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Extremism and Counter-extremism…. Whatever happened to moderation? Part III

In extremism and counter-extremism, Islam on February 25, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Linked to Part I and Part II

Extremism in people’s reaction?

To be extreme means “to be very far in any direction”, to be “farthest from the centre or middle”, and “exceeding the bounds of moderation”.  I recognize extremism in the views of people when they begin with the example of  a  limited group of people and make a sweeping generalization that Islam is a terrorist religion. They ignore the everyday example of the masses of Muslim peoples who form a significant community in a number of non-Muslim countries today. As an example I refer you to a google search using some of the keywords from the terrorism drama and to read some of the postings and comments on blogs and other sites which allow comments. One blog proudly announces as its tagline “know islam, know terror; no islam no terror”.

Apart from the evidence in the authentic sources of Islam cited above, past surveys have  explicitly established that Muslims do not support violence. For instance, surveys in 2006 established that the consensus of the world’s  Muslim population (whether resident in Muslim or non-Muslim countires).  Interestingly, most of the country-wise figures reported are actually higher than the opinions of Americans regarding the issue: A contemporary survey by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Public Attitudes found that 46% of Americans believed that bombing and attacks that were intentionally aimed at civilians were ‘never justified’.

A Gallup poll of Londoners similarly found that the number of Muslim Londoners who renounced violence (81%) was higher than London’s general population (72%). In the same survey, 82% of the Muslims expressed respect for other religions as compared to 54% of the general public. The renown Gallup poll, by the name of Who Speaks for Islam?, found that religiously extremist views were only 7% across the total population surveyed. Contrast with this finding from a poll of Americans by  The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that nearly “one-in-four Americans believes that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence”. This despite the fact that 60% of the sample acknowledged not being knowledgeable about the religion.

A concept of moderation

My inspiration for this series of posts has been a piece of writing by Mr. Khalid Baig. Khalid Baig has been a columnist for the monthly Impact International in South Africa. His columns were published in book form titled First Things First and the piece I’m referring to is one of his republished columns ‘What does Islam teach about justice?’. Below I quote extracts from his column which serve to illustrate the concept of moderation I wish to highlight here.

There is one word that captures the essence of all Islamic laws and all Islamic teachings; one word that describes the overriding value that permeates all Islamic values. Justice. The Qur’an says:

We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may stand forth in justice. [Al-Hadeed, ayah 25]

Then:

Under normal circumstances many people can be just. But Islam commands its followers to be just even in the face of strong conflicting emotions. In dealing with other human beings, two major impediments to justice are love and hatred. See how the Qur’an teaches us to overcome the first impediment when we are dealing with out closest relatives or even ourselves.

You who believe, stand our firmly for justice, as witness to Allah, even though it is against yourself, your parents and near relatives; whether it concerns a rich or a poor man, Allah (stands) closer to them both. Do not follow any passion so that you may deal justly. If you swerve about or turn aside Allah is still informed about whatever you do. [An-Nisa, aya 135]

Then, turning to that other impediment, hatred…

Here again Qur’an commands:

You who believe, stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. [Al-Ma’idah, aya 8]

Finally:

Justice does require retribution and Islam does call for “an eye for an eye.” But it does not mean an innocent eye for an innocent eye; it means the eye of the perpetrator for the eye of the victim. It is amazing how those who call the latter as barbaric, actually rally for the former when a real crisis develops.

He wrote these lines many years before the world know terrorism as it knows since 9/11. Yet how aptly this last line applies to the cases of USA and Israel reviewed in the Part II of this post.

This world is full of the lore of terrorism today and the issue is real. Yet, has the world been JUST and MODERATE in its own reactions?

Judge for yourself.

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