Source: Huffington Post
Brooks College and Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Grand Valley State University
Immediately after the San Bernardino shootings, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, said, “The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mind-set that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence.” Tahmina Rehman, president of Buffalo’s Women’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, criticized the shootings, noting that those who are truly faithful to the Quran live lives of peace and humility. Roshan Abbassi, an assistant imam at a San Bernardino mosque, said: “We are all against terrorism. … We all want peace.” Saira Khan, the sister of the shooter, said, “I believe that that’s not Islam. Islam condemns killing or hurting of anybody. Any person.”
Let me be clear: Muslims denounce both terrorism and radical Islam. “Moderate” is a misleading modifier for a religion that rejects the killing of innocent people, women and children, old people, and those fleeing combat. And the Quran is clear: there is no compulsion in matters of religion (Al-Baqara: 256).
According to the Quran, war is only for self-defense (Al-Baqarah: 190) and Muslims are instructed not to incite war (Al-Hajj: 39). Abu-Bakr, the first Caliph following Prophet Muhammad’s death, gave these instructions for (defensive) war: “Do not betray or be treacherous or vindictive. Do not mutilate. Do not kill the children, the aged or the women. Do not cut or burn palm trees or fruitful trees. Don’t slay a sheep, a cow or camel except for your food. And you will come across people who confined themselves to worship in hermitages, leave them alone to what they devoted themselves for.”
Let me concede: just as there are perversions of Christianity (the KKK and the Crusades), there are perversions of Islam (ISIS and Al-Qaeda). Each of these perversions can claim legitimation for their views within their Holy Writ and tradition. And, so, such views can claim to be Christian and Islamic. Taken as sacred, such views can inspire followers to unspeakable acts of violence.
But just as followers of Jesus claim (rightly, so it seems to me) that Christianity, properly understood, opposes slavery, most wars, and the wholesale slaughter of Jews and Muslims in the Holy Land, so, too, followers of Muhammad claim (rightly, so it seems to me) that Islam, properly understood, opposes radicalization, offensive warfare and terrorism.
So while it’s not true that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, it’s also not true that ISIS is representative of or is the best understanding of Islam (any more than the KKK is representative of or is the best understanding of Christianity).
Any religious group can rationalize its worst instincts, impulses and fears from within its own religious tradition.
Muslims can and should denounce ISIS’s perverse misappropriation of the Quran and the Hadiths to inspire terrorism.