Extremism: Causes and Cures

No sane person, cognizant of the true Islamic teachings can deny the fact that Islam is a religion of peace, brotherhood, love and equality. It does not allow aggression, oppression and barbarism in any case. Therefore any terrorist act whatsoever, is against the basic precepts of Islam. Inspite of the explicit teachings of Islam, most of its concepts and dictates are misunderstood and misinterpreted in the Muslim world in general and the western world in particular, due to which a distorted picture of Islam is appearing in the minds of the people. The situation becomes even more grave when the people, ignorant of the Islamic tenets, fall prey to these misinterpreted concepts. This is detrimental to the ideological identity of Islam and causes countless social problems for the Muslims living in the West. Of the Islamic concepts subjected to criticism, Jehad is worth mentioning. It is equated with terrorism and extremism. Therefore there is a dire need of taking stock of! the causes distorting the fair picture of jehad in order to elucidate its true concept in the present-day context.

The following reasons cause the unrealistic portrayal of Islam. Firstly, the western world backed by the zionist lobby, spearheaded by the western media, has triggered off a propaganda campaign against Islam. This lobby, though ready to accept Islam as a traditional religion, does not want to see it a growing power in the world with independent policies. A united block of Muslim Ummah is not acceptable to it. Moreover, its higher-ups have their say in the formation of public opinion and mapping out of the internal policies. The influence of the zionist lobby is being realised in the US. It is this lobby which has tarnished the image of Islam and Jehad in the western world.

Secondly, there is a faction in the Islamic world whose interpretations of Islam are extremist in nature. Their handling of political, social and cultural matters reflect the extremist trend in their thinking. Moreover, this extremist class believes that Islam abhors democracy and its every form is strictly forbidden. Democracy and parliamentary system are an anathema to them. Thus the interpretations of Islam, dealing with political, democratic, cultural and human rights, are reflective of the extremist mindset. The same is their attitude with regard to the rights of women and the minorities. Their interpretation of Islam represents it as a medieval religion that has outlived its usefulness in the twenty-first century. All their efforts are directed towards the establishment of a caliphate which would rule the whole world allowing no one to contradict. These people aptly fit into the mould of extremism and fanaticism. They present a horrifying picture of Islam in! the western world. These bigots provoke the religious sentiments of the people for their personal gains. What is more is that our youth have come under their influence. The end-result is that the young generation has grown rebellious resulting in the erosion of our social fiber. The western media maliciously dubs their activities as being motivated by religion.

Thirdly, the UN in particular and the world community at large have double standards about Kashmir, Bosnia, Chechnya and Palestine. This causes concern among the Muslims. The issues, where the Western interest is involved, get an immediate response in terms of concrete action. Whereas issues like Kashmir and Palestine remain unresolved even after the passage of a long time, the UN resolutions not withstanding. For example the UN adopted a resolutions in 1947 regarding the division of land to both Palestine and Israel. But 54 years down the road, these resolutions have not been implemented. In the meantime Israel has filled a new page of brutality and ethnic cleansing in history with the full support of Washington. Leave alone boycotting Israel, America has completely supported the zionist state in every way. Now the situation is that Israel poses a great danger to world peace.

The UN resolutions on Kashmir promised to give the right of self-determination to the oppressed Kashmiris but fifty years have elapsed and not even a single resolution has been translated into reality. Seventy thousand Kashmiris have perished but the world community has never felt any qualm of conscience over its inability to address the age-long issue.

On the other hand, the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait got an immediate response from the world powers. Today, Iraq stands decimated. These double standards give birth to hatred among the Muslims. As a reaction to the injustices done to the Muslims the world over, they took up arms and their targets were naturally the US and the UN as they held them responsible for what they are today. The West branded the claimants of their in-born rights as terrorists. Various groups joined the same bandwagon due to the unanimity of objectives and thus they defined their activities as Jehad.

Irrespective of what is the academic definition of Jehad and what are its limits, one thing is crystal clear that they were oppressed people and as a reaction they transgressed the limits of reason in their extremist activities. The same holds true for everybody. Now a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center claimed about 4000 innocent lives. It also sent shock waves across America. As a reaction to this terrorism America has launched a war on Afghanistan where the number of civilian casualties is swelling rapidly. Is this not an extremist act?

The Western world should bear this fact in mind that Islam is a respectable religion of more than one billion people. Its followers, spread over all the continents, are peaceful people. The media drive against the Muslim world would have negative repercussions. It is not correct to bracket the concept of Jehad with terrorism. In addition to that, Muslims should discourage the extremist elements from amongst themselves that bring a bad name to Islam by distorting its fair picture in order to gain their own vested interests.

Mr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri is a prominent Pakistani scholar and politician.