Violence fuels debate : Who speaks for Islam?

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Who Speaks For Islam

After gunmen in Paris killed 12 people, Saudi Arabia’s top body of Muslim clerics quickly condemned the attack and said it could have no acceptable justification. It was a signal from some of the Islamic world’s strictest voices that cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo were not a reason to kill the artists.

Only days later, Saudi Arabia sent an opposing message: On Friday, a young Saudi was whipped 50 times in a public square in the city of Jiddah, the first of what will be 20 such weekly rounds of lashes. That, along with 10 years in prison, is his sentence from the kingdom’s religious-based courts for insulting Islam, based on posts on his blog criticizing prominent clerics close to the monarchy.

The contradiction points to the difficulties at a time of a growing debate within Islam about whether and how to reject a radical minority that some fear is dragging them into conflict and wrecking the faith.

Western critics are increasingly brazen about suggesting there is something inherent in Islam that is sparking violence by some of its adherents. Most Muslims reject this, arguing that the tumult of the post-colonial Middle East has created fertile ground for radicalism among people whose faith is fundamentally one of peace.

Nonetheless, the past year has seen increasing voices among Muslims saying their community must re-examine their faith to modernize its interpretations and sideline extremists. As much as recent attacks in the West, the rise of startlingly vicious violence by Sunni Muslim militants in the name of Islam against fellow Muslims, including Sunnis, brought it home for many Muslims that something must change in religious discourse.

In Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State group has butchered entire families of Sunnis and beheaded Sunni soldiers, as well as Western hostages. In Pakistan, a Dec. 16 militant attack on a school that killed 150 people, mostly children, stunned the country. It made many Pakistanis question any empathy they felt in the past toward militant groups — the attitude of “even if they’re wrong, they’re still fellow Muslims.”

“Now I hear more people talking openly against extremism and militancy,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, an independent political analyst in Pakistan.

When people ask “why Islam?”, much of the answer has little to do with the religion itself. The Arab world has seen decades of bloodshed and foreign intervention unlike any in any other region — long entrenched dictatorships, regime suppression, two Iraq wars, the Syrian civil war and Libya’s turmoil.

Those conflicts have stirred up hatreds — against the U.S., against the West, against Shiites and other communities — that rebound back into religion. Some youth angered by the conflicts find the answers in the version of “true Islam” touted by extremists like al-Qaida and the Islamic State group and promoted on the Internet. Those groups tell them Islam requires them to use violence to defend the faith, then provide whole networks to make it easy for them to do so.

Notably, Cherif Kouachi, one of the French brothers behind the Charlie Hebdo killings, appears to have been first radicalized by hearing of abuses of Iraqi inmates by American guards at Abu Ghraib prison.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo prompted condemnations from across the Muslim world —and fueled voices in the West contending that Islam fuels violence. Social media feeds bristled that insults to other religions do not tend to spark murders.

That frustrates many Muslims who tire of apologizing for an extremist fringe they view as distorting their religion. Still, Muslims are also turning inward for change in the community.

The most prominent call came days before the attack, when Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gave a speech to Muslim clerics saying interpretations developed over centuries have made the Muslim world a “source of worry, danger, killing and destruction in the whole world.” He called for a “religious revolution” to modernize the faith.

The Paris attack added a complication to the debate, because of the magazine’s extremely broad lampooning of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Muslims who denounced the killings were often clearly discomfited by the content and defended their right to be upset over cartoons even some Western critics said crossed into racism.

In Egypt and Lebanon, political cartoonists published cartoons expressing solidarity with Charlie Hebdo, with images of pens standing up to gunmen. On Twitter, some pointed to Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim policeman of Algerian heritage killed by the attackers. “I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so,” was a tweet of solidarity circulating among Muslims.

“Obviously the act of terrorism is a far greater evil that the question of satirical comments,” Khalid Samad, a lawmaker from an Islamist political party in mostly Muslim Malaysia, said.

But some in the religious establishment struggled with the issue.

On pan-Arab satellite channel al-Arabiya Thursday night, an official from al-Azhar, the state-run Egyptian institution that is one of the most prestigious centers of Sunni Islam, said al-Azhar is working to modernize religious discourse, in part by interpreting texts in light of the context in place and time as opposed to literally.

“But we can’t exonerate the West for its insulting of the prophet. I’m not justifying what happened, but these are causes,” Sheikh Ashraf Saad said. “Just as we condemn extremists, we must also condemn these freedoms that have reached the point of insulting the prophet.”

He was countered by a Saudi journalist on the panel, Mshari al-Thaydi. “But the question is, why is it Muslims who get so angry and kill and blow things up? The French magazine insulted the pope, the Dalai Lama. … Why do we express our anger in this way?

“We have 1,436 years in the history of Islam,” he said. “Why do we hand ourselves over to a particular person who picks what he wants from that heritage and says that’s Islam and accept it or you’ve left the faith?”

That hits to the issue of who speaks for Islam, where in the Sunni branch in particular, individual clerics build on centuries of scholarship to argue what the faith requires.

Al-Qaida and the Islamic State group roughly take elements from two relatively modern strands. One is the writing of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood thinker Sayed Qutb, with its tenets that Muslim society has fallen from faith and violent jihad must be waged to bring “God’s rule.” The other is Wahhabism, a reform movement with a strict, literal and uncompromising interpretation of texts aimed at purging Islam of innovations. Wahhabism became the official doctrine of Saudi Arabia, which has promoted it around the Muslim world.

State religious institutions across the region, meanwhile, are widely criticized as stagnant. Government control has undermined their credibility among both liberal Muslims and militants. That was clear when Saudi Arabia’s top religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, condemned the Paris attack and called it “unacceptable under any justification.”

That prompted a torrent of derision on Twitter from militant sympathizers who accused the clerics of doing the bidding of the U.S.-allied Saudi monarchy and protecting those who insult Muhammad. “The masks fall and reveal those who lick the boots of dictators,” one proclaimed.

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23 responses to “Violence fuels debate : Who speaks for Islam?”

  1. Maborlz Ez-Hari Avatar
    Maborlz Ez-Hari

    Islam has two faces, one is peaceful and the other is angry simply one can say it is humble one moment and proud the next. Its easy to see these personalities every day, you meet moslem people and they can be so welcoming, hospitable and cooperative living and working alongside all of us. Then on the other hand you bump into the bearded, dress wearing young guys walking around like people need to get out of their way, next you see woman walking around in a full black niqab as if to say don’t you even dare look or talk to me. Then we get versus from the Koran being recited to confirm how peaceful the religion is and before you know it someone else is reciting versus from the same book asking for violence and punishment of the kafir. It is a combination of mildness and extremity and between these two levels there is the question of how do we distinguish who is what? Some shieks speak with eloquence and softness and some have to be possessed mad men barking absurdities only problem is many of today’s young minds are being attracted to the latter. Islam needs to give itself a wake up call, decide are we going to reject all others other than moslems or are we going to be happy with who else is living on this planet and it needs to hasten is decision because the tolerance the world once had is quickly wearing thin.

    1. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
      TheUSequalsTheIS

      judiasm hower lacks the peaceful face so they only have one ***** face

      1. Maborlz Ez-Hari Avatar
        Maborlz Ez-Hari

        True

        1. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
          TheUSequalsTheIS

          u dont mean that?

      2. Muslims on the other hand….. lol

        1. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
          TheUSequalsTheIS

          as maborlz put it: islam has two faces one peaceful the other everything but peaceful. i pointed out that judiasm lacks the peaceful face and it happened that he agreed 😉

          1. 🙂 i’m sure he does

          2. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
            TheUSequalsTheIS

            🙂

    2. 5thDrawer Avatar

      The World has Many Faces.
      Maybe, Maborlz, you could compare it to people having the KKK meeting on a Saturday night, then going off to a church with the pristine ‘perfect family’ in the morning. The Preacher, knowing his flock, spouts the words, but says little about the night-ventures because he knows who’s buttering his own family’s bread.
      And he has the same fears as the folks who are run down in the nights.
      Humans generally have a hard time separating fact from fiction.
      People ‘of the book’ have ALL screwed humanity and the humanitarian concepts at points in history.
      AND have had to ‘re-visit’ their books to place the ‘meanings’ of the words into a more-modern world.
      ‘More Modern’ also meaning ‘More Enlightened’.
      There are ‘splits’ in thought, and differences of education.
      There are ‘tribes’, there are ‘races’, there are ‘customs’, and there is the planet to fight to live with.
      ALL humans Of History go to WAR. All males covet females, and generally want to ‘own’ them.

      Jews came up with a ‘One-God’ concept. But divided into ‘sects’, some of which now work like the KKK, and by having the appearance of being a cult within the cults – like the radicals – dress in black with special hair-do’s and mangy beards. Ancients in a wrong Age of Man.
      Christians refined the concept, but had a ‘Dark Age’, and ‘Inguisitions’, and split away in ‘Reformations’, creating what they are castigated for having now, a form of government which attempts to keep the religion out of the ‘laws’ of a ‘One Land’ so the people can be NOT fighting wars all the time within the borders of it, at least – while allowing every weird version of ‘belief’ to function within those boundaries.
      Muslims – again breaking away, but also adhering to the ‘One God’ concept – are ‘late-comers’ to the ‘tribal games’ who had a successful ‘warrior’ dictate his thoughts of ‘laws’ to live with – perhaps in the attempt to do what Christians have done with ‘Democracy’ – keep the folks from killing each other all the time. Again, the humans Split into ‘variations’ on the ‘theme’. And there are splits within those splits.

      The article asks: ‘Who speaks for Islam?’. It could be titled: ‘Who speaks for God?’
      THE REAL QUESTION NEEDED IS: ‘Who speaks for Humanity?’
      Only the human educating himself has done that – over long periods of time – with the words of relatively few making real sense or ‘progress’ for the rest of us.
      It’s amazing the human brain has taken us this far.
      If ‘we’ don’t have another ‘Reformation’ – and soon – those ‘Dark Ages’ will return … and maybe end us.

      1. 5thDrawer Avatar

        ‘WE’ now have the ‘Cult Of The Net’. And the ‘Cult of the Twit’.
        And a false belief that all the people of the world are connected by it.
        Twits indeed.

      2. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
        TheUSequalsTheIS

        i agree with most of what u said but a single point. iranians came up with the one-god concept that the jews copied. the whole jewish foundation is based on copy/pasting and then eventually all the bad stuff were added like that they r the chosen people. who the **** other than the jews would believe in such a racist god?

        1. 5thDrawer Avatar

          Ok. Some Persian thought it up. I didn’t want to write a whole bloody history again. 😉
          (who now adds Hadiths ?)

        2. Hmmm..the ones who don’t believe in killing in the name of god like the Muslims do? just an answer from the top of my mind..

          1. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
            TheUSequalsTheIS

            u justify ur babykillings with ur “chosen ppl” which is basically the same.
            besides after the jews copied the persian religion they corrupted it, and later islam derived from the corrupted judiasm. so u have only urself to blame, honey.

  2. Reasonableman Avatar
    Reasonableman

    No contradiction you fools.
    He is in an islamic country so their is no contract to prevent you from being punished.
    Whilst living in a western country you are to live amongst “their” laws but still perform the obligitory practises of islam. If you are in a country where you are unable to fulfill your obligatory actions (1.tawheed 2. Prayer 3. Zakat 4. Fasting 5. Travel to hajj)
    Then it is haram to reside in such country.

    1. MekensehParty Avatar
      MekensehParty

      Enough please, enough returning to an old book for defining everything in your daily life. Don’t you have any imagination? Don’t you feel like doing something outside the box today? Give it a try. Ask Mrs. Reasonable to wear whatever she likes, to put some make up if she likes and take her and the kids to the park. Buy everybody ice cream and enjoy the good weather cuddling with your wife while the kids are jumping around, and at dawn, go all to diner and let your curiosity run through the menu and choose (and let the others choose) whatever they feel like tonight.
      Go back home, put the kids to sleep and enjoy the rest of the evening watching your favorite show. Before you close your eyes, you realize that you forgot the “teachings” today, and yet, you felt intense happiness and so did all your family.
      Close your eyes Reasonable because Allah is also very happy of you today.

      1. Reasonableman Avatar
        Reasonableman

        I appreciate your concern. Me n mrs reasonable enjoy walks on the beach and icecream just like everybody else 🙂 we are also organizing to do europe inshaallah.

  3. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
    TheUSequalsTheIS

    making a comment on JP is impoosible. they remove all ur comments regardless u debating in a civilized manner. this is true freedom of speech. and i even get threats that they will find me and kill me and my family. thats what freedom is about. everyone is only free to support the nastiness called israel, and if u dont comply with that rulle u and ur family are gonna get assassinated.

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      That’s why we have YaLibnan. :-)) Friendly folks here, to listen to all the weirdest theories. :-)))

      1. TheUSequalsTheIS Avatar
        TheUSequalsTheIS

        lol

  4. 5thDrawer Avatar

    A young Saudi whipped 50 times for 20 weeks will have 10 years to grow back some skin, if he lives through it. Will he forget? Doubtful. Will it make his mind a ‘peaceful’ place?

  5. Fauzia45 Avatar

    Let s hope that this ^radical minority^ does not become a radical majority!!!Islamic radicalism has to be stopped!Condemning and talking is of no use!!Radical clerics who advocate ^holy jihad^ and radicalize angry young men and women must be stopped !!They are then ready to die for their ^holy cause^ and become the brutal killers that commit atrocities !!!

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