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Thursday, 4 September 2014

Recognition of the problem?

It is encouraging to read in recent days that the Grand Mufti of Mecca, the British Council of Muslims, the Saudi King, and now the UAE's government have all come out against the Islamic State terrorists. The Muslim Council and the Grand Mufti have both issued 'Fatwas' (Opinions) condemning the terrorists as engaging in 'Un-Islamic' activities, but, as is always the problem, a 'fatwa' is essential 'advice' and not something 'enforcable'.

It is, however, encouraging, precisely because they set out in detail the fact that the Qu'ran actually forbids many of the things they are doing, including forcing people to convert, murdering them for refusing and desecrating churches, synagogues and shrines. Murder, rape and pillage is forbidden in the Qu'ran, but therein lays a bit of a problem. The two other sources which are often used to 'clarify' the Qu'ranic injunctions, the Hadith and the 'commentaries' however contain passages, and ideas which are frequently used to justify some of the more unacceptable issues in the west, such as the 'Islamic Dress' and forced marriage, etc.

The British fatwa itself is interesting. In setting out their 'opinion' the Scholars review several passages from the Qu'ran, then state inter alia 
5. Based on all of the above: IS is a heretical, extremist organisation and it is religiously prohibited (haram) to support or join it; furthermore, it is an obligation on British Muslims to actively oppose its poisonous ideology, especially when this is promoted within Britain.
The opinion expressed by the Grand Mufti of Mecca has a similar clause, and I note that this theme has been continued by others. Will it stop the IS? There I must express doubts. As other Islamic scholars have stated recently, the Muslim mythology of the 'Caliphate' is a rather idyllic and alluring one, but hardly factual. The original Caliphate was riven with intrigue, several Caliphs were assassinated and internal corruption and abuses were rampant. Nor is there much comfort to be drawn by looking at places like the Yemen, Pakistan, Bangladesh and several other 'Islamic States' in our world today. Part of the problem is that 'interpretation' is highly individual, as there is no hierarchy with authority over all preachers and teachers.

Nor is it helped by the fact that for the last century at least, many of today's Muslim countries have supported, promoted and encouraged 'insurrection' in one form or another to achieve political, territorial or religious aims. Saudi Arabia would look very different had the political power gone, as the British hoped, to the coastal city and agricultural dwellers, and not to the Berber tribesmen of the interior. The first were progressive, and their religious views more liberal than the Berbers who belonged to one of the more fundamentalist wings of the Sunni strand. In the end, the Berber Sauds  got the kingship and the result is the country we see today.

Equally interesting is the fact that most of the Gulf States, have Sunni rulers, but largely Shia populations. Should the IS prevail, there could be some interesting problems arising from that as well. It is therefore very encouraging to have the UAE's rulers calling for an 'International Anti-Terrorist Force' to deal with ISIL and, presumably, one or two of their close relatives. I think it will be even more interesting to know who they would put on the list of 'terror' organisations. I rather think there might be a small clash of ideas on that one.

In my view ALL 'terror' organisations are a threat to everyone. I'm sorry to say that however 'justified' the cause may be, those who join them inevitably include the sort of psychopaths we've seen beheading people in Iraq and Syria, and, if they actually succeed, seldom usher in a free and fair society. What is worse, their activities invariably impact on their neighbours, and destabilise those countries. Possibly worse, since terrorists have, to an extent been 'glamorised' in certain societies, they tend to incite others to try an emulate them, so starting a vicious cycle such as the one we currently see.

I am convinced that all 'terrorists' must be suppressed, but, as Mr Hammond has said, it is not just a matter of military action. We have to address and counter the ideology as well - and that will take decades. Still, we have to take one step at a time, and an 'international' anti-terror effort may be a very good start. 

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