Friday, September 19, 2014

ISIS and Islam. Is it? Or isn't it?

Is ISIS an Islamic group? Yes. Does it represent all of Islam? No. Hopefully just these few simple sentences help to clarify the middle ground here. We have one side saying ISIS is Islam defined and that all Muslims are terrorists. We have another side saying Islam is perfect, that ISIS are UN Islamic and have nothing to do with the religion of peace. Both sides are wrong.

What we see with ISIS is far from isolated or unique. We have seen Al Quida, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al Shabab and many other groups following a similar path in a wide number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Clearly, Islamic extremism is not just a case of a few bad apples. There is something deeper here. And, sure enough, when we look at the Quran the basis for these groups is in there. Here is a link to an article that does a good job of rounding up the specific parts of the Quran that can be linked to the thinking and actions of those in the Islamic State. It is a right wing, anti Islam site, but at the same time, this is handy because it compiles the issues into one page quite nicely. Furthermore, the Quran does an excellent job of demonizing non-believers and almost dehumanizing them as being ignorant, on the wrong path, misguided, untrustworthy liars. So, that adds to the problem as well. 

So why are all Muslims not following the same path as ISIS? Because, Islam has a wide array of interpretations. There are 1.2 billion followers of Islam and 1.2 billion interpretations. What it comes down to is which parts of the Quran the follower decides to cherry pick and how some wish to interpret the messages of the book and the prophet. Fortunately, many want to live in peace and want religion to be good, fulfilling, spiritual and uplifting. This is wonderful and deserves to be celebrated.

Extremists are still using the same book but are using different parts that inspire and support their actions. It would be nice to say this was the minority. Technically, yes, it is. But the numbers are far from insignificant as we see by the number and size of these groups and the severity and wide spread nature of the havoc they have wreaked. Clearly, these folks aren't just pulling stuff out of their butts. When you have groups across the Muslim world with similar views and goals, obviously there is a connecting factor, and that is, simply, the religion. 

So, both arguments as presented above represent two false poles with the reality being in the middle. And while peaceful liberal Muslims should not pay the price for the actions of extreme conservative Muslims, no Muslim is doing anyone any favours with denying that ISIS and related groups have something to do with Islam. The same goes for those who condemn all Muslims as terrorists or as bad people. Muslims not associated with ISIS or Al Quida, or whatever other of the many groups there seem to be out there, don't deserve to be mistreated because of the actions or rhetoric of those with a more worrisome interpretation of Islam. 

The truth of groups like ISIS is in the religion itself. The religion deserves criticism where criticism is due and just screaming "Islamophobia" whenever the subject is approached is counter productive to say the least. Questioning or even disliking the religion is both okay and important. Hating Muslims just for being Muslims isn't okay and that needs challenging as well. A middle ground where solid, reasoned, open, honest discussion involving use of critical thinking skills is needed. Both complete demonization of the religion and rose coloured glasses approaches to the religion are not helping get to the root of the problem as it relates to the role the religion and it's holy books play.

So, let's stop the games and start being honest. Islam covers a wide spectrum of ideas and manifestations that need to be acknowledged by all parties. Then we can start focusing on the problems we are facing from groups like ISIS. Let's be honest about the Quran and what it has inside of it. Let's be honest about Muhammad. Let's be honest about ISIS's roots in Islam. 

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