Following recent waves of anti-Islam sentiment in Europe, especially in Germany, where the PEDIGA movement has been staging mass demonstrations in recent months against the "Islamization" of the West and against the Muslim immigration to the country, the London-based Saudi dailies Al-Hayat and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published articles expressing understanding for this sentiment and holding radical Muslims responsible for it. Al-Hayat columnist 'Aql Al-'Aql and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former director of Al-Arabiya TV, wrote that Europe's fear of Islam stems from the images of murder and throat-slitting carried out by radical Muslims in the name of Islam throughout the world, in most cases against other Muslims. The two called on Muslims to combat extremists and promote dialogue with other monotheistic religions and with the West.
The following are excerpts from the articles:
PEGIDA protest in Germany (image: independent.co.uk)
'Aql Al-'Aql: It Is Radical Muslims Who Created The Western Stereotype That Islam Is A Violent Religion
In his article in Al-Hayat, titled "German Jews Defend Islam", columnist 'Aql Al-'Aql wrote that the West's fear of and hostility towards Islam and Muslims is unsurprising in light of the sights of murder and throat-slitting carried out by radical Muslims. He added that, while the West is busy making scientific discoveries that serve all of mankind, Muslims are killing each other in the name of the religion. However, Al-'Aql is encouraged by statements made by a leader of Germany's Jewish community, who stood by Muslims in light of hostility towards them in the country, and sees it as proof that understanding and dialogue among monotheistic faiths are possible:
"Islam and Muslims are in a state of oppression, especially in the West. In the Western subconscious, there is a stereotype linking Islam with violence, extremism, and terrorism. Who is responsible for this worldwide fear of Islam, the so-called 'Islamophobia'?... The world witnesses killing and violence towards innocent people in our Islamic world, carried out in the name of Islam. What do we expect Islam's image to be like among people abroad, when they watch TV and browse social media and see images of innocents killed and having their throats slit just for not belonging to the same [religious] school as this or that group, or women of ethnic and religious minorities being captured [as slaves] in the Arab and Islamic world? This despicable behavior is enough to distort Islam's image in the West for the next several hundred years. In light of the tragic state of Muslims, we cannot expect those who commit these crimes and tie them to Islam to do anything but exacerbate the religious and cultural conflict and drag Islam itself into it. There is no doubt that Islam is the biggest loser in this era.
"The world reads the statistics of Muslims killed by other Muslims. This data shows the West and Western peoples that Islam is a religion of violence that endangers the entire world. Unfortunately, we Muslims are providing the proof that this is [the nature of] Islam. Non-Muslim societies and countries are busy with their affairs and scientific discoveries, which serve all of mankind, including Muslims, while Muslims are busy killing each other. In this situation, how do we expect the world to treat us? Is it [not] right to fear anything related to Islam and Muslims?"
"In addition to the state of loss, lack of direction, and backwardness afflicting us, and the attempt to emerge from the cultural crisis befalling Muslims, some among us search for justification [and claim] that those behind the hostility towards Islam are an external force that is historically hostile to Islam. This could have happened in the past, and there have indeed been religious conflicts in our region. But is it logical for us to be trapped in these religious struggles? We all know that, throughout history, even in the West, there have been wars among peoples on a religious basis, but that with [the rise] of the industrial revolution and the secular state, the West emerged from the past and the history of the religious state.
The complexity of the cultural crisis in which we Muslims are trapped is that, on the one hand, we [see ourselves] as part of the modern world that is characterized by globalization, with all its economic, political, and social aspects, and of the information [revolution], which has swept across borders and continents. Yet we [still] use religion in our political struggle against the secular West. This is our true crisis. We all read and follow the blatant hostility of the Christian West [against the Muslim world]. But in its struggle with us, does this West ask for religious hegemony? Or [does it pursue] political and economic interests?... We must not get dragged into [the perception] that the struggle between Islam and the West - which should be called capitalist rather than Christian - or even against Judaism as a religion, is inevitable. Our disagreement with some of the Jews is political, and we can find common ground with members of other faiths.
"A while ago I read, for instance, that Germany's Central Council of Jews declared solidarity with Muslims in light of the verbal attacks of the anti-Islamic PEGIDA movement... The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, told the daily German Die Welt: 'Fear of Islamic terrorism has been exploited to harm the entire religion... This is totally unacceptable.' These positions and statements are proof that there is room for ties and dialogue between members of monotheistic faiths, and we Muslims should be open to the other in order to serve Islam, which calls for peace and love. But if we believe some extremist voices in the West and in our midst that say that this is a clash of civilizations, the biggest loser will be us as a nation, and [the image of] Islam will continue to be harmed due to the actions of some of us."
'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed: German Muslims Should Distance Themselves From Radical Muslims and Marginalize Them
Similar statements were made by former Al-Arabiya TV director 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed in the daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. Writing on the day of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, Al-Rashed said that radicals within Muslim communities are a far greater danger for Islam and Muslims than racist Germans protesting against Germany's Muslim community, and are the root cause of the West's fear of the spread of Islam in its territory. He called on German Muslims to fight radicals, marginalize them, and let the state deal with German extremists:
"It's not difficult to describe the situation in Germany; there are bad Muslims and bad Germans. The 18,000 Germans who took to the streets of Dresden against what they dubbed the 'Islamization of Germany' include racists as well as angry people who have been affected by the heinous and ugly political acts committed by Muslims across the world. Among these Germans are those who blame others for the difficult economic situation they find themselves in, considering the influx of foreigners which has led to competition over jobs and benefits.
"Germany itself is home to Muslim religious and political extremists who succeeded in distorting the image of the other three million Muslims who live peacefully in Germany. Muslim extremists in Germany are more dangerous and harmful to Muslims than angry, racist and fascist Germans. Germany is a tolerant, secular and civil state that has 2,500 mosques. Its regulations, courts and executive institutions protect the Muslim community from racist groups. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the anti-Islam protests as a detestable act. The justice minister also led a protest against racists in the same square as the anti-Islam rally."
'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
"Arabs make up a small minority of Muslims in Germany. Moroccans, who rank fourth after the Turks, Bosnians and Iranians, account for 80,000 persons. Those of Lebanese origin rank sixth with just 50,000 immigrants. The talk about the Islamization of Germany is nothing more than a silly scarecrow. After all, Muslims are a small minority and it's said that the number of Germans who converted to Islam comes in at 100,000, which is a small number considering the country's population of 80 million. Most of those who converted to Islam most likely did so following mixed marriages and not due to preaching. Muslims have become tormented people following the damage to their image and the image of their religion. This has occurred ever since the Al-Qaeda organization surfaced and also due to the massive propaganda of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which made headlines with its violent practices such as the beheadings of Western hostages."
"The three million Muslims residing in Germany cannot do much to defend their image because the Islamic region is rife with awful images and news which is used by racists to incite against Islam and against peaceful Muslims who live in the West and other countries. What is always worth a shot, by Germany's Muslims and other Germans, is directing their anger towards Muslim extremists, expelling them from their communities and distancing them from their schools and children. Fighting Muslim extremists in Germany is more important to Muslims than fighting German racists whom the state will deal with and punish. Perhaps the state will roll up its sleeves and also fight Muslim extremists as it's not possible - and not acceptable - that the war only be waged against racists while overlooking extremist Muslims. Those extremist Muslims exploit the tolerant and civil regulations in order to market a culture of hatred, incite against followers of other religions and seek to control Muslim schools, mosques and charity and humanitarian institutions.
"This stance does not protect Germany from the alleged Islamization but it saves Muslims from the rotten apples among them and from those who sabotaged their communities, destroyed them or imposed their extremist ideology on their people. Those who deserve freedom in civil societies are those individuals who respect freedom and not those who exploit it to serve their own interests."