Sectarian Violence and the Role of the Muslim Ummah

By Basheer Ahmed M.D., who believes Education, Research and Service to the Humanity is the Greatest Worship

Today the Muslim community is plagued by sectarianism. The majority of murdered Muslims were killed by other Muslims in the name of Islam. The ongoing civil war in Syria is an aggravated version of sectarian violence that has resulted in the death of thousands of people and millions of displaced Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’a. They are now refugees seeking asylum throughout the world. This sectarian dispute has led to the most massive international humanitarian crisis that the world has ever seen. How can anyone expect anybody to believe that Islam is the religion of peace? Because of this crisis, Islam is losing respect and credibility in the world.

The threat of this Islamic divide has now led to escalating violence and the loss of peace and security of many Muslims and the world beyond. The holy Quran stresses the unity of humanity generally on the basis that all human beings are the creatures of God. The holy Quran tells the prophet (pbuh) not to be associated with the beliefs of those who nurture sectarian beliefs and discard such persons or ideas. The Quran says: “Indeed, those who have divided their religion and become sects – you, [O Muhammad], are not [associated] with them in anything. Their affair is only [left] to Allah; then He will inform them about what they used to do.”(Al An ‘am: 159) Muslims have turned the entire Islamic world into a tribal society of the seventh century where warfare and bloodshed were understood to be the only solution of all the problems.

It is impossible to get an entire community of 1.6 billion Muslims to think alike on all issues, but it is possible to have the coexistence of people with different beliefs to live in civilized communities in the world. The major challenge is to persuade people to stop killing one another because they have different interpretations of events in history that took place 1500 yrs ago. We should be cognizant of happenings, changes and challenges in our world, and specifically in today’s Muslim world. We should learn from the experiences of our Christian brothers who faced similar sectarian induced atrocities until a few hundred years ago. We know the Middle East’s rulers are not making things any better. They are not interested in any effort to close the divide. In fact, they are the ones solely responsible for the surge in sectarian violence.

Fortunately, we are not seeing a surge of Sectarianism in the United States. However, this menace is spreading into Europe and the rest of the world. Today, the media has a great influence on people. Young Muslims are learning more about Islam from the media, and unfortunately our Imams are not addressing this issue of Sectarianism and the violence affecting the Muslim communities. The silence of community leaders on the dangers of sectarianism and the resulting death and destruction in our birth countries is deafening. It should be our common cause of concern. It is difficult to accept that sectarianism within our own faith exists. And it is even more difficult to convince people that someone from another school of thought is still our equal in faith.

We should be proactive. We should not wait until our youth become fanatics. We must ignore the political events which led to these conflicts. We must teach our children to develop harmonious relationships and to give dignity and respect to each other. We must accept responsibility to stop this bloodshed and promote peace among Muslims so that they are better equipped to cope with even the biggest menace -ISLAMOPHOBIA.
The Muslim world is in disarray and in a human crisis stage. Still, this is not the time to engage in blame games or focus on sectarian differences. We simply cannot afford to ignore the severity of the current state of affairs. Today, it is imperative that we build bridges. Despite all of our differences and divides, we should respect and tolerate one another. All of us have a responsibility to reject extremist interpretations and its associated political agenda. This is the challenge we need to face and be ready to take action.

“Verily never will God change the condition of people until they change it themselves” Qur’an 13:11

As we mentioned above, the critics of Islam point out that the most violence, the most killings, the most bombings, and an overall lack of peace is in Muslim countries. Even though Muslims vehemently insist that Islam is a religion of peace, we know that these violent practices are contrary to the teachings of Islam. But publicly it is impossible to equate Islam with peace when the very countries that are supposedly practicing Islam have this level of violence. It is therefore incumbent upon Muslim leaders to do what they can locally while thinking globally to ensure that, at least within our own circles, we unite to counter this violence, making it a model for other communities and the countries to follow suit.

We established an Organization Institute of Quranic Knowledge and inter/intrafaith Religious Acceptance(IQRA) to start a dialogue with community leaders of the Islamic faith, irrespective of their being Sunni or Shia or any other minority sect. The purpose of these dialogues is not theological debate; rather, it is a discussion of how as leaders we can relay to our followers that violence between the sects is counter-productive for all involved. Once we have created this model, we can only hope that others will replicate it on a global level.

If you believe the Mission of this Organization please join us in our efforts. For further information please contact Basheer Ahmed, M.D. at mbahmed05@yahoo.com

Categories: The Muslim Times

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