims today do not come close to doing anything to actively engage and send this same message. Also, judging by the appeal of anyone to commit any act of terrorism, or join ISIS, or Al Qaeda, or to even shrug at these events, too many Muslims don’t know or understand our own history.

For anyone reading this, please understand that it’s not Islam that’s leading to these attacks; it’s ignorance. Pro and anti-Muslim extremists are essentially exchanging the same misguided, incomplete notes on what is Islam. Unfortunately, random people, whether it’s Parisians or Syrians or Iraqis or Pakistanis, are paying the price for this ignorance in the form of bullets and bombs.