Anytime a high profile terrorist attack is perpetrated by Muslims, The Muslim community has to reiterate that Islam does not condone these crimes. Muslim scholars issue fatawa (religious verdicts) and Muslim leaders and organizations make statements. Muslim men and women clarify Islam’s prohibition of the killing of civilians to their families, colleagues, and neighbors. And we use the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to back up our arguments.
Islam actually has pretty strict rules for conduct during warfare. The killing of women, children, the elderly, and non-combatants is forbidden even in times of declared war. Not only that, but Islam has strict rules for what is even considered legitimate warfare in the first place. Treachery is forbidden in Islam, and acts of terror are predicated on deception and violating trust.
It is evident to anyone with a solid foundation in Classical Islamic teachings, that we must teach our children to soundly reject the destructive call of terrorism. They must be taught the truth of what the Qur’an and Sunnah teaches in it’s entirety, not just cherry-picking what suits our whims and desires. They must be shown the truth of how traditional Islamic scholarship has addressed the issues of warfare and rules of engagement. They must be instructed not to lose themselves to the emotional calls of the modern day Kharijites that dupe people into the traps of extremism and ignorance. Much of this can be done by directing them to the Ulema (Scholars) whom have been so carelessly rejected by the likes of the Boston Bombers and other so-called “jihadis” in this day and age.
It is also crucial to understand the factors that lead the youth to extremist ideologies. Yasir Qadhi has touched on it. He suggests that Muslim Imams and leaders in the US and UK deal more openly with political issues that burden the hearts of all of the Ummah. Qadhi speaks of the internal and external factors that lead to extremism:
“The external factor is an almost total absence of voices from within mainstream Islam (of all varieties: Sufis, Salafis, Deobandis, etc.) that speak to and address the concerns and issues that resonate with the Muslims most prone to extremism. When the only voices that address issues of concern are the voices of radical militant jihadis, it is only natural that young and impressionable minds will gravitate to these voices. From the perspective of these disaffected youth, since the mainstream clerics aren’t discussing relevant issues, or involved in the discourses that concern them, how then can they be turned to for guidance?
The internal factor is a very warped understanding of Islamic texts and doctrines, and a romanticized view of Islamic history. It is only with such a skewed and idealistic vision that a Muslim can allow radical voices to bypass simple common sense and a pure Islamic heart, filtering all the way to his inner psyche.”
I would consider both of the factors he describes to be part of the greater internal problem in the Muslim Ummah. The truly external factor is more distant. Some very valid political grievances are what Glenn Greenwald presents as the overwhelming motive for “Islamic” terror attacks in the west. And Ron Paul has been writing and talking about the principal of “blowback” for years (including a notable exchange with Mayor Giuliani in 2008). We’ve heard the same theme from experts in the intelligence community and academia (as well as from the extremists themselves). The reason they attack us is not because they “hate our freedom”, but because they hate our foreign policy. The question for Muslims, particularly for American Muslims, is how do we address these issues sanely and in a sound Islamic manner.
The primary external factors leading to extremism are the bombs dropping and the meddling in affairs of Muslim countries. What can be done about this? Many feel helpless and desperate when looking at all the suffering in the Muslim world today. They feel like they need to “do something”, even if that something is counter-productive and morally abhorrent. But Allah mentions many times in the Qur’an the importance of patience through suffering.
“Or think you that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, “When (will come) the Help of Allah?” Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allah is near!” (Al-Baqarah 2:214)
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and his followers suffered unthinkable torture and oppression at the hands of the pagan Arabs, and they stayed patient and steadfast. This is not an easy thing to ask someone to do, but there is a reason that it is such an important aspect of our religion. The Straight Path was never meant to be easy, and Allah tests those whom he loves. For us as a community to instill this in our children, they must be taught the Qur’anic commands to patience and what rewards lie ahead for those who are steadfast. The verses and ahadith dealing with as-sabr (patience) should be ingrained in their hearts and minds. They should know them, and be familiar with the struggles of all the Prophets and righteous people throughout the ages.
Muslims in the US and UK must make every effort to speak out against oppression, whether it is committed by Muslims or Non-Muslims. Of course, we should continue to educate others and ourselves on why terrorism and unjust killing is forbidden in Islam. We should renounce the actions of the misguided who don’t understand the deeper concept of Jihad. In some ways, this is the easy part. The Muslim community, particularly in America, is overwhelmingly anti-extremist and law abiding. The reality is that the radicals don’t have a home in any masjid in the US. They have to meet on internet forums and You Tube, as their viewpoint has been so thoroughly refuted by mainstream Muslim leaders and laymen.
Speaking out against the oppression committed by Non-Muslims, more specifically, the United States government will certainly be a more tricky and difficult task. When we speak to our families, neighbors, and colleagues about the unjust drone bombings that kill innocent women and children or the support for oppressive regimes and policies, we need to use hikmah (wisdom) and tact. We need to have the facts to back up our arguments and not act like raving lunatics full of conspiracy theories and wild speculation. We should calmly explain the concept of “blowback” and how these types of attacks only deepen the appeal of the extremist ideologies in the Muslim world. And we should keep in mind the meaning of the famous hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him):
“The best jihad is to speak the truth before a tyrant ruler.” (Bukhari)
As Muslims in the West, we need to be good ambassadors. This is done first and foremost through our manners. Our treatment of our neighbors should be the best among the people. Our work ethic at school and at our jobs should be the strongest. This is not for show or to be seen of men, but as an act of worship to Our Lord. We should also educate others on the meaning of Tawheed (The Oneness of God) and “La illaha illa Allah (There is no diety worthy of worship except God)”. Explain what this means to us and what this means for them.
We are indeed blessed to live in lands of relative peace and security, and we should use that opportunity to break down the walls of satanic deception. These are the walls reinforced by the mainstream media that misrepresents what Islam teaches and who the Muslims really are. These walls are often fragile and flimsy because they lack sturdy foundation. Let’s plant seeds of truth, and ask Allah to guide us through these times.