The History of Religion and Violence

osaama SaifiBy Osaama Saifi

Nabeel Qureshi and myself are much more similar than we realize. We both grew up in the West as Muslims and members of the same sect. We both were impacted by the repercussions of 9/11 on Muslims in America. And we both made a decision in our pursuit of religion.

One may wonder why I didn’t choose Christianity like Nabeel. Islam was being maligned by both extremists and the media. Of course, being named Osaama did not help.

In his recent piece, Nabeel presents the conundrum he faced when trying to understand Islam. Growing up, I too faced this same struggle. Every person who is born into a faith needs to go through their own conversion to solidify their convictions. Like Nabeel, I too looked at Islam and other religions holistically. But unlike Nabeel, I didn’t choose Christianity. I chose Islam.

From Seeking Allah Finding Jesus to Answering Jihad, Nabeel’s works stem from his conversion to Christianity from Islam. Nabeel has become renown for being the Christian who has seemingly unmasked Islam’s deceptively curated past. An example of his work is seen recently, which takes Islamic text out of it’s historical, literary, and holistic context. It was this facile analysis of a 1400-year-old religious book and it’s early history that lead to Nabeel’s conversion to Christianity.

One should not question the spiritual reasons for which a person accepts a religion, but the rational views of such a thought can always come under scrutiny. After all, if a religion claims to be the Truth then it can withstand the crucible of a rational examination.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Moderates are losing the fight to save Islam from racists and extremists

EXTREMISTSThe alarming exploitation of the Brussels attacks for political purposes shows how urgent it is to take back the discourse around Islam and Muslims from racists and extremist populists like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen.

Instead of leaving the field wide open for the big-mouthed bigots and xenophobes surfing the murderous wave of global Islamist terror to stigmatize refugees and all peoples of Muslim confession, let’s recognize and tackle the important religious dimension to jihadist violence—in order to better overcome it.

Muslim modernizers, reformers, and secularists, intellectuals, theologians, writers, artists, academics, political figures, and ordinary believers, have long been engaged in an intense ideological war with the Islamic fundamentalists—the same fanatics who helped create the breeding ground for today’s terrorists committing atrocities against civilian populations in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the US.

They are currently losing the winner-takes-all battle to stop the “confiscation” of Islam, dating back to the 19th century when contemporary Islamism first emerged as a neo-reactionary force in response to modernization. And they need the West’s support, fast, if it is to make any inroads in winning the fight against terrorism.

FULL ARTICLE FROM QUARTZ 

World’s Largest Islamic Organization Tells ISIS To Get Lost

nu6A 50-million strong Sunni movement in Indonesia just launched a global anti-extremism campaign.

Each time the Islamic State, al Qaeda or another terrorist group commits violence in the name of Islam, a familiar refrain arises: What’s the Muslim world doing about it?

In fact, anti-extremism efforts abound in the global Muslim community: Muslim leaders and scholars have denounced the Islamic State group, the U.K.’s Muslim Youth League has declared “ideological holy war” against extremism, and YouTube has even tried to recruit American Muslims to counter extremist content.

And in Indonesia, home of the world’s largest Muslim population, a massive anti-extremism movement is underway.

Nahdlatul Ulama, or NU, is the largest independent Islamic organization in the world, with 50 million members. Part Sunni religious body, part political party and part charity, it was founded nearly 90 years ago, in 1926, as a response to another Sunni movement, Wahabbism.

Wahhabism is the ultra-conservative reform movement based in Saudi Arabia that advocates for puritanical laws from the time of Islam’s origins. It rejects the modern notion of “religion as a purely private activity” and the separation of church and state. The Islamic State is highly committed to Wahhabi principles, using its religious textbooks and embracing its hardline tradition of killing unbelievers.

NU’s stated goal is to “to spread messages about a tolerant Islam in their respective countries to curb radicalism, extremism and terrorism,” which, it claims, “often spring from a misinterpretation of Islamic teachings.” It launched its global anti-extremism initiative in 2014.

Its work was recently magnified by the Paris terror attacks, which Indonesia’s Vice President, Jusuf Kalla, who serves on the NU Advisory Board, condemned at a three-day conference last week in Malang, Indonesia. The conference was held by the International Conference of Islamic Scholars, another Indonesian anti-radicalism project that its Foreign Ministry started in 2002, in wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Kalla said, “There is nothing religious about such attacks because Islam never justifies them.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

Muslims in America Condemn Extremists and Fear Anew for Their Lives

AAg2ylJOnly hours after news broke that a suspect in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., had a Muslim name, the well-practiced organizations that represent American Muslims to the broader public kicked into action, as they routinely do after each terrorist attack attributed to Muslim extremists.

They issued news releases condemning the attacks as inhuman and un-Islamic, posted expressions of grief on Facebook and held news conferences in which Muslim leaders stood flanked by American flags alongside clergy of other faiths and law enforcement officials.

“Groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, “are trying to divide our society and to terrorize us. Our message to them is we will not be terrorized and we will not be intimidated,” either by the terrorists or, he said, “by hatemongers who exploit the fear and hysteria that results from incidents like this.”

But the message is apparently not getting through. Muslims and leaders of mosques across the United States say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Muslims stand against terrorism with red, white and blue signs

muslims against terrorismKENTWOOD, MI – After bowing in prayer Friday afternoon, Ahmed Abu Ibrahim stood along East Paris Avenue SE, holding a sign to show passing motorists that he opposes terrorist attacks perpetrated in the name of his faith.

The Egyptian-born Muslim called it “horrible” that people who hadn’t done anything wrong were randomly murdered earlier this month in Paris.

The religion professed by the Muslim terrorists is not his religion, he said.

“We keep hearing people say ‘Why don’t you condemn terrorism?'” said Abu Ibrahim, flanked by his two young sons. “If we don’t speak up, people will think we agree with it.

“Every religion, you’re going to find extremists. It’s like a disease and we’re trying to extract it from the community.”

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Dozens of Muslims stood along East Paris in front of At-Tawheed Islamic Center following afternoon prayers on Friday, Nov. 27. Among their red, white and blue signs: “Islam is peace. True believers don’t kill.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM MLIVE 

Fareed Zakaria: How to think, and talk, about Islam

Fareed Zakaria CNNWASHINGTON — When television host Bill Maher declares on his weekly show that “the Muslim world … has too much in common with ISIS,” and author Sam Harris, a guest on the show, concurs, arguing that Islam is “the mother lode of bad ideas,” I understand why people are upset. Maher and Harris made crude simplifications and exaggerations. And yet, they were also talking about something real.

I know all the arguments against speaking of Islam as violent and reactionary. It has a vast following of 1.6 billion people. Places such as Indonesia and India have hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t fit these caricatures. That’s why Maher and Harris are guilty of gross generalizations. But let’s be honest. Islam has a problem today. The places that have trouble accommodating themselves to the modern world are disproportionately Muslim.

In 2013, of the top 10 groups that perpetrated terrorist attacks, seven were Muslim. Of the top 10 countries where terror attacks took place, seven were Muslim-majority. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center rates countries on the level of restrictions governments impose on the free exercise of religion. Of the 24 most restrictive countries, 19 are Muslim-majority. Of the 21 countries that have laws against apostasy, all have Muslim majorities.

There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrate violence and intolerance and harbor deeply reactionary attitudes toward women and minorities. While some confront these extremists, not enough do so and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in the Arab world today?

FULL ARTICLE FROM COMMERCIAL APPEAL 

Jordanian Prince Wants Pope to Develop ‘template of hope’ During Trip

700x450_CNS_15365AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal expressed the desire to see “a template of hope” developed during Pope Francis’ May 24-26 visit to the Holy Land.

Speaking with Catholic News Service, the prince welcomed the pope’s decision to have a rabbi and a Muslim leader accompany him on the three-day visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Observers believe the gesture underscores the importance the pope attaches to interreligious dialogue.

“Whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, extremists seem to be doing their best to bring about Armageddon, rather than work toward any form of convivial solution whereby the Holy Land is not only holy in name and description, but also in perspective of the future,” the prince said.

“That’s why His Holiness’ visit accompanied by a Jew and Muslim, I think, is more than just symbolic,” he said in a May 17 interview.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Muslim leader Omar Abboud who will be part of the official Vatican delegation, are friends of Pope Francis from his native Argentina. The pope invited them to make the trip with him in order to send what Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, called, “an extremely strong and explicit signal” about the importance of interreligious dialogue in the Middle East, one of the world’s most troubled and conflict-ridden regions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BOSTON PILOT