In the Winter 2015 edition of ONE, we’ve just posted an online exclusive, wherein I look at at some of the challenges facing Muslims as they deal with Islamaphobia spreading through the West:
To be honest, the statement that “Islam is a religion of peace” is seen by many as less and less credible. This is not simply due to prejudices in the West, but to the actions of some Muslims themselves. While the West has played a devastating and regrettable role in destabilizing Iraq, in the past 10 years more than a million Christians have suffered; Christians have been killed, their assets have been plundered, and survivors have been forced into exile as refugees by Islamic movements in northwestern Iraq. ISIS’s aim to spread the caliphate around the world characterizes it as a religio-political ideology. Talk of the black flag of ISIS flying over the White House and other Western capitals does nothing to calm xenophobia in Europe and the West. Even paranoids can have real enemies.
Atrocities such as the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the Boko Haram in Nigeria and the recent slaughter of more than a 120 students in Peshawar, Pakistan, by the Taliban all have one thing in common: their actions are done in the name of Islam, using the Quran and the Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad as justification and support. ISIS, Boko Haram and the Taliban are not small, isolated, fanatical splinter groups. They are not connected to Hinduism, Buddhism or any indigenous traditions. Rather, they are large and powerful Islamic movements. Their symbols are taken from Islam as is their supposed legal system. Often enough, their reading of the Quran and the Sunna is not weird or idiosyncratic, but straightforward and literal.
It is clear that many — indeed most — Muslims do not approve of such behavior and do not interpret the Quran in such exclusive and violent ways. Often without recognition from the West, Muslim scholars have done a great deal to counteract the ideology of ISIS. I totally agree with those Muslims who hold that these organizations are acting contrary to the values of Islam. However, it comes across as morally disingenuous to then absolve oneself simply by declaring that these movements are not Islamic. At times, some Muslim responses appear half-hearted — as if to avoid deeper, more disturbing questions. One sometimes gets the impression that the argument is: Because it has done these horrible things, ISIS is not Islamic.