By: Eyad Abu Shakra
This year’s American International Religious Freedom Report was prepared prior to the tragedy in Mosul, where Christians were forced to flee their homes. However, the report stated that 2013 witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in modern history. “In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents.”
I think there are two factors worth highlighting. The first one is the weakness of global leadership which is capable of resolving what’s become a real crisis threatening several countries’ stability across the world. The second one is the Muslim world’s vision-related crisis. The repercussions of this crisis have begun to emerge either via the rise of desperate extremist movements that kill, destroy and displace in the name of Islam or via the harsh suffering of Muslims from racism coming from other religions and sects. Racists tend to preemptively inflict injustice on Muslims after enemies of Muslims associate the entire religion with terrorism and extremism.
This reminds me of a response I wrote a few years ago to an American journalist who attacked what he called “Islamic terrorism” holding Muslims responsible for it and accusing them of keeping silent over extremism, fanaticism and terrorism.
Back then, I said confronting any form of religious terrorism must be led by moderates in each religion and sect. It must not be led by religious extremists or fanatics from other religions and sects because extremism brings counter extremism while fanaticism brings counter fanaticism and creates excuses for it. I explained to the American journalist that the Western pragmatic mind must not expect the moderate Muslim to support campaigns by extremists of other religions on extremist Muslims. The same goes for any other religious group. For example, I don’t think a liberal Christian will be happy if extremist Muslims or Jews or Buddhists or Hindus attack extremists of his faith, but he will not mind if the attack comes from his fellow moderate Christians who do not act upon a spirit of vengeance.
Extremism, fanaticism and religion are abrasions not monopolized by Muslims as they have existed for centuries. From the 1099 Crusaders’ massacre in Jerusalem to the Spanish inspection courts to the displacement of Muslims and Jews during the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula. In more recent history, there was the Holocaust and the massacre that plagued the Indian subcontinent on the eve of Pakistan’s independence.
Massacres are not exclusive to inter-faith conflict. Between 5,000 and 30,000 protestant Christian Huguenot were killed by armed Catholic groups on Saint Bartholomew Day in 1572 in France. The sectarian battles that marred the Irish Peninsula for decades between Catholics and Protestants are another example.
The language of extremism and fanaticism currently dominates around the world. India, the most populous democracy on the planet elected a prime minister accused of fanaticism and of colluding with extremist Hindus against the Muslim community of the state of Gujarat. The global command crisis, which I previously noted, can also be seen in another big democracy, the United States. It is clear that the retreat practiced by President Barack Obama’s administration has helped set instincts loose encouraging groups and people who do not respect coexistence to take control.
For example, the negative and shameful stance the United States took in Syria has been the best gift to extremists, who hijacked the Syrian revolution. These extremists have turned the revolution into a “Caliphate” project which they understand to be an authority to murder and eliminate others.
The negativity of Washington’s policy is also shown in deceiving itself into thinking that it left Iraq safe and democratic. However we can all see the truth as Iraq is currently ripped by Sunni and Shiite extremist parties while Christians continue to be displaced. The Kurdish minorities are isolated from the blood swamp as they practically established their own independent entity.
The occupied territories in Palestine have always paid a high price for Washington’s negativity towards Israel’s continued settlements and occupation. Washington has abstained from restraining Israeli settlers whom their leaders from the Likud party instigated the necessary conditions for the growth of an extremist Islamic movement that confronts Biblical slogans with Quranic ones, to the dismay of the logic of moderation on both sides.
The lack of leadership shown by Washington and the United Nations has led to an increase of intolerance and resentment all over the world.
This brings us to the second issue. Muslims have no other alternative than to save Islam’s reputation and cultural heritage. Muslims must act to protect their interests from the harm of those who claim to speak in the name of their religion and those who seek to monopolize it. At this point, the Muslims are to blame and the responsibility falls on them.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) currently represents what al-Qaeda stood for in September 2001. Back then, the Muslim world was clear in its condemnation of the September 11 attacks. Al-Nusra Front, which markets itself as less extremist than the ISIS, has not abandoned its pledge of allegiance to al-Qaeda’s central leadership.
All in all, both groups, the ISIS and Al-Nusra, have provided an excuse for the international community to stab the Syrian people’s uprising in the back and to overlook Iran’s aims in the region and the Likud’s crimes in the Palestinian Territories. Let us recall that most of ISIS’s fighting is against the revolutionary movements while Al-Nusra, whether it states it or not, has contributed to the inability to establish liberated zones capable of providing security and basic services.
Yes, Muslims, before anyone else, must take the initiative of confronting extremists from among them and of confirming the reality of tolerant Islam to the world.
The scenes of destruction in Mosul, Aleppo and Gaza eloquently summarize this tragedy.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.
Opinions do not necessarily reflect ARA News’ policy.
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