July 30, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6118

Liberal Writer Mansour Al-Hadj Proposes Founding An Independent Islamic Organization To Address Root Causes Of Violent Extremism, Promote Peaceful Aspects Of Islam

July 30, 2015
Special Dispatch No. 6118

In an article published July 13, 2015 on the reformist website Aafaq,[1] Saudi-born liberal journalist and writer Mansour Al-Hadj argues that simply proclaiming that Islam is unrelated to the violence that is carried out in its name is not a productive way of discrediting extremists and supporting the mainstream, peaceful Islam. In the article, titled "Our Chance to Restore Our Islam, The Religion Of Peace," he proposes that Muslims who reject violence and support peace create an independent Islamic organization representing all branches of Islam to revise Islamic traditional texts, address the root causes of terrorism, and spread Islam's peaceful values. This organization would be vitally important, because it would represent the diversity of the global Muslim community and would provide an alternative to regime-sponsored interpretations of Islam.

The following are excerpts from the article:

I Propose "A Solution To The Complicated Dilemma Between Those Who Describe Islam As A Religion Of Violence... And The Millions Of Muslims Who Consider Their Religion A Peaceful And Loving One"

"...What I am proposing today... will be a solution to the complicated dilemma between those who describe Islam as a religion of violence and the sword and the millions of Muslims who consider their religion a peaceful and loving one. The solution I am proposing is for the overwhelming majority of Muslims who believe that their religion is one of justice, tolerance, cooperation, freedom, equality, and love, and that it is against extremism, oppression and racism, to step up to create an independent Islamic organization in which all sects and groups are represented. This organization should focus on establishing peaceful Islamic values and countering the preachers of violence, extremism, and sectarianism, by revising Islamic heritage and purging it of all the falsifications and politicizations that it has suffered throughout the centuries. This organization should be independent, represent all groups without discrimination or favoritism, and depend solely on Muslim donations.

"I call on all those who have passively rejected terrorist practices, declaring that these do not represent Islam, to play a significant role in establishing this organization. This call is extended to all who have lost family or other loved ones because of terrorism; all who consider amputation, stoning, and crucifixion gruesome punishments which do not belong in our time; all minorities who have faced displacement and whose killing has been justified by so-called "Islamic" reasons; all who reject the exploitation of the religion for political, personal, or sectarian reasons; all who wish their religion to be a symbol of peace, cooperation, and love; all women who have been oppressed in the name of religion, all girls who do not think their faces must be covered; all who have been flogged and humiliated; all homosexual Muslims who reject that they must be thrown off a roof to their deaths for being who they are; all who think that Islamic practices can be improved to positively impact lives; all who think that it is necessary to renew the Islamic discourse; all who believe that religion is a personal issue between an individual and their God; all who have feared to express their ideas for fear of being accused of apostasy; all who have been accused of committing blasphemy because of their ideas or actions; and all who believe that clergy represent only themselves..."

"The Importance Of This Organization

"Creating this organization is vitally important, because the Islamic organizations in existence today do not represent Muslims from all walks of life, and they receive their support from particular countries and serve the interests of their funders. Countering radical Islamist movements, specifically the Islamic State (ISIS), requires a questioning of the legitimacy of all the regimes that claim that their ruling is based on the Koran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Today's Islamic organizations lack the will to address the deeper causes of the problem, because of their affiliation with regimes which use religion as the source of their legitimacy...

"Countering religious extremism and eradicating all its root causes requires, first, a serious and profound examination of these causes; only then can we bring about a permanent solution. This cannot be achieved as long as we turn a blind eye to other situations in which clerics have a monopoly on interpreting religious texts in a way that fulfils their rulers' wishes.

"Why Now?

"A number of factors prompted me to launch this initiative, in which I hope to be joined by every Muslim who believes that their religion is a religion of peace. Here are the most important factors:

"1. The exacerbation of the phenomenon of religiously based terrorism, to the extent that passivity in the face of it, or simply denying that it has anything to do with the religion, could be considered an irresponsible act, as terrorism claims thousands of lives. Almost every day, attacks and bombings kill hundreds in different parts of the world, and staged Hollywood-style videos of systematic killings are produced by the media branches of the Islamic State.

"2. The failure of the patchy attempts to confront the phenomenon of religiously based terrorism because of a lack of determination to address the root causes of the problem - which is the monopolization by certain groups and regimes of the right to interpret religious texts. Stripping 'Al-Baghdadi's preachers' of the right that they claim to interpret religious texts requires stripping 'Al-Saud's preachers' of it as well. The Saudi de-radicalization and rehabilitation program, and the American-Emirati Sawab Center approach the issue of terrorism gently, avoiding concepts such as reforming Islam and reviewing its tradition. Saudi Arabia and the UAE - like ISIS - follow a narrow Salafi vision, which is itself accused of being the source of religious extremism.

"3. Growing calls for a review of Islamic tradition and the foundations upon which militants base their terrorism. On July 6, 2015, in an article titled 'Religious Tolerance,' Kuwaiti writer Sheikha Al-Jassem called for a review of the Islamic tradition 'with open eyes, a conscious mind, and without stamping approval on everything favored by our predecessors.' She added: 'If the religion is valid for every time and place, it is upon those who support it to make sure that fatwas keep up with the changing times. We have heard that the door of ijtihad [i.e. scholars' efforts to issue shari'a-compatible rulings on contemporary issues] is open.' Likewise, in an article titled 'Which Muslim Are You?' published on the Dutch-sponsored Arabic-language website Here Is Your Voice on July 9, 2015, Muftah Kiafi questioned whether the punishments of flogging and retribution and killing of apostates truly represent Islam, citing the different views of two types of Muslims vis-à-vis these practices, and discussing their appropriateness for our time. In addition, a report published by the Egyptian website Al-Masry Al-Yom addressed the importance of religious reform; in it, intellectuals presented what they viewed as the most important issues to be tackled, such as religion-based states and the concept of jihad.

"4. It is extremely important for those who adhere to the values and concepts which terrorist groups reject to establish this organization, because it is they who would suffer the most under these groups' rule.

"This Is Our Chance To Regain Our Islam

"I fully realize the difficulty of this task, and what criticism to expect from different groups. But I am wagering on the voices of the silent majority - who are the victims of terrorism and also the ones most dishonored by it. Since extremist rhetoric is an integrated idea, it must be countered with a comprehensive Islamic idea, supported by millions of ordinary Muslims who want to practice their religion freely..."


[1], July 13, 2015

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