Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The Dilemma of Eradicating Extremism | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Promoting Nazi ideology in France, Germany and a number of European countries is considered a crime punishable by law. This is not because opposing ideas are prohibited, but rather because this ideology in particular threatens social peace and encourages discrimination. There are those who believe that the promotion of extreme Islamist ideology such as that followed by ISIS and Al-Qaeda is no less dangerous than Nazi ideology, and that it must be classified in the category of ideologies that are forbidden to promote. However, some intellectuals and politicians fear that radical Islamic thought and the religion Islam would get mixed up. We must not forget that Muslims themselves are the main victims of extremism.

The question is, how can we differentiate between extremist ideology which pushes a person to run over people because he considers them infidels, and Islam, the religion that is followed by a billion people around the world? In theory, the difference is obvious; all those who study doctrines that accuse others of infidelity, and promote the harming of those who don’t believe in or implement them, can be considered extremists who must be punished. In practice, it is unreasonable to consider someone who has not yet committed a crime a criminal who can be punished.

Each time a heinous crime is committed, pressure increases on politicians and legislators to make laws allowing the pursuit of Muslim extremists, and restricting the construction of schools and mosques. The French President Francois Hollande supported the decision to strip citizenship or not grant it to anyone involved in terrorist acts or anyone who is linked to them. However, he later retreated after studying the situation and laws.

It is expected that people will once again demand that extremists are pursued instead of waiting for them to commit crimes and arresting them thereafter. Politicians will not be able to refuse, especially after heinous terrorist crimes have been committed and the world saw the corpses of bystanders that had been run over by a terrorist in the French city of Nice. This is not the first crime of its kind; another terrorist ran over 11 passers-by in the French city of Dijon two years ago.

In a society afflicted with terrorism, such as France’s today, it is natural that angry feelings are expressed, especially by the majority who do not differentiate between Muslims and extremists, and will not accept anything less than the issuance of laws related to pursuing terrorism in general.

The question is puzzling; how do you distinguish between what is permissible and forbidden to teach and preach among Muslims in order to isolate the extremists and their ideas and fortify the Muslim majority and protect all of society? Islamic intellectuals are required to present projects of Islam that call for peace and accept co-existence that is based upon the Qura’n and the prophetic tradition.

Many people have authored books and studies on moderation in Islam. However, these works have not been turned into educational and cultural projects that are compulsory for all in core curricula. The reason for this is a lack of plans for change and rectification.

All measures that have been taken in the name of reforming the education curricula and mosques in the past have prohibited anything clearly calling for extremism and hostility against others. However, an Islamic alternative proposal that fortifies people against extremist ideology that is promoted outside mosques and schools has not been presented to them.

Islam actually preaches good morals such as compassion for the weak, kindness to people, helping the needy, and forbids murder, injustice and treachery.

However, with the rise of extremist religious thought, preachers of religious parties are encouraging Muslims to clash with non-Muslims and are branding moderate Muslims infidels.

They have succeeded in building an extreme approach that has overpowered the moderate interpretation of Islam. We can see the results of this among terrorist organisations or the masses who believe that extremists are expressing true Islam and defend it.

Millions of innocent Muslims will pay the price for the brutal attack in Nice and any other attacks that may follow it. They will be restrained and unfairly categorised as long as no one comes forward to show the difference between Muslims and extremists.