July 25, 2016 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1261

Following ISIS Attacks, Arab Journalists Call To Acknowledge Existence Of Muslim Extremism; Reexamine Religious Texts

July 25, 2016 | By D. Hazan*
Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1261


The large number of terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS in Western countries over the past year - including the July 14 truck attack in Nice, France (84 dead, some 100 wounded), the June 12 shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida (49 dead, over 50 wounded), the March 22, 2016 combined attacks in Brussels, Belgium (32 dead, over 300 wounded), and the combined attacks in Paris, France in November 2015 (129 dead, 350 wounded) - has sparked a wave of harsh criticism in the Arab and Islamic world, both due to the fear of Western responses and the increase of Islamophobia, and due to the torrent of youths who flock to the extremist organization.

Alongside the many articles that stressed that terrorist attackers do not represent Islam and operate out of outside interests, there have been an increasing number of articles in the Arab media calling to acknowledge that Islam, and the obsolete interpretations of it that are still applied today, are indeed related to the wave of global terrorism. Writers called on Muslims to be honest and admit the existence of Muslim religious extremism instead of blaming others, and to uproot it. The writers argued that the source of ISIS's extremist ideology is the Muslim social and cultural structure and that Muslims must therefore declare a war on this "cultural affliction" in their midst. According to them, this war requires fundamental reforms in Islamic interpretations alongside reforms in cultural, governmental and education patterns in Arab countries, which, they say, cause many Muslims to harbor covert sympathy for ISIS.

Many writers argued that most of ISIS's religious practices are drawn from the most important Islamic law books, while stressing that these laws do not reflect explicit Koranic dictates, but rather the opinion of jurisprudents that lived in a certain reality that is no longer relevant today. Therefore, they explained that in order to rescue the universal values of Islam from the culture of ignorance, backwardness, and violence, the Islamic jurisprudents of today must critically and rationally review the history of Islam and its religious texts, and adapt Islamic interpretations and laws to the spirit of the times, while taking into account the current circumstances and the greater good. In their opinion, some Islamic dictates should even be cancelled altogether to conform with universal progressive values such as liberties and human rights.

The writers harshly criticized the passive response of Muslims to ISIS crimes. According to them, clerics make do with condemning the crimes of terrorist organizations, and some even take part in spreading extremist ideologies themselves. They argued that "ideology can only be combatted with ideology" and that no one other than clerics can "defeat and eliminate terrorism based on uncompromising ideology." Therefore, the clerics must combat extremist religious discourse that captures the hearts of many youths, and systematically refute its ideas and rulings as part of ideological, practical, and informational programs. In this context, some of the writers mentioned the silence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which they said begat these extremist takfiri organizations and now refrains from coming out against them and their ideology.  

The writers also pointed to the confusion afflicting the common Muslims today, whether due to the refusal of Islamic religious institution to accuse ISIS and its ilk of apostasy, or whether because matters that were once uncontroversial in Islam - such as offensive jihad and slavery for prisoners of war - are currently forbidden according to modern world norms.

The writers stated that changing the religious discourse was a vital and urgent step, since the ongoing political and cultural situation in the Arab and Muslim world is "a wonderful recipe for extremism and backwardness," and that preserving and sanctifying ancient Islamic heritage would birth groups even more extreme than ISIS and lead Muslims to their doom.

The following are excerpts from these articles:

Aftermath of Paris shooting (Image:, November 13, 2016)

Palestinian Writer: We Must Admit That Terrorism Is Tied To Islam And That Muslim Education Inculcates Implicit Support For ISIS

In a July 17, 2016 article in the London daily Al-Hayat following the July 14 truck attack in Nice, France, Khaled Al-Hroub, a Palestinian writer and academic living in Britain, called on Muslims to admit that terrorism perpetrated by Muslims is indeed tied to Islam, and that education in their schools and mosques establishes implicit support for ISIS, and then to work to uproot this phenomenon, as it does them great harm: "The terrorism in Nice deals another blow to our collective consciousness... [This is] terrorism that attributes itself to the religion [of Islam] and savagely and barbarically strikes everywhere [in the world]... Our repeated claims that the perpetrators of [this] terrorism are nothing but 'a gang' that does not represent us are no longer effective, because why is it that the 'gangs' of others do not do what our gangs do? And what culture, education, and atmosphere gave rise to our gangs and motivated them to perpetrate indescribably horrible crimes?...

"Why can't our resistance to oppression be respectable, honest, and chivalrous, rather than contemptable and immoral?... What is the source of this contemptable resistance that currently controls our arenas, [resistance] that targets only civilians and behaves in a cowardly manner when confronted face-to-face with the enemy? We must deal with reality... as it is, without flinching... The moral superiority of a just cause is the main source of its strength and the reason for its survival and for people to flock to it... Experience has proven the failure of barbarism and terrorism...

"Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri's madness in blowing up the World Trade Center in New York did not defeat the U.S.; on the contrary - it delivered Afghanistan and Iraq as compensation. The resistance of [Abu Mus'ab] Al-Zarqawi and his group in Iraq... using terrorism, led to many disasters including: establishing the American presence [in Iraq] and extending it; releasing the sectarian demon in Iraq and exporting it; dividing and dismantling Iraq; and ingraining terrorism in the heart of the Arab world... The strategy of suicide operations that Hamas used for years gave Israel the justification to construct the separation fence, increased global sympathy for [Israel] and caused countless disasters to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank...

"Is terrorism attributed to religion related to the religion itself? The answer is yes, because the religion - any religion - is nothing but [a sum of all] explanations and interpretations of sacred texts by clerics... Religious interpretations that can easily be understood to mean that martyrdom means a cheap suicide [inside] a café or club frequented by 'infidels' are very common in our religious, educational, and mosque culture, and must be dealt with... What view [can] we develop regarding non-Muslims if every week we hear thousands of preachers call on Allah to 'not leave a trace of them'? Every day, our sons read texts and books in schools that establish nothing but a patronizing and disrespectful view regarding non-Muslims...

"We must first of all admit that education in [our] schools and mosques lays the foundations for 'implicit ISISism'... [This implicit ISISism] is the largest and most important source feeding the [explicit] barbaric ISISism that has managed to acquire weapons and implement large parts of the implicit ISISism that [previously] was not given a chance to express itself. The ISIS phenomenon [that emerged] here over the past decades is not restricted to a certain town, society or sect, but rather cuts across countries, curricula and sects, and burns among the Shi'ites just as it burns among the Sunnis, and its proponents compete in destroying our societies.

"The future of this region and of its peoples and societies depends on uprooting the 'implicit ISISism.' It takes great courage to admit its existence and work to deal with it strategically. [This must be done] patiently, for it is no easy task to fix the damage it has caused with a short-term policy."[1]

Moroccan Writer: Arab World Must Change The Religious Discourse, Deal With Islamic Extremism

Sa'id Nasheed, a Moroccan writer and intellectual, also responded to the Nice attack with an article in the London-based daily Al-Arab calling on Arabs and Muslims to reform their religious discourse in order to deal with extremist takfiri thought in their midst, and to undermine it in a methodical and critical way - lest the world lose its patience with all Muslims: "The truck that ran over... dozens of French people as they celebrated their national holiday in Nice in Southeast France, it does not matter where it came from or what route it took. It doesn't matter whether the truck was laden with weapons or explosives, since we know that the [real] explosives were in the mind of the driver. We are likely facing a new strategy of global jihad that aims to kill as many people as possible, by all possible means. This has made the security task even harder and more complex, and so the important question is: Where did all these mines scattered in the brains [of terrorists] come from, and how did they end up in the truck driver's head?...

"The basic problem of the Islamic world is the lack of sufficient courage to pose the most important and relevant question: From where do we draw this ability to be resentful and filled with hate, to disregard human life and to permit the shedding of blood? We lack sufficient courage [to answer this question]; in fact, we seem to lack even minimal self-integrity when we insist on ridiculously blaming others.

"We must understand that the ideas of takfiri [jihad], which have sparked civil wars and schism in most Arab and Islamic countries... currently threaten many Western capitals and place all of us [Muslims] in the defendant's seat. What have we done to methodically and critically counter these charged views that spread like a plague from mind to mind?... Intellectuals, media personalities, and politicians of other faiths combat their own religious extremism. What [do we do] about our [religious] extremism?

"Terrorism is not embodied by a truck and nothing else - it is first and foremost an idea and a concept. Therefore, we cannot eliminate extremist thought without reforming the religious discourse - a reform Muslims themselves must enact... without beating around the bush. This means that the ball is in our court and that the world will not wait on us forever, especially not now, when the threat has spread everywhere. We are bound to be strongly pressured on this front. Instead of resisting the pressure, which would spark the fires of extremism, wisdom requires us to not avoid [our] obligation."[2]

Palestinian Writer: Every Muslim Anywhere May Have Some Measure Of Sympathy For ISIS; We Must Make Islam Compatible With Universal Values

Following the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in June 2016, Ihlam Akram, a Palestinian writer and human rights activist living in the U.K., published an article in the liberal Saudi website Elaph calling on Muslims to conduct a comprehensive review and research of Islam in order to enact reforms and make it compatible with 21st century universal values. She wrote: "The last conversation between [Orlando attacker Omar Mateen] and the U.S. [police] emergency dispatcher, in which he swore fealty to [ISIS], is just another proof that any Muslim anywhere might harbor some sympathy [for ISIS] in his heart,  even [Muslims] thousands of miles away. This reflects a failure by Western education systems to impart humanitarian values to its Muslim [pupils], including those born in the West...

"All worlds' armies, as modern and sophisticated as they may be, cannot defeat and eliminate terrorism originating in uncompromising ideology. This [task] must be carried out first of all by the bodies that presume to be [Islamic] religious institutions. Yes, we must rewrite and reinterpret Islamic history and amend the religion in accordance with universal values... This change is not the responsibility of Western countries, but rather our own [responsibility as Muslims], both in the West and in the Arab region. This change cannot begin without enacting fundamental reforms in the Arab region, as part of which all [Arab] regimes must relinquish their clandestine patronage over religious institutions and enact reforms in the legal and educational systems in order to substantially improve [Arab and Muslim] society so it conforms with the 21st century and plays an active role in the world. As for Western countries, [like the one] in which I am a citizen - they must reexamine their domestic policies regarding their new citizens and completely abolish religious schools belonging to all faiths, and also reconsider their foreign policies and ties with Islamic countries, for better or worse...

"The refusal of religious institutions to accuse the false [Islamic] State of apostasy increases the confusion of all Muslims anywhere. It may also prove that there is no such thing as extreme religious ideology versus moderate ideology, but that there is some flaw [in Islam] and that the time has come to bring it all under intense scrutiny for the purpose of reform."[3]

Egyptian Writer: Culture Of Arab Societies Produces Violent Islam Whose Followers Murder Anyone Who Disagrees With Them

Egyptian writer and animation screenwriter Amr Hosny published an article in the Egyptian daily Al-Tahrir accusing Arab and Muslim society of being oversensitive regarding the honor of Islam, leading to them being violent and murderous towards others: "Every time an extremist Muslims commits a horrifying crime against humanity, some people come out and shriek that he has nothing to do with Islam, while ignoring the fact that views and ideologies do not exist as abstract entities, but rather take shape in the minds and behavior of those who believe in them in accordance with the surrounding culture that defines the nature of their relations with the other. The culture of our Islamic societies in this generation, particularly Arab societies, produces a violent Islam whose believers simply murder anyone who disagrees with them under the pretext of being offended. This, while they [the Muslims] never consider anyone else's feelings but their own...

"Omar Mateen, the young American Muslim of Afghan origin who massacred 50 homosexuals, was offended because he saw two men kissing, but was not [offended] by [the act of] murdering 50 people. After all these crimes, members of other cultures more readily accept extremism on behalf of their governments and people against Muslims [in general] and Arabs in particular, since [in their eyes] they are [all] potential terrorists who must be uprooted from their societies.

"We must recognize the existence of a flaw in the Islamic culture - particularly the Arab [Islamic culture] - that beats in the heart of the Muslim... and causes him to become convinced that the other deserves to be killed if he offends [the Muslims'] religious sensibilities..."[4]

Jordanian Writer: We Must Urgently Reexamine Islamic Religious Texts; Clerics Not Fulfilling This Duty

In an article in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Jordanian researcher and pundit Muhammad Barhouma called to enact urgent and radical religious reforms in the Arab and Islamic world that fit the times and revoke the legitimacy of violence and killing in the name of Allah. According to him, Muslim clerics are not fulfilling their duty on this front: "Though we appreciate the condemnations [of the November 2015 Paris attacks] by the Council of Senior Scholars [in Saudi Arabia] and Al-Azhar [in Egypt], true religious reform in the Arab and Muslim world still hasn't happened, because one of the [necessary] pillars for it are the clerics, the vast majority of whom do not fulfill their duty when it comes to reform. [Apparently] they are not yet convinced that the religious texts we possess, as well as the interpretations and explanations of these religious texts, require urgent reexamination, criticism, dismantling, additions, omissions, and development so that they match the spirit of the times and human progress; that is, the values of liberty, human rights and respect for the principle of equality among all people and of strengthening trust among them. The policy currently undertaken [in the Arab and Muslim world] is based on tyranny and corruption. In our current culture, philosophy, art, and morality wither away, and clerics avoid the realization that there is a need to reexamine religious texts, remove vagueness from them, and revoke the legitimacy for violence that they contain, as they constitute a wonderful prescription for extremism and backwardness. Dealing with this will gradually increase the progressive content of the religion, and provide meaning that does not marginalize life, development, and human rights...

"This call is addressed not just to the Arab and Muslim world, but also to [Islamic] institutions in the West, since we can no longer excuse extremism and terrorism by citing the problems of immigration and Muslim integration into Western societies, feelings of isolation, and the younger generations' search for an identity there. One of the first stages of the solution lies in religious reform that revokes the religious legitimacy of interpretations of religious texts permitting 'killing in the name of God.'"[5]

Senior Saudi Journalist: Muslim Clerics Should Completely Disprove Takfiri Jihadi Ideological Arguments

Qinan Al-Ghamdi, a senior Saudi journalist and former editor of the government daily Al-Watan, penned an article arguing that condemning terrorism was not enough, and the situation required critically reading the texts of takfiri jihadi ideology and systematically disproving them: "Are condemnations and repudiations enough to forever rid ourselves of terrorism on both the ideological and the practical levels? I believe they are absolutely not enough... We can, for example, order the Shura Council [the Saudi parliament] to reexamine and debate the law to combat racism, sectarianism, takfir, incitement and suborning crime, which it opposed [in the past], since this can have a broader and deeper impact than [mere] condemnation and repudiation, and it would be best for the present and future of our country that this be done as soon as possible.

"As for the other elements and Islamic institutions, chiefly the Council of Senior Scholars... I wish they would [accompany their] repeated condemnations following every terrorist attack with practical and informational ideological programs in order to erode the ideology of terrorism that Al-Qaeda relied on and now ISIS is relying on. [These groups] have seduced sons of the homeland, led them astray, and recruited them using takfiri sectarian ideologues and inciters who are members of a stream that [originally] branched out from the Muslim Brotherhood organization...

"It is the duty of the Council of Senior Scholars, and specifically the preachers at the Ka'ba Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, to review this entire [takfiri jihadi] ideology, critically read its texts, and respond to them. These are not Koranic texts but rather various interpretations and fatwas that terror theoreticians and prominent figures have exploited for their earthly goals, turning our youth into kindling for their fires in the heart of our homeland and elsewhere... This is the only way to dry out the swamps of terrorism. As for the mosquitos already bred by the swamps, the security personnel and loyal sons of the homeland are clearly committed to eliminating them, but this must be accompanied by a law that defines sectarianism, racism, takfir, and incitement as crimes, and with [efforts to] dry out all the ideological swamps - otherwise it will all be pointless, as incitement will continue and the ideological swamps will breed more mosquitos, thus keeping the homeland trapped in the cycle of terrorism."[6]

Saudi Journalist In Series Of Articles: Actions Of Al-Qaeda, ISIS Originate In Past Islamic Religious Texts And Interpretations; We Must Issue Fatwas In Line With The Times

Writing in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, Saudi journalist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh argued that ISIS faithfully represents the texts from Islamic heritage, which reflect a reality that is no longer relevant today, and that there was therefore a need to update Muslim law to fit the times: "Today, it is more urgent than ever to renew the [Islamic] religious discourse in form, content, and goals... since Muslims have become confused, as many issues that were once considered uncontroversial principles are now banned in accordance to the norms set by the modern world, such as slavery for prisoners of war, offensive jihad, and so on. ISIS and its actions, for example, did not fall from the sky and are not new; on the contrary, they draw most of their religious laws from the most important religious texts and from interpretations by religious scholars regarding those texts and their practical implementation... How can we operate according to the words, rulings, and attitudes of [past] jurisprudents [on matters not explicitly mentioned in the Koran] who did not experience our reality...? This is our fundamental problem, which initially birthed Al-Qaeda and later ISIS. These two groups are the best examples of what I am saying. We cannot dismiss their actions by saying that they 'do not represent Islam' when most of their actions originate in books from our past heritage, [books] that dealt with matters of the day in accordance with the conditions and norms of that period, which are different from the conditions and norms of our own period. Therefore, in order to deal with the current discourse, there is no choice but to issue fatwas that match our time and not ancient periods...

"Those who examine the history of Islam will find that many issues in religious texts, and rulings regarding them, were meant to deal with problems that did not exist during the time of the Prophet... [In the same manner,] we must generate a modern religious discourse that matches new developments and [deals with] earthly problems, otherwise the entire world, both Muslim and non-Muslim, should expect ISIS, or even newer takfiri groups, to [continue] leveling charges of apostasy against anyone who commits even the most minor infractions and call to kill them."[7]

Sanctifying Old Islamic Heritage Will Breed Groups More Extreme Than ISIS, Lead Muslims To Doom

Aal Al-Sheikh made similar remarks in articles following the November 2015 Paris attacks, warning that cleaving to violent Muslim heritage would be disastrous for Muslims: "We must not let conspiracy [theories] make us forget that the heritage passed down to us - specifically regarding offensive jihad, slavery, and capturing prisoners, for example - are not in line with the times, and that the insistence on cleaving to it due to its [supposed] status as a sacred heritage that must remain unharmed will lead us Muslims and Arabs to doom - literally, and not metaphorically... Just as Al-Qaeda begat ISIS, so will ISIS and its suicide culture beget even more cruel, barbaric, and dangerous [groups]..."[8]

Muslims Should Learn From The West, Which Rescued Itself From Medieval Culture And Became Enlightened

In another article, Aal Al-Sheikh called on Muslims to stop making excuses for their heritage and deal with it critically and rationally, just as Western societies had done, or else they would continue to be "invading barbarians and murderers." He wrote: "Those who read the history of today's leading Western societies will see that the reason they emerged from medieval culture and entered into the age of enlightenment, which led them to cultural superiority in all scientific and theoretic fields, is that they dealt with their heritage in a critical, rational, and substantive way. They legislated rational laws enabling the principles of pluralism and diverse opinions without making them absolute and without reservations... They led their people to view rationality and scientific standards as crucial factors in their daily considerations. If, instead of dealing [with their heritage], they would have made excuses for their culture and used them to explain their situation and place blame for it on the culturally-superior other, as some of our intellectuals do today; and if they had [adopted] conspiracy [theories], as some other intellectuals do, they [too] would have remained invading barbarians and murderers...

"Our mental problem... is that we read our history, specifically its glorious parts, in an unscientific manner, and view our own period using the rationale of yesteryear while refusing to read it according to today's rationale and using current critical tools. This is what has eventually caused us to fall into the trap of this terrible disaster that currently afflicts us, which is the terrorism whose best representatives are ISIS and its ilk, [organizations] that use history, statements made by [ancient] jurisprudents, and certain [historical] events as evidence [that their way is correct], and take things out of context, circumstance, and time period, and superimpose them on our era, believing that these historic testimonies are proof enough that their actions are religiously proper."[9]

Caliph 'Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Also Adapted His Rulings To The Times And To The Benefit Of All Muslims

Aal Al-Sheikh also penned an article condemning clerics for not disproving ISIS's religious ideology, as early Islamic generations did regarding the Kharijites[10] and thereby eliminated them: "Why don't our clerics come out against [ISIS], disprove the religious justifications they use to establish [their claims], and respond to them using evidence and explanations, thus saving the masses from them and their damage? Ideology can only be combatted with ideology. Early Islamic generations succeeded in eliminating the Kharijites, for example, and other wayward groups that caused suffering to Islam, only after they confronted their clerics, and read, addressed and disproved their ideas and writings, causing them first to wither and eventually to disappear...

"To date we have yet to deal with ISIS's ideology in a comprehensive, brave and serious manner. We have not disproved its evidence or addressed what it says in a substantive manner, based on proof and while [stressing] that statements made by clerics in the near or distant past do not necessarily apply to our period, its circumstances, its upheavals and its disasters. By the way, this was one of the most important attitudes utilized by [Caliph] Omar ibn Al-Khattab [ruled 634-644] in his religious rulings on worldly matters. This supreme genius caliph excelled in adapting the considerations in his rulings to the circumstances and in seeking the greater good of the Muslim public in all matters. Thus, for example, he suspended the Koranic punishment for theft [having one's hand cut off] during the Year of Al-Ramada (a period of famine during his rule). He was also the one who stopped giving [alms money] to people whose hearts had be brought closer [to Islam][11] because he believed that this money [had been given them] due to political considerations during the time of the revelation [of the Koran], but that in his own time, when the [Islamic] state was already strong, it was no longer justified to continue paying money to this group of Muslims. Additionally, he was the one who banned marriage to Christian or Jewish women [at a certain period], for social reasons and in pursuit of the greater good, as he saw it.

"Why, therefore, can't we see his way as a custom and a path for us [to follow]?... If we follow texts [literally] and heed the words of and rulings of [past] clerics... and their rulings on matters that do not have explicit laws, while taking things out of their historical context and ignoring the requirements of the public interest in our current time and not their own, then we must not condemn the members of ISIS for taking the [same] path in their own religious conduct..."[12]

Arabs have their sights set on "the 21st century" but run in the opposite direction (Al-Rai, Jordan, December 10, 2015)

Moroccan Journalist: We Must Rescue Religious Values From The Culture Of Ignorance, Backwardness, And Violence

Taoufik Bouachrine, a Moroccan journalist and editor of the online daily, penned a scathing article following the November 2015 Paris attacks. He called on Muslims to adapt Islamic heritage to modern times, and argued that one of the three factors leading to the birth of ISIS and its ilk is the lack of religious reform in the Islamic world for over a century. According to him: "From the days of Jama Al-Din Al-Afghani[13] and to this day, Muslims have not seen a new plan to rescue the values of the global Islamic faith from the culture of ignorance, backwardness, and violence - [a culture that has] surrounded [the Muslims] since they absconded from the throne of modern culture centuries ago and went from producing values of progress to consuming them. We Muslims have yet to discover the formula for adapting the religious lifestyle to the values of the modern era, and we do not steer ourselves towards a historic reconciliation between Islamic heritage and modern democracy. The narrow understanding of texts and violent interpretation of the religion, as well as the political use of the Koran and the exploitation of the Sunnah of the Prophet have [all] become ingrained in the structure of fundamentalist organizations. And because the political and economic climate in the Arab world is rife with tyranny, poverty, dearth, and ignorance, ISIS and Al-Qaeda before it... found gunpowder and ammo for their guns and canon."[14]

Palestinian Writer: No Justification For Clerics' Silence In Light Of ISIS Crimes And Their Refusal To Declare ISIS Non-Muslim

Muhammad Yaghi, a columnist for the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam, condemned the silence of Muslim clerics and urged them to wage ideological war against extremist thought by refuting the foundations on which it is based: "We must search for the real reasons for extremism, and not suffice with repeating the refrain that the West is responsible [for it], because this alone cannot explain the phenomenon... Some attribute the phenomenon of extremism or the spread of madness to poverty, unemployment, the blocking of the horizons of millions of Muslim youths, tyrannical regimes, and the Israeli occupation. Undoubtedly, these causes are all real... and we can obviously show examples of cases where people joined ISIS for these reasons. But these reasons are not the [true] root of why people join ISIS and its ilk. Thus, for example, ISIS media does not discuss poverty or unemployment or the Israeli occupation, but rather focus on the war against the infidels, Shi'ites, and Crusaders, building the caliphate state, and jihad for the sake of Allah.

"ISIS focuses on a narrow interpretation of Islam: it presents a discourse of Islamic interpretation that captures the hearts of dozens of its recruits. This discourse is precisely the factor that must be combatted - yet it is the one topic that is never discussed. Those who call themselves jurisprudents see ISIS distorting all human values [in the name of Islam], yet they do not stand up and say that its actions are crimes that have nothing to do with Islam. None of them say that the phenomenon of taking hostages and slaves has nothing to do with the shari'a and that its time has past. On these matters, clerics are as silent as the dead...

"There is no explanation for the silence of the Muslim Brotherhood and for the so-called Council of Senior Scholars' refusal to remove ISIS from the fold of Islam. There is no excuse for the Muslim Brotherhood's refusal to protest against the bombing of a mosque, while they fill the streets every time some newspaper publishes a cartoon that offends Islam. ISIS can only be defeated... by destroying the ideological foundations on which it is based... This is the mission of those who claim to be versed in Islam, and it is their moral duty to their peoples. However, unfortunately, they turn their backs on [their peoples]."[15]

Saudi Writer: ISIS Culture Ingrained In The Hearts Of Many Muslims; We Must Combat This Ideological-Cultural Affliction

Mashari Al-Dhaidi, a Saudi journalist and senior editor in the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, called on Muslims to stop denying reality and launch a war against ISIS ideology in order to defend Islam and the majority of Muslims. Al-Dhaidi said that terrorist attacks committed by Muslims around the world have become a nearly daily occurrence and that each attack "inspires other sick and lowly people around the world" to emulate it. According to him: "This [ISIS] culture is ingrained in the hearts of many Muslims, and [we] do not lay a finger on the hiding places of this ideological-cultural affliction. On the contrary - every time a researcher or intellectual tries to neutralize these ideas [and remove them] from public education, mosques, and preacher pulpits... they are accused of spying and Westernization, are ignored by the authorities in Arab and Muslim countries, and become prey to opportunists and the rabble they lead.

"A true and fundamental start [in combating terrorism] is confronting this culture and facing the consequences, difficult as they may be. Those who say that ISIS, Al-Qaeda before it, and other ideological abscesses like them, are products of some intelligence apparatus, or the result of political oppression or economic or cultural deprivation, are denying the clear truth, namely  that this is a cultural-educational problem. True, ISIS and its ilk undoubtedly do not represent the majority of the world's Muslims, and they harm Muslim countries and interests even more than they harm the West. But the fact is that refraining from declaring an ideological-psychological war - and not just a security-military war - on the culture that birthed Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and their ilk, will harm all Muslims in the world, including those with Western citizenships. In fact, this is a war of the Muslim majority to defend Islam and the majority of Muslims."[16]


* D. Hazan is a research fellow at MEMRI.




[1] Al-Hayat (London), July 17, 2016.

[2] Al-Arab (London), July 16, 2016.

[3], June 16, 2016.

[4], June 14, 2016.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 9, 2015.

[6] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), February 3, 2016

[7] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), April 5, 2016.

[8] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), November 20, 2015.

[9] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), November 24, 2015.

[10] The first sect to break away from Islam.

[11] A term originating in Koran 60:9, referring to people who converted to Islam but whose faith did not run deep. Due to their influence and status in the Quraysh tribe, the Prophet Muhammad gave them alms money to please them and strengthen their faith so that they would not come out against Islam, which was still weak at the time.

[12] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), November 27, 2015.

[13] A pioneer of the modernist movement in Islam in the 19th century. Called to break free of the bonds of traditional Islam, abandon superstitions that became ingrained in it, and enact educational, but mostly political, reforms to unite Islamic countries against the Western world, which he saw as a threat.

[14], November 19, 2015.

[15] Al-Ayyam (PA), November 20, 2015.

[16] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 9, 2015.


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