Arabic original here.
The End of Moderation in Islam?
The Syrian crisis seems to have put an end to what religious etiquette is in the habit of calling Islamic moderation. The sectarian sifting that is witnessed in the squares of some multi-confessional Arab countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain, is pushing many religious authorities to slip into extremism and finally takfirism.
In the countries that lack confessional diversity, it’s the same. The rising star of extremists and Salafis that are seeing in Egypt and Tunisia, for example, is nothing but rapidly growing takfiri thought against secualists and those who call for the establishment of a civil society and anything that goes against authority.
Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the great symbol of “moderation”, called, in what could be likened to a call to jihad, on “all Muslims in every country to go to Syria if they are able in order to defend their brothers there and for those who are able to fight to go there and fight.”
Qaradawi expressed his regret for the efforts he had made in the past to call for rapprochement between Shi’a and Sunnis, because he discovered that “there is no common ground between the two sides” and because “the Shi’a are making preparations and organizing funding to carry out massacres in Syria to destroy the Sunnis.” Qaradawi, relying on the fatwas of Ibn Taymiyya, considers Alawites to be “a community more disbelieving than the Christians and Jews, since their followers do not perform any of the distinctive practices of the Muslims.”
The gravity of Qaradawi’s statements springs from his having lead for a time the World Union of Islamic Scholars, a union incorporating both Shi’i and Sunni religious scholars, and his having published a book entitled “The Principles of Dialog and Rapprochement between Islamic Sects and Groups,” in which he expresses his belief in Islamic unity “among all its groups, sects, and schools of thought.”
In 2008, Qaradawi criticized “the Shi’i assault on Sunni societies through spreading Shi’ism within them,” after opining that “Shi’a are heretics and not unbelievers” and that “heresy is not outright unbelief, the sort of unbelief that removes one from the [Islamic] community.” He affirmed that this position regarding the Shi’a is the position of “every moderate Sunni scholar,” placing his calling Shi’a heretics within the context of responding to non-moderate Sunnis who say that “Shi’a are unbelievers.”
Non-moderate Sunnis, according to Qaradawi, “explicitly declare the Shi’a to be non-believers because of their opinions about the Qur’an, tradition, the Companions [of Muhammad], venerating the imams and calling them infallible, and teaching things that the prophets did not teach.”
What remains to distinguish the moderates’ discourse from that of the extremists? This moderate is moving his discourse closer to the extremists, to the point that he is almost identical to them. He has more influence with his followers because he is coming from great authority that leads the majority of Muslims to his opinions, instead of normal sheikhs who do not have broad popularity.
The Syrian crisis is not simply a national or a political trial. It is a religious and sectarian trial, that is sharpening in light of its effects on all the country’s people, Muslim and Christian. The Syrian crisis is becoming a sectarian crisis, after having begun as a national and political crisis, to the detriment of the basic issue, the issue of freedom and human dignity.