Islam and Extremism: Diverse Scholarly Perspectives


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Nowadays, extremist organizations like the Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and others are at the center of some of the bloodiest crises in the world, which makes them a serious threat to peace and stability. To approach this matter from an Islamic standpoint, one must have a sophisticated comprehension of the various scholarly stances. While scholars support inclusive dialogue and reform to address core causes, they also emphasize the significance of differentiating between groups with diverse agendas and using force sparingly. Action against extremism must be consistent with Islamic values of justice, peace, and compassion, and it must not exacerbate or divert attention from more serious challenges.

Since breaking away from al-Qaeda in 2013, the Islamic State (ISIS) has changed the face of jihadist doctrine. In Iraq, Syria, the United States and Libya, it has created a bloody caliphate that has drawn in foreign recruits and carried out atrocities all around the world. IS targets a variety of enemies and blends narratives from anti-imperialist, revolutionary, and sectarian perspectives.

Muslim scholar and jurist, Mufti Menk clarifies the verses from the Quran as some Muslim due to lack of knowledge misinterpret the verses and he concluded by saying,

“Islam is a religion of peace it stands for peace it promotes peace it will mean peace when you practice it you will achieve the peace”

Zakir Naik, a prominent Islamic scholar, vehemently opposes the actions of ISIS, stating,

“We should not say ISIS, we should say AISIS. Because they are anti-Islamic.” He emphasizes his stance against terrorism, asserting, “I am totally against killing any innocent human being.”

Naik urges Muslims not to inadvertently aid the enemies of Islam by associating ISIS with the religion.

Omar Suleiman, echoing a sentiment of humanizing Muslims and rejecting stereotypes, highlights the injustice of portraying all Muslims through the lens of ISIS. He narrates a poignant incident where a woman, a victim of ISIS violence, faces bigotry in the United States, illustrating the complexity of identity and the consequences of oversimplification. Suleiman underscores the unfair portrayal of Muslims, emphasizing that adherence to Islam doesn’t equate to supporting violence or extremism.

Dr. Ammaar Saeed, a reputable American Muslim scholar, strongly opposes associating terrorism with Islam. He refutes the misconception that Islam condemns violence, emphasizing that terrorism springs from personal benefits, not religious doctrine.

Dr Ammaar Saeed categorically rejects the notion of terrorist groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban as representatives of Islam. He emphasizes that their actions contradict Islamic teachings, stating, Dr Saeed asserts that terrorism transcends religion, attributing such acts to personal motivations rather than religious doctrine.

“None of the religions advocate the harming of other human beings, so their actions are not justified. Terrorist groups use name of Islam to cause mischief on earth harming others and yet consider themselves and label as Muslim. The governments should be aware, the actions of harming any human regardless of any religious background, has nothing to do with Islam.”

To battle terrorism, world leaders have unified against ISIS, highlighting the importance of international cooperation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken commended the coalition’s efforts in destroying ISIS in Iraq and Syria, eliminating its leadership, and averting significant attacks, particularly Saudi Arabia’s assistance. In keeping with our common goal of eradicating the ISIS threat and promoting peace, he also emphasized investments in stabilizing freed areas and regional reconstruction.

In January 2023, Christine Abizaid, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), issued a warning to the United States about the threats posed by state sponsors of terrorism, lone wolf terrorists, and international terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and ISIS. To protect the security of the American nation, she emphasized the significance of continuing to be alert against terrorist groups, especially al Qaeda and ISIS.

Combating extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda demands a comprehensive strategy rooted in both scholarly insights and international collaboration. Scholars emphasize understanding diverse motivations and addressing root causes, while world leaders stress the importance of unified action and upholding shared values of justice and peace. Together, we can effectively confront extremism and work towards a safer world.

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