When you turn on the TV, you often see jihadists waving black flags, calling for the destruction of the west. What many see as representative of Islam is actually a modern deviation of the faith. The kind of radicalism permeating the Muslim world today has a clear beginning. In 1744, when the first Saudi Arabian state was established, the king made a pact with a theologian to adopt Salafism as the state religion. Salafism rejects all other forms of Islam, promotes holy war against non-Muslims and gives women little to no freedoms.
Because of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth, they have been able to export their Salafist ideology all over the world indoctrinating millions with an intolerant, misogynistic deviation of true Islam. They were successful in places like Pakistan and Algeria, where people were susceptible to radicalism after years of imperialism and war.
They have politicized the religion, using it as a tool to control and oppress people and prevent dissent. They have gotten rid of the independent reasoning and scholarly traditions that helped the faith grow and modernize.
This ideology is the exact same one that groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State adhere to. They have no tolerance for any beliefs but their own. They kill anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, that gets in their way. They twist passages from the Qu’ran to justify their evil actions, but they provide no context. Their concept of jihad is distorted and has no limits. Killing innocents and religious minorities is forbidden; they bear no guilt. The Holy Qu’ran says “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.”
In an authentic Hadith (teaching of the prophet), Muhammad (peace be upon him) predicted that these fundamentalists would come.
“Here will be in my Community a dissent and a faction, a people with excellent words and vile deeds. They will read Qur’an, but their faith does not go past their throats. They will pass through religion the way an arrow passes through its quarry. They will no more come back to the religion than the arrow will come back to its original course. They are the worst of human beings and the worst of all creation.”
To many Muslims, especially in war-torn and downtrodden areas, the message of these groups seems appealing. At the surface level, they claim to be representing Islam and defending the religion, but really they have no morals or value for human life. They murder innocent women and children, enslave religious minorities and destroy places of worship, even Muslim ones.
This is not the message of Islam. Almost every chapter of the Qur’an begins the same way. “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” As Muslims, we are encouraged to bestow mercy upon our fellow human beings so God will bestow mercy upon us. As it says in the Quran in the 25th chapter, “And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them harshly they say words of peace.”
To me and a vast majority of Muslims, this is what our religion means to us. We must combat these extremists to salvage the reputation of our religion, bringing peace, justice, and mercy to the world.