Perceptions of Islam

Unfortunately, many young Muslims today are not equipped with the proper knowledge to adapt the Islamic teachings to the demands of a rapidly changing world. Muslim scholars and thinkers have responsibility to correct perceptions of Islam held by radicals and by the public. — Egypt's Dar al- Ifta

Today there was a man­ag­er at the office who has recent­ly spent a lot of time in Nige­ria. The con­ver­sa­tion turned to the sit­u­a­tion in the north­east of the coun­try. Boko Haram is over­tak­ing more and more cities, leav­ing a trail of destruc­tion. In April last year, there was the abduc­tion of 276 school­girls, which led to the media cam­paign “Bring back our girls”. So far, nobody has man­aged to bring them back. This month a whole vil­lage was wiped out, with prob­a­bly 2,000 peo­ple killed. Very lit­tle infor­ma­tion is avail­able; the Niger­ian gov­ern­ment has lost any con­trol over the area.

It reminds me of the fact that most vic­tims of Islam­ic ter­ror­ism are Mus­lims (between 82 and 97 per­cent in 2005–2011). And indi­rect­ly Islam also suf­fers under the ter­ror. It is a vicious cir­cle of fear of Islam, hatred against Mus­lims, rad­i­cal­ized youth, ter­ror attacks, and more fear.

An insti­tu­tion that has tak­en a stand against Islam­ic extrem­ism from the start is the Dar al-Ifta of Egypt. This is a fat­wa issu­ing body with much author­i­ty in the Sun­ni world; the largest move­ment with­in Islam. If you take a look around on the web­site of the insti­tute it is clear that there is no place for ter­ror­ism. For exam­ple, they pub­lished a book in which the ide­ol­o­gy of IS is coun­tered from the Quran. These are con­crete actions to counter rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

I total­ly agree with the arti­cle of Ste­vo Akker­man in Trouw (Je ne suis pas Char­lie). Peo­ple should have the free­dom to ridicule God or Muham­mad, but blas­phe­my is not one of my ideals. I think the way for­ward lies in mutu­al respect. In the West­ern media the voice of ordi­nary Mus­lims often drowns in the news about ter­ror­ism. This is how the idea takes hold that Islam is inher­ent­ly vio­lent. Dia­logue is the only way to under­stand each oth­er.