WAR, TERRORISM & EXTREMISM
Islamic teachings clearly prohibit killing innocent civilians. The position of the Muslim majority is clear, as demonstrated by repeated condemnations by Muslim scholars and leaders across the world.
The entire majority of Muslims unequivocally condemn terrorism. Terrorism, defined as the use of violence and threats to intimidate, coerce, or exact retribution, especially for political purposes, flagrantly violates at least three interrelated Islamic principles: respect for life, right to due process, and individual responsibility. The principle of respect for life prohibits the targeting of innocent civilians even during a state of war.
Suicide bombings also violate the prohibition against suicide and terrorism violates the prohibition against murder, one of the gravest sins prohibited by the Qur’an.
Muslims have consistently and repeatedly denounced terrorism throughout despite negative media portrayal who have their own political agenda.
Furthermore, why should Muslims be expected repeatedly to condemn terrorism? Are Christians or Jews expected to denounce every irresponsible or destructive statement or action made in the name of their religions? This assumption is clearly unjust and unreasonable, and double standards seem to operate against the Muslim community.
There appears to be some clear media bias to emphasising the low level of terrorism and extremism from Muslims over that from other White Supremacy Christian/Jewish/Hindu groups – even when terrorism from other right-wing sources poses a greater danger to ordinary people. There is a deliberate media political agenda to falsely misrepresent the Muslim community which has been independently proven by various research bodies.
Like other holy books, including the Bible, there are a number of verses about warfare in the Qur’an; they address the struggle of the early Muslims against the Makkans who fought and persecuted them first in Makkah and then after they established a state in Madinah, where Muslims fought back for the first time. However, they make up a small percentage of the 6,000 verses of the Qur’an. In addition, it is important to keep in mind the following:
- A reading of the “warlike” verses in their context in the Qur’an invariably shows that they refer to situations in which the Muslim community was under attack, either through direct military aggression or forcible denial of legitimate rights of freedom of religion and expression – that is, they refer to, and permit, only strictly defensive warfare. Aggression is clearly prohibited (Qur’an, 2:190).
- The earliest verse related to fighting (22:39) states that “permission [to fight back] is given to those who have been wronged,” clearly indicating that such permission is an exceptional allowance responding to a specific situation, and that peaceful conduct is assumed to be the norm for Muslims.
- There are strict rules of warfare outlined by the Prophet Muhammad saws and his successors that prohibit targeting civilians, specifically women and children, or even harming infrastructure or crops used by civilians.
- The Qur’an allows war for self-defense, as delineated in the following verse: “Fight in the cause of the Creator against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits by aggressing; surely the Creator does not love transgressors” (Qur’an, 2:190).
The other justification for war in the Qur’an is to protect others from harm, but this is permissible only if the harm prevented is greater than the harm caused by the acts of war. This is the same as the principle of proportionality in the Christian doctrine of just war, which bears other similarities to the concept of war in the Qur’an.
According to the following Qur’anic verses, protecting others from harm includes defending people of other faiths: “To those against whom war is made, permission is given to fight, because they are oppressed. Verily, the Creator is capable of aiding them. They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of what is just, for no other reason than that they say, ‘Our Lord is the Creator.’ Had the Creator not restrained one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues, temples and mosques wherein the Creator’s name is oft-mentioned would have been destroyed. The Creator will certainly aid those who aid His cause” (Qur’an, 22:39-40).
The Arabic term jihad literally means “striving.” Jihad is often mistranslated as “holy war.” While the word can refer to military action against an aggressor, this is by no means the only meaning of the term. Traditionally, Muslim sources distinguish between the “greater” and the “lesser” jihad. The “greater jihad” is described by Muslim scholars as an internal struggle to avoid negative actions and cultivate good character. The “lesser jihad” is the external striving for justice, in self-defense or against oppression. One can do this in one’s heart, with one’s tongue or pen, and, if these are ineffective, by forcibly trying to change an oppressive situation. It should be noted, however, that violent revolution was often seen by classical scholars as the absolute last resort. The social chaos and mayhem that could ensue from overthrowing an oppressive leader was often viewed as much worse than the reign of an oppressor.
The Qur’an describes the desirability of peace and the means of attaining it in various passages, including the verse, “If they incline toward peace, then seek you peace also,” which clearly demonstrates that peace is a desired state to be striven for. Another verse describes the blessings of peace: “’Peace,’ a word from a Merciful Lord” (Qur’an, 36: 58). Furthermore, Salaam alaikum – “peace be upon you” – is the universal Islamic greeting; and as-Salaam is one of the 99 names of the Creator, meaning “The Giver of Peace.” One of the best-known prophetic supplications is: “O the Creator, You are peace, peace comes from You. Blessed are You O Possessor of Glory and Honor.” Furthermore, one of the various names for heaven is Dar al-Salam, “Abode of Peace.”
Muslim peacemakers are working throughout the world building bridges between people of different faiths. We believe the work we are doing to increase religious awareness is the best antidote for conflict.
The majority of global conflicts are not based upon religion, even though parties may use it sometimes to invoke support for a war, religion is at most one factor among many in producing conflict, and usually not the most important one. Ethnic, economic, and political issues are generally the underlying causes behind most conflicts, including those involving Muslims.
Despite negative media portrayal, the vast majority of the 57 Muslim countries are at peace.
Furthermore, many countries with non-Muslim majorities are involved in conflict. The United States, for instance, a Christian-majority country, is the world’s largest arms exporter and is involved currently in several armed conflicts. The two largest world wars in history were fought mostly between Christian-majority countries (i.e. World Wars I and II).