Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: Is ISIS a face of Islam?!

Arabic original here.

Is ISIS a face of Islam?!

If Muslims don't defend Islam against members of their religion who hurt it, then who will defend it? How can Muslims be pleased with crimes against humanity committed by other Muslims under the pretext that they, like themselves, testify that "there is no god but God"? How can they remain silent in the face of grievous sins committed in the name of their God?

What led me to pose these questions is a statement by a moderate Islamic authority, Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian Ennahda Movement and author of the book Islam and General Freedoms (Markaz Dirasat al-Wahda al-'Arabiyya, 1993), in which he says that one cannot declare members of ISIS to be unbelievers, adding that we cannot declare anyone who says "there is no god but God" to be an unbeliever (the statement made on October 16, 2016).

 As al-Ghannouchi opined on the sidelines of the meeting of the Ennahda Movement's consultative council, ISIS is in a "tense and angry state." He explained that "I am not searching for a justification for them. They are an image of the angry Islam that has escaped from reason and wisdom." He pointed out that "We are Sunnis. We do not declare anyone who says 'there is no god but God' to be an unbeliever, but rather we say to him, 'You are unjust, a sinner, a radical, an extremist.'"

Is it not excusing ISIS's actions to say that they result from an "angry Islam," that ISIS is one of the acceptable faces of Islam? And consequently, that what ISIS members are doing is unambiguously legitimate? If what they are doing were not Islamic, then it would be the duty of Ghannouchi and other Muslim intellectuals to condemn ISIS's actions as clearly outside of true Islam.

Ghannouchi's opinion also causes us to wonder, if not to call into question, what remains of that which distinguishes the discourse of the moderates on the one hand from the discourse of the extremists on the other? The moderate approaches his discourse to that of the extremist to the point that they almost become identical, with even more of an impact on his followers because it is coming from a major authority whose opinions guide many people, not from everyday or marginal clerics with little serious influence.

It seems that, following the "Arab Spring", we have reached the end of what religious etiquette calls Islamic moderation. The confessional sifting that is seen in some confessionally-diverse Arab countries-- among them Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrein-- is pushing many confessional authorities to slide toward more radicalism, to the point of takfirism. In countries devoid of confessional diversity, things are the same. The ascendancy of radicals and Salafists that is being witnessed in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, for example, is also grist for the mill of destroying what we saw to be promising signs in that Spring, especially since the initial spark was in Tunis.
What is noteworthy is that Ghannouchi's words, in addition to being an expression of a profound crisis in Islamic thought (and particularly, the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood)-- is an expression of an intolerable duplicity. At their most recent congress (May 2016), the Ennahda Movement announced that they have adopted the model of a civil party based on democratic authority in the modern sense and the distinction (but not the separation) of their political activity and their religious activity. So which Ghannouchi should we believe?
We also know that the majority of ISIS's victims are innocent Muslims who do not support them, who also testify that "there is no god but God," so how is it possible to defend ISIS's Islam? It is unfortunate that we non-Muslims who are bound to Muslims by bonds of love and national partnership are sometimes more eager to protect the image of Islam than some Muslims.

1 comment:

The Anti-Gnostic said...

It is unfortunate that we non-Muslims who are bound to Muslims by bonds of love and national partnership are sometimes more eager to protect the image of Islam than some Muslims.

Islam was the imperial creed of Arabia and, later, the Ottomans. Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq were doled out by the retreating British and French across tribal and creedal lines. The sooner Middle East Christians drop this contrived pan-"Arabic" Ba'athism the better.