By Guest columnist Zohaib Zafar, a Brecksville resident, is a student at Davidson College in North Carolina, where he is a member of the Muslim Student Association.
The Islamic world is currently the hotbed of many conflicts that Americans need to become aware of. Yet, this seems increasingly difficult as even our own politicians such as Donald Trump and Gary Johnson cannot identify basic information regarding these conflicts.
Furthermore, the conflict in Syria receives the most media coverage, but much of this coverage is a misrepresentation of the facts. Moreover, many Americans are not even aware of the conflicts in Libya, Yemen and the seemingly never-ending conflicts in Israel and Kashmir. There seems to be an actual theme though. It’s not very hard to remember and easy to understand.
Many of the conflicts in the Islamic world are about who is Muslim and who is not. ISIL will target anyone who is not a Muslim following their own hardline interpretation of Islam. This even includes moderate Sunni Muslims.
In Yemen, the Saudi government is targeting the Houthis simply because they are Shia. This has prompted a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both ISIS and the Saudi regime follow a Wahabi interpretation of Islam. In Iran, the Baha’i who, interestingly enough, do not consider themselves as Muslims are considered a “deviant sect” by the Iranian government. And in Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims have been targeted for nearly a century and currently live in an apartheid state where they cannot vote and are heavily persecuted.
This is not everything. There is sectarian conflict in nearly every country within the Islamic World. Who is a Muslim and who is not is a question that is on the mind of many Muslims. Through the practice of “Takfir,” religious clergy known as mullahs will declare individuals of certain groups as non-Muslim.
Historically, this was no easy task but in modern times, Takfir has become the pastime of the mullah. There are hundreds of different groups within the fold of Islam but currently the largest groups are the Sunni, the Shi’a and the Ahmadiyya. All three groups have essential doctrinal differences.
Until more governments in the Muslim world allow individuals to self-identify and the religious clergy lose their political power, we will only see more sectarian conflict. In other words, killing the families of terrorists or carpet-bombing entire nations will not solve any problems.
For the most part, it is up to individuals to change how they view the so-called “others”. Recently a small breakthrough occurred when the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia declared that only God can determine who is a Muslim.
As a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, which has the unique honor of being declared non-Muslim by every other sect of Islam, I naturally recognize the powers of pluralism and tolerance.
Just like in America, it is necessary for the white majority to recognize the problems that people of color face on a day to day basis, it is necessary for Muslims belonging to the most powerful sects in their respective countries to stand up for their brothers and sisters who are minorities.
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