The Dilemma of Eradicating Extremism
21 June 2016
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Promoting Nazi ideology in France, Germany and a number of European countries
is considered a crime punishable by law. This is not because opposing ideas
are prohibited, but rather because this ideology in particular threatens
social peace and encourages discrimination. There are those who believe that
the promotion of extreme Islamist ideology such as that followed by ISIS and
Al-Qaeda is no less dangerous than Nazi ideology, and that it must be
classified in the category of ideologies that are forbidden to promote.
However, some intellectuals and politicians fear that radical Islamic thought
and the religion Islam would get mixed up. We must not forget that Muslims
themselves are the main victims of extremism.
The question is, how can we differentiate between extremist ideology which
pushes a person to run over people because he considers them infidels, and
Islam, the religion that is followed by a billion people around the world? In
theory, the difference is obvious; all those who study doctrines that accuse
others of infidelity, and promote the harming of those who don't believe in or
implement them, can be considered extremists who must be punished. In
practice, it is unreasonable to consider someone who has not yet committed a
crime a criminal who can be punished.
Each time a heinous crime is committed, pressure increases on politicians and
legislators to make laws allowing the pursuit of Muslim extremists, and
restricting the construction of schools and mosques. The French President
Francois Hollande supported the decision to strip citizenship or not grant it
to anyone involved in terrorist acts or anyone who is linked to them. However,
he later retreated after studying the situation and laws.
It is expected that people will once again demand that extremists are pursued
instead of waiting for them to commit crimes and arresting them thereafter.
Politicians will not be able to refuse, especially after heinous terrorist
crimes have been committed and the world saw the corpses of bystanders that
had been run over by a terrorist in the French city of Nice. This is not the
first crime of its kind; another terrorist ran over 11 passers-by in the
French city of Dijon two years ago.
In a society afflicted with terrorism, such as France's today, it is natural
that angry feelings are expressed, especially by the majority who do not
differentiate between Muslims and extremists, and will not accept anything
less than the issuance of laws related to pursuing terrorism in general.
The question is puzzling; how do you distinguish between what is permissible
and forbidden to teach and preach among Muslims in order to isolate the
extremists and their ideas and fortify the Muslim majority and protect all of
society? Islamic intellectuals are required to present projects of Islam that
call for peace and accept co-existence that is based upon the Qura'n and the
Many people have authored books and studies on moderation in Islam. However,
these works have not been turned into educational and cultural projects that
are compulsory for all in core curricula. The reason for this is a lack of
plans for change and rectification.
All measures that have been taken in the name of reforming the education
curricula and mosques in the past have prohibited anything clearly calling for
extremism and hostility against others. However, an Islamic alternative
proposal that fortifies people against extremist ideology that is promoted
outside mosques and schools has not been presented to them.
Islam actually preaches good morals such as compassion for the weak, kindness
to people, helping the needy, and forbids murder, injustice and treachery.
However, with the rise of extremist religious thought, preachers of religious
parties are encouraging Muslims to clash with non-Muslims and are branding
moderate Muslims infidels.
They have succeeded in building an extreme approach that has overpowered the
moderate interpretation of Islam. We can see the results of this among
terrorist organisations or the masses who believe that extremists are
expressing true Islam and defend it.
Millions of innocent Muslims will pay the price for the brutal attack in Nice
and any other attacks that may follow it. They will be restrained and unfairly
categorised as long as no one comes forward to show the difference between
Muslims and extremists.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the
former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of
Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass
communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is
currently based in Dubai.