I am Muslim, and I know Islam to be a religion of peace. Historically and according to the scripture, Islam is a religion of inclusion. Sharia, as it was practiced during and following the time of the Prophet Muhammad, codified inclusion and coexistence. It protected the rights of women, instituted a reasonable and sustainable tax system, and led to one of the most powerful and successful empires in history. Despite all this, there is a large contingent of Muslims in the modern world who are not only ignorant of this history, but actively act in direct contradiction to its lessons.
It is troubling to me when people say that members of ISIS, and similar groups, are not Muslim. They proclaim the Shahada, the central creed of Islam, and constantly profess that they are acting according to what they believe Allah has ordained for them. The Muslim world’s rejection of ISIS by saying they are not truly Muslims is actually problematic because it takes the focus off a very important aspect of this conflict, that terrorism is being bred in Muslim countries. ISIS is partly the result of what Islam has become in the modern world. The sooner the Muslim community admits and recognizes this, the sooner it can be dealt with.
Yes, unwelcome intervention from other nations has played a direct part in creating power vacuums and societal conditions which lead to radicalization. However, this particular snake has more than one head. The modern Islamic world is comprised of nations with astounding amounts of wealth being put to shamefully bad use. Despite the problems the coalition’s invasion of Iraq caused, Saddam Hussein wasn’t exactly a good guy. Iran’s regime has been supremely oppressive for decades, despite some attempts at popular resistance. I don’t even need to talk about Saudi Arabia. Education is terrible, poverty rates are incredibly high, economies and fragile, and freedoms are limited. Since just before WWI, the Islamic world has been in a decline that is now arguably reaching its apex.
Here’s the problem: Muslims continue to hide behind a rejection of obvious fanaticism while refusing to be introspective about the established regimes and policies which contribute to the rise of that fanaticism. Governmental policies and practices are not rooted in actual scripture. Rather, they are norms designed so that the wealthy who are in control can remain as such, and they’re working. Muslims the world over will immediately get on the TweetBook to reject dramatic acts of violence. Yet, Saudi Arabia publicly beheads over 150 people, and people don’t say a thing. The elite in Pakistan are inordinately wealthy, and yet the total adult illiteracy rate in the country hovers between 40% and 45%. The bombings in Turkey receive universal condemnation, yet Narges Mohammadi is currently dying in an Iranian prison, and you probably don’t even know who that is.
You may say that these things are the fault of a few oppressive groups and individuals. Remarkably, my experience has been quite different. It is the populations of these countries which allow and almost encourage these types of things to happen. When I can walk around after the Orlando shooting and hear people say, “Well, they shouldn’t have been gay,” then I know it isn’t just those in power who allow this hate to fester. Adults will often overtly demonstrate a false politeness but will internally harbor bigoted ideologies and will promote those ideologies among their communities.
It’s easy to say that ISIS isn’t Muslim. After all, what reasonable person would want to associate themselves with that type of ideology that is hated the world over? But, if you denounce their violence and then go home to beat your wife, you have no claim to the moral high ground. If you support women not being able to drive or attain a quality education, then your claims about being a real Muslim are nothing but moral masturbation. If you criticize people fighting for the ability of young girls to attain an education as being “puppet[s] of the West,” then you’re really looking in the wrong place to direct your indignation. If you publicly execute people for drug addiction and refuse to provide treatment for alcoholism, then I wonder where your knowledge of what is un-Islamic comes from. It’s no secret that the social conditions created by these so called Islamic policies create a boiling point necessary for terrorism and violence to thrive. When people are not provided for, when they lack accessible education and liberty, when they suffer from daily lives mired in tiresome difficulties, they turn to what promises them hope of salvation, love, and escape.
ISIS was created, at least in part, by Muslims in the modern world. While these people are quick to reject violence and cite their favorite quotes from the scripture in that effort, they refuse to turn the same critical eye to their own actions. Where is the Hadith of Gabriel when Dubai and Saudi Arabia build the world’s tallest buildings? Where are the references to the Prophet’s wives Aisha and Khadeejeh when women are denied education and economic rights? Where are the references to the many Hadith about kindness to animals when animals are abused and neglected?
What is arguably just as bad as terrorism is the society that fosters it. Islam has provided a blueprint for a successful life and society, and that blueprint has been demonstrably successful, leading an empire to prosperity for 1300 years. I don’t like writing preachy posts like this because God knows I’m not perfect. I have my own sins to repent for, and I’m not really in a place to tell others how to live their live. But, what I am in a place to do is point out obvious inconsistencies. ISIS isn’t the only group of people who have perverted or forgotten the lessons of Islam. It is just the most stark example that we have to point the finger at, but that finger should really be pointed at ourselves first.