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Opinion: Moderate Islam is the solution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A general views shows Egyptians visiting Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo’s Islamic quarter during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on June 22, 2015. Al-Azhar mosque, which was developed into one of the oldest Islamic universities, pays special attention to the Koranic sciences and traditions of the Islamic prophet Mohammed and all the modern fields […]

Islam is being associated with the evil we witness around us. People in areas controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are forced to flee and seek refuge from this evil that has befallen them. Islam has been hijacked by an evil group that speaks in the name of Muslims and forces its own religious interpretations on them.

However, religions came for the good of everyone, and for the sake of expelling evil from people’s lives. Islam came as a mercy to people, and it was the persecuted—slaves, the poor, and the vulnerable—who first converted as the religion became well-known in Mecca for its promotion of justice.

But Islam has become politicized during the last three decades. The big transformation began with the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. It expanded after the concept of jihad was introduced in Afghanistan. It expanded further due to the use of religion as a political tool. At this point, extremists emerged and the status of moderates, who were the religious leaders of society, declined.

Even today’s Salafism, which is characterized as a source of extremism and a cause of our current crisis, has nothing to do with the traditional Salafism that in the past dealt with worship and behavior.

As a result of the struggle in the Islamic arena, hardliners dominated over moderates, then extremists dominated over hardliners. We are now in the phase of the ultra-extremists. ISIS represents pure evil, which previously appeared at the beginning of Islamic history 14 centuries ago, and Muslims successfully fought it.

However, Muslims today will not win unless they fight the extremists’ own version of Islam, which is pushing them to clash with the world and become enemies with Islam’s different sects. The crisis will become prolonged if Muslim leaders do not adopt moderate Islam, which reformulates the life of people and society, and restores the balance that religion created in order to fight evil. To save Muslims and the world, the solution is moderate Islam—that is a bigger and more important project than fighting ISIS and the cancer of extremism.