How Muslims can fight Islamic extremism

Source: Toronto Sun

By Luqman Ahmed

An imam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Canada. He currently works with the Muslim Community in Quebec. 

We woke up Tuesday morning to yet another horrific terrorist attack at the hands of ISIS radicals — this time the target was the airport and a subway station in Brussels. Yet again, we saw countless images of victims and frightened people flood our TV screens and social media feeds.

People around the world were yet again left dumbfounded wondering how and why this is happening. As an imam with the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Canada, I often hear people ask why ISIS carries out these attacks and how are they able to recruit local Muslims? More importantly, why would any sane adult willingly sign up for this cult of death? Why are people becoming radicalized and thereafter carrying out these attacks?

A clear problem has to be acknowledged and addressed within the house of Islam. It is undeniable that a number of clerics and mosques around the world impart an extreme interpretation of Islam to their adherents. This results in radicalization and attraction to groups such as ISIS, al-Qaida and Boko Haram.

The Internet and social media have provided another platform for this propaganda. No direct contact or communication is needed anymore.

While I agree that the aerial bombings and use of force will curb the ability of radicals to conquer more land and influence people, it must be understood that ISIS, at its core, is also an ideological movement that needs to be defeated and dismantled. This is where Canadian Muslims and Muslims worldwide have a leading role to play.

We know that violence and terrorism is often carried out in the name of jihad. If we do not strongly oppose this and shun those clerics preaching it, this problem will not go away.

Equality of women, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion and conscience for all are just some of the fundamental rights that we can reinforce and unite upon to dismiss the propaganda of radicals.

It is also essential that western nations do not support Muslim countries that, sometimes directly or indirectly, aid extremism. Just for the sake of our own economic gains, the human rights abuses of Saudi Arabia and its support of extremist Salafi Islam shouldn’t be ignored. Just because Turkey is an essential part of NATO, it shouldn’t mean that it can use or aid ISIS militants against the Kurds without facing any consequences. Without justice, how can we hope to establish peace?

I was appalled to notice that the hashtag #StopIslam was trending worldwide on Twitter for a number of hours with millions around the world contributing to it. I do not believe that worrying about terrorism at the hands of Muslim extremists is the same thing as Islamophobia. However, blaming over a billion Muslims for these acts of terror is certainly atrocious and potentially very dangerous. Most Muslims do not fall under this category and are themselves frequently targeted and killed by extremists.

This is especially worrisome given the rhetoric we have seen from some leading presidential candidates in the U.S. We have heard calls to completely ban Muslims from entering the country from one candidate and another suggested to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods before they become radicalized.”

While I hope Americans will make the right decision in their national election later this year, I know Muslims at home feel proud that Canadians have repeatedly refused to give into hysteria. We saw this after the Paris tragedy when many came out in support following the arson attack on a Peterborough mosque.

This is important because division and hatred within our own ranks would only help ISIS pursue its goal: to generate hostility between Muslim populations and the broader societies they live in so it can recruit more youth.

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