Muslims Debate Whether IS Is Pure Islam
While political leaders and the mainstream media in the west is in denial that IS and terrorism have anything to do with Islam, a heated public debate is being waged in Arab countries as the role of Islam with regard to the atrocities being carried out by IS. A fault line has emerged between national leaders and some supporters of IS in the populations they govern, according to Raghida Dergham, a columnist in pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat.
“Governments have described IS as an ‘existential threat,’ while there are sections of the public that sympathize with the group and its motives,” writes Dergham, adding that some of the support came from those who saw it as a counterweight to a perceived increasing Shiite dominance.
The disagreements go further still, according to Al-Hayat – as deep as the understanding of Islam itself.
What does it permit? What does it allow? Theological appraisals of this differed wildly.
For the majority, Islam cannot be held responsible for IS actions, which themselves had nothing to do with Islam, thereby divorcing the idea of Islam and the IS brand terror.
At a conference last week in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, however, others described IS as the embodiment of “pure Islam.” As a result, they would not have linked IS with the concept of terrorism but rather as legitimate jihad.
‘Need to take stock’
Large parts of the political elite saw the situation completely differently, Dergham added. At the meeting, the former Kuwaiti Information Minister Saad bin Mohammed bin Tefla blasted the religious traditions and practices that IS invokes.
“We still cannot say that these people have nothing to do with Islam,” Al-Hayat reported bin Tefla as saying. The former minister’s conclusion shows just how far the debate had progressed.
“Do IS, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood represent political Islam or not? The answer is yes,” he surmised. “These groups reflect on the fatwas of political Islam in everything they do. It is therefore high time that we take stock of ourselves and turn our attention to the values of our educational system and curricula.”
The discussion about Sunni and Shiite extremism and its relationship to Islam come as the aircraft used by the US-led coalition have hit IS positions in Syria, as well as Iraq, for the first time.
The air attacks, according to military observers, is critical to dealing with IS decisively. As long as it can be supplied and reinforced from Syria, IS cannot be defeated in Iraq. There is apparent agreement within the coalition about the short-term goal – to weaken or even destroy IS. However, what might happen after the possible destruction of the terrorist group remains open.
Already, in a meeting at the end of August in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the foreign ministers of several Arab countries have agreed to seriously and comprehensively address the risk of “terrorist extremist ideology.”
The discussion is particularly helpful, says al Hayat’s Dergham, given the differing views of IS within the Middle East.
“It will not be enough solely to engage in a serious war with IS. Only by political means, also, will it be possible to win the necessary support of the population against IS.”