Monday 26 September 2016

Extremism has no faith - we should not blame religion

Dr Ali Selim

Published 28/07/2016 | 02:30

To stigmatise every Muslim for a crime perpetrated by a Muslim is just like stigmatising every Christian for a crime perpetrated by a Christian or every Jew for a crime perpetrated by a Jew (Stock picture)
To stigmatise every Muslim for a crime perpetrated by a Muslim is just like stigmatising every Christian for a crime perpetrated by a Christian or every Jew for a crime perpetrated by a Jew (Stock picture)

The murder of Fr Jacques Hamel at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray shocked Muslims in general and particularly the Muslim community in Ireland.

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The Irish council of Imams, a theological Muslim organisation in Ireland, and major Islamic organisations including the Islamic Foundation of Ireland and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland wrote a letter of condolence to the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin in which they expressed their condemnation of this atrocity, a barbaric attack against the spirit of Islam.

Extremism has no faith or race. We should not be trapped and blame a given religion or followers of a certain faith.

Hidden in the media, if reported at all, are the brave religious leaders in various zones of violence working to bring peace and reconciliation to their people. These inspiring men and women offer critical insights into how to address today's most urgent conflicts. But their stories are rarely told. Hence, it is a duty incumbent upon believers to stress the spirit of peace in their faith.

The believers of every faith should combat the shocking behaviour executed in their name. And believers of other faiths, in turn, should remember that extremism is not practised exclusively by a certain group.

On every apple tree there is a rotten one. It can be a smelly and prominent one - and more visible than any other apple.

Nonetheless, stereotyping is a form of oppression that results in suppression that leads to explosion.

Read More: Ireland is 'making same mistakes as Germany and France' on terror

In some parts of the world acts of violence against innocent people justified by their perpetrators in the name of their faith have created an unhealthy atmosphere that has allowed religious phobia to flourish.

To stigmatise every Muslim for a crime perpetrated by a Muslim is just like stigmatising every Christian for a crime perpetrated by a Christian or every Jew for a crime perpetrated by a Jew.

In such a difficult situation there is an urgent need for us to unite and categorise the culprits - and only the culprits - as criminals.

We are aware that the perpetrators of such atrocities aim to divide us and disturb our peaceful coexistence. We will face it with unity.

Our target should be prevention. To prevent this kind of atrocity we should know that it is a social phenomenon. Hence, treating it solely as a security matter is a fatal mistake. Since it is a social misbehaviour, to prevent it we should encourage cooperation on various levels.

In an interview about global conflicts, Kristiina Rintakoski, executive director of the Crisis Management Initiative, states that inequality within societies and between regions has become a key cause for conflict, exacerbated by rapid information dissemination, as people are now more aware of inequalities.

The perpetrators of atrocities carried out in the name of their respective faiths adopt one and the same approach. They are very selective in their theo-centred arguments. When quoting a verse or a verdict in support of their argument, they cite it out of context, deliberately or ignorantly overlooking many other textual materials that, if highlighted, could establish a moderate approach coupled with a well-balanced equilibrium.

Hence, scholars of every faith should assume a responsible attitude and present theological counter-arguments founded on scholarly intellectuality.

Extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessive diagnosis of the world's ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains at the back of it. Extremism flourishes when and where an unhealthy atmosphere of inequality and a duality of standards, secure from criticism, are created. Justice can only be justice when it is justice for all.

Dr Ali Selim is a senior staff member at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland and a lecturer in Arabic at Trinity College Dublin

Irish Independent

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