When Western leaders warn against terrorism and extremism, there is a mute reference that is usually not uttered out loud: “Muslim”. There is a sinister correlation developing in the psyche of the world – that a huge majority of terrorist acts these days are committed by Muslims. Whether one looks at the events of September 11th, the violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan or even the Iranian nuclear crisis, the root cause appears to be the same – violence in the name of one particular religion. This brings us to a few interesting questions: Is the average Muslim then guilty of a natural inclination to violence? Or are they guilty of turning a blind eye to Islamic terrorism? Most moderate Muslims would answer these questions with a definite ‘No’, although they do not always express themselves as loudly as their radical brethren. But are Moderate Muslims doing enough to condemn and battle radicalization?
The Muslim community is a diverse community marked by political, racial and nationalist differences. While there are loud supporters of religious fundamentalism among them, the huge majority of the community feels outrage against violence of any kind. In this aspect, they are no different from a peace loving Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or Atheist.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that there are too many cases of violence in the name of Islam. As a result, the rest of the world has started to associate ‘Muslims’ with ‘violence’. There is a growing perception that Islam as a religion - preaches violence - and that devout Muslims will do anything in their power– even turn to violence – to protect and perpetuate their religion. This growing perception has affected all Muslims worldwide. Muslims have become the “usual suspects” when it comes to terror and radical violence. There is no question that the violent few that have used this religion as a means to justify violence, have successfully managed to paint and associate an entire people as violent and extreme. But the question that begs to be asked is simple: what are modern Muslims doing to defeat the violent few who use Islam to justify acts of extremism and terrorism?
What is being done?
According to a report issued by Pew Research Center on Muslim American opinion polling, 48 percent of American Muslims believe that Muslim leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremism and terrorism, while 34 percent disagree. The number is much higher amongst US born Muslims at 59 percent as opposed to foreign born Muslims at 43 percent. But nonetheless, the majority of American Muslims feel that much more needs to be done by religious leaders to tackle the issue of extremism and terror. Simply speaking out and condemning such acts, as many Muslims leaders and organizations have done, is just not enough, at least according to the 48% of American Muslims mentioned in the Pew Research Center report.
It is important to point out that according to many modern Muslims who have taken a stand against extremism and terrorism; their actions have been ‘largely ignored by newspapers, television news, radio news and other media outlets’. They claim that the media is bias in its reporting and as a result, the responsibility to curb violence and relay the right information lies not only with the Muslim world but also with the Mass media who must get out of the sensationalist mode and act in a responsible and reliable manner.
There is no doubt that the majority of Muslims worldwide have condemned terrorism time and again. But, the growing issue of terrorism needs much more than simply condemnation. The ideology that pushes young Muslims to commit acts of terrorism is an ideology built on fascinations and false information. Presenting an alternative ideological discourse to counter the ideology of hate and extremism that is hijacking the minds of young individuals is urgent. Modern Muslims must identify and defeat the motivation that leads to radicalization. By doing so, they will be crippling radicals from using religion as a tool to recruit and motivate potential followers.
It is also important to point out that the majority of radicals use holy verses to justify their horrific acts of terrorism and extremism. Therefore, Scholars must do more to point out and explain common misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Holy Text. By not doing so, they are responsible for all actions triggered by misinterpretations of the Holy Book, including the killing of innocent people. Moreover, the right scholarly interpretations of the Holy Text persuades impressionable minds (regardless of religious inclinations) to differentiate between the doer and the religion. When it is clear that violence has no religious sanction or backing, the responsibility is squarely on the individual, and not the religion.
Finally, if anyone is to break this erroneous association of peaceful violent Islam, it must be the educated, peace-loving, forward-thinking moderate Muslim. When the moderate Muslim speaks out and takes action against Islamic fundamentalism, he or she portrays the humane side of Islam, which is quite obfuscated by the sheer amount of violence perpetrated in the name of this religion. Radicals have, for a long time, used religion to justify the killing of thousands of innocent lives, including Muslims worldwide. It is now time to stand up and take proper action to defeat this ideology once and for all.