Call for moderate counter narrative | Daily News

We cannot kill our way out of this mess

Call for moderate counter narrative

Despite the intensifying military response to ISIS by the US and its allies, the realization is growing that “we cannot kill our way out of this mess,” to cite governor Romney’s famous quip, and that, as a previous DHS chief Jeh Johnson stated, “our government should not overreact, or react out of fear, anger or prejudice.” Johnson pleaded instead for a moderate counter-narrative by Muslim clerics to sway potential recruits to extremism away from violence and back to the path of real Islam. We are faced with a similar predicament.

Deweaponise hate

This piece calls for introspection. We have hoisted extreme violence, political violence and extremism on ourselves over time. We have been rocked by riots targeting minorities previously. Youth have taken to arms. Radical religious groups have given birth to attacks on faith based evangelical groups and more recently Muslims. We now have the phenomenon of suicide bombers drawn from radicalized citizens. Social media is used to spew forth untrammeled, unmitigated hate at Muslims presently, including an irrational call to boycott commercial establishments owned by Muslims. An easy step away from physically attacking as was seen with thugs roaming with lists of Tamil owned houses and establishments to burn in 1983.

The nature of the beast seen on Easter Sunday is very different from what has been seen in the past. The driver is psychological. So is its impact. The electronic Media have gone full throttle instilling fear, stereo typing assailants and suspects and created within a very short period the myth of the armed, militant, a perceived sword wielding Muslim in the country. Driving people against the wall, alienating them falls into the lap of the recruitment manual of extremists. We can’t possibly be that daft.

The three facets highlights for example the psychological underpinnings for recruitment of ISIS.

To defeat the radicalization seen, we need something more than a military strategy. The assumption is ISIS radicalization and recruitment strategy may work through its psychology, not its theology.

Well known social activist Jezima Ismail says, “In Sri Lanka we have to stand together as one entity of integration to deal with the consequences. What does Thawhid mean? The oneness of Allah. It’s this unity in verse 49:13 echoes the love and care one should have for everybody. “O ye mankind surely we have created you a male and female and made you tribes and families that you may identify and care for each other. Surely the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the one among you most mindful of his duty. Allah is knowing, fully aware” 49:13.

We need to go beyond radicalism and search out the spiritual in Islam which is a religion of peace. Interpretation of the Quran has been completely blocked there is no place for Ijithihad (Independent reasoning) and the religion has become riddled with strict rules and stringent regulations of the Wahabi movement.”

The piece argues that we need to come around to a theological response to the challenges facing us. We could do well to adopt from, “The Marrakesh Declaration” which provides such a framework.

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The Marrakesh Declaration

(Excerpts are published below)

The Marrakesh Declaration affirms that the protection of religious minorities is incumbent upon all Muslims and is based in religious law and historical precedent. The Marrakesh Declaration explicitly revives the Charter of Medina, a constitutional contract between Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, and the people of the city of Medina, where Muhammad established an intentional community of believers in 622. Whereas, conditions in various parts of the Muslim World have deteriorated dangerously due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and imposing one’s point of view;

Whereas, this situation has also weakened the authority of legitimate governments and enabled criminal groups to issue edicts attributed to Islam, but which, in fact, alarmingly distort its fundamental principles and goals in ways that have seriously harmed the population as a whole;

Declare hereby our firm commitment to the principles articulated in the Charter of Medina, whose provisions contained a number of the principles of constitutional contractual citizenship, such as freedom of movement, property ownership, mutual solidarity and defense, as well as principles of justice and equality before the law; and that,

The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order.

Noting further that deep reflection upon the various crises afflicting humanity underscores the inevitable and urgent need for cooperation among all religious groups, we affirm hereby that such cooperation must be based on a “Common Word,” requiring that such cooperation must go beyond mutual tolerance and respect, to providing full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.

Based on all of the above, we hereby:

Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of “citizenship” which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.

Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addresses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;

Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim world;

Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organisations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorities in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.

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The need for closure

The need for closure constitutes a common human experience. The current world situation may constitute just such a context. Unprecedented waves of immigration dislocate millions of people these days and prompt what Samuel Huntington dubbed the “clash of civilizations.”

The economic recession has left millions of young men and women unemployed, political orders in the Middle East seem to crumble, and multiple world locations are rocked by political instability.

All these engender unsettling, anxiety-inducing uncertainties, which prompt cravings for coherence and closure. Fundamentalist ideologies are quintessentially fit to satisfy just such cravings.

A fundamentalist ideology establishes clear contingencies between actions and consequences; it offers a future that is predictable and controllable.

The quest for significance

The quest for significance can be inflamed by a substantial loss, such as that which the extremist communicators graphically depict.

Humiliation of Muslims by the West, their suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, or Bosnia, are described in vivid colours to highlight the affront and dishonor that Muslims around the globe have been dealt. This theme is a mainstay of fundamentalist propaganda.

Instincts released

A much faster track to significance is through violence and combat. This has been so from times immemorial. It motivated young men in the Middle Ages to join the Crusades, inspired Lord Byron to join the Greeks’ struggle for independence, enticed international volunteers to join the Spanish civil war, stirred Mujahadeen to join the fight in Afghanistan, and it currently galvanized thousands of foreign fighters to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. 


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