Countering Violent Extremism: Calls for Re-interpretation of Islam

Posted February 26th, 2015 at 9:31 pm (UTC+0)
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By Iftikhar Hussain
The mainstream Muslim world needs to come up with a counter narrative that should work as a bulwark against violent extremism, experts say, in wake of the recent atrocities by the Islamic State. In separate interviews experts told VOA Deewa that Muslim majorities who believe their faith is peaceful are ironically silent and their counter-narrative is largely unheard of, the extremist voice is arguably louder, and that confuses both Muslims and non-Muslims.
Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, Sheik Ahmed al-Tayab, at a recent conference at Makkah, Saudi Arabia, blamed “corrupt interpretations” of the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad for the rise of Middle East-based terrorism.
Imam Tayab’s is one example of a strong, but a largely unheard, voice in the cacophony of extremist narratives by groups like IS, Al-Qaeda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram and Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan that has drawn massive focus. He spoke in Saudi Arabia at a gathering of about 700 moderate Muslim clerics from various Islamic countries. It remains to be seen how much his call resonates broadly, around the Muslim world.
Saif Inam is a policy analyst with the US-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. The council was part of President Obama’s recent summit in Washington on countering violent extremism. Inam told VOA Deewa that it is very important the Muslims speak against extremism. He said when IS and Al-Qaeda seek Islamic religious grounds for their actions “you need Muslim scholars to rebut those arguments.” He says, “It is important Muslims take the lead on rebutting the ISIS and their ideology.”
Inam thinks there is a need for critical look at jurisprudence and interpretations that are currently used. He says, “I do not necessarily mean reforming Islam per say but the interpretations that are currently used of the Quran and actions and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.”
Dr. Qibla Ayaz, a renouned Muslim scholar in Pakistan says that terrorism has become a Muslim world problem rather than an issue just for the West. “If we look into the Middle East, the violence in Pakistan, it is clear that terrorism has engulfed the Muslim nations.” He also believes that the solution should come from the Muslim world itself.
Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, in Washington, DC, told VOA Deewa that countering violent extremism is a global issue and leaving its fight to one faith and community will not resolve the problem.
Many experts agree that a re-interpretation of Islam is needed but the question is: how much consensus and flexibility exist among different sects of Islam so that a universally acceptable ‘re-interpretation’ is achieved.
Michael Kugelman, the South Asia associate at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, argues that there is no silver bullet solution to the issue of eliminating violent extremism. He told Deewa in an intv, “It’s a wholesome approach and collective efforts by Muslim nations as well as US and other nations of the world.”

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