Source: The National
ABU DHABI // The majority of young Arab Muslims in the region view extremist groups as a perversion of Islam’s teachings, according to a recent study.
They believed that repressive governments and foreign occupation were major reasons for people joining the ranks of the militants.
The Tabah Foundation interviewed 5,374 Muslims from the UAE, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for the study on young people’s perceptions of religion and related issues.
Most interviewees said that faith had an important role to play in the future of their countries and that the government should ensure that religious discourse does not incite hatred or violence.
Most of the interviewees said it was important to them that they be known as Muslims, but they found it hard to preserve their religious identity in modern society.
More than seven in 10 of the UAE’s 527 Emirati and Arab expatriate interviewees said they felt tensions between the temptations of society and preserving their Muslim identity and practice.
Hessa Al Ketbi, a 30-year-old mother of two from Abu Dhabi, said she never had a problem preserving her Muslim faith. “However, I do have a huge problem with preserving our traditions and costumes by our own people,” she said.
Arabs had been “carried away” by the desire to be modern in a westernised manner, with little understanding of who they are and what they represent, said Ms Al Ketbi.
Mahra Al Mansouri, a 25-year-old Emirati who is pursuing a master’s degree, disagreed. “It is not difficult to identify as a Muslim and many countries, especially in the Gulf, are taking social and political stances based on Islamic teachings,” she said.
Most of the study’s respondents said extremist groups such as ISIL and Al Qaeda were a complete perversion of Islam and were “mostly wrong but sometimes raise ideas I agree with”.
They said they believed that young people were driven to join the militants because of corrupt governments and extremist religious teachings. Palestinian respondents said foreign occupation was the number one reason.
According to respondents who said they believed that the extremist groups were “mostly right” or “not a perversion of Islam”, those who joined the militants believed that these groups represented the truth or because they were seeking adventure.
Ms Al Mansouri said some young Muslims were lost and unable to find answers to help them to fully understand the fast-changing world and the ongoing wars.
“In most cases, these youths believe that extremism is right because they are brainwashed by other individuals and wish to find a goal in life which they believe they will find in jihad and war,” she said.
“They are not guided through proper education and attention from the right groups.”
Mrs Al Ketbi, however, said that people were responsible for the extreme actions that they took.
“Earth is not created for fighting and killing and then going to the heavens. That is absurd. The purpose of humanity on Earth is to live and prosper in all ways of life,” she said.
The notion that “religion is a major cause of decline in the social, political and economic realms in the Arab world” was rejected by young people from seven countries, the study showed. Only Palestinians said religion was a cause of decline.