A virtual symposium conducted by Middle East and North Africa Media Monitor. Thinkers, Authors and Researchers with different specialties have participated in this symposium.
Political Islam is one of the most dangerous phenomena that broke in our modern time. It succeeded in flirting the Arabic mind and inciting it even against itself first through the project proposed by Muslim Brotherhood Movement, and by doing so, they opened fire on large proportions of the nation.
Political Islam also built barriers between most Muslims and the Western civilization so that large proportion of the public denies all positive or common values of other civilizations. This deviation made the military ruling regimes closer to logic of the Western Civilization than religion-based liberation movements. These regimes practiced tyranny at the expense of ignorant people who have been victims of either religious, nationalistic or political regimes. The West has become an enemy of the local culture in the minds of most people. This mentality helped Islamic trends to introduce themselves as a savior power that can stand in the face of the West. Such trends benefited from the experience of the Iranian Islamic Revolution and the atmosphere of Afghani crisis.
On the one hand, we have had the military ruling powers through republics and hierarchical regimes with ultimate power. On the other hand, there are the nationalists and Ba’athists like in Syria and Iraq. Later, Islamists appeared as they monopolized the current political changes. As nationalists and military ruling regimes, with their dictatorship, made a chance for political Islam to hold its breath and attract some social components and turn them into deviant Islamists. Political Islam has become the greatest danger because it took Islam from its worship limitations to the political scene. But this was done depending on thought that never tolerates two things:
First, it never accepts other social components. Second, it never tolerates any relationship with the other. In other word, political Islam has taken us back to the time of closed emirates. In order to have comprehensive vision about these issues, we need to review scientific suggestions based on field studies and made by a number of researchers and specialists. Seven researches can be classified into two main streams:
Responsibility of the religious institution for anticipating the emergence of extremist movements.
By: Dr. Muhammed Habash, Islamic Thinker
The collapse of Islamic State in Iraq and Sham ISIS, as an extremist and fundamental movement, is a turning point that needs to be stopped at for reconsideration of and contemplation about the responsibility of Sharia and society for the emergence of such extremist movement and the best ways to avoid their emergence once again.
I don’t share optimism that the collapse of ISIS is the real end of this extremist movements, and that this trend will reproduce itself in a more tense and more extremist manner with the absence of justice, stalled political solutions and the inability of religious institutions to deal with the underlying reasons for terrorism.
We need to confess that the confrontation with these violent trends was limited to devastating military action based on political alliances and interests. No attention has been paid to cultural, intellectual and jurisprudent approaches. This imbalanced management of the problem is a sign of the possibility of re-emergence of violent movements whenever there is a chance.
I re-affirm that prevention of dialogue with military groups that are classified as terrorist groups has been a horrible mistake made by the International Community. This prevention closed all doors and only opened the door for devastating military action and consequently cost the lives of the innocent and thousands of victims. This approach left unsterilized wounds that are liable to relapse and illness is likely to come up again. Moreover, many of the conflicting entities know that many other military organizations like governmental military groups or revolutionary factions or mercenary ones are still not classified as terrorist groups even though they are not less violent and brutal than ISIS. This contradiction poses more questions about the double polarity of international standards.
It is quite certain that many dominant religious schools will teach their students that the hope for Islamic Caliphate was resurrected in the 15th centuries of the Islamic Calendar in Iraq and Levant by a number of Jihadists who succeeded in ruling an important part of the Islamic World and implemented Islamic sharia in Al Rakkah, Mosel, Munbej, Al Bab and Al Bukammal. They will also mention that happiness and justice had prevailed, but the infidel World conspired against this Islamic Caliphate in collaboration with the apostates, the misbelievers and traitors. It is somewhat true that Muslims’ right to establishing their Caliphate was brutally violated.
Away from political and media analyses, I think that the religious institution is directly responsible for the prevention of emergence of cultural and intellectual trends that can incubate terrorism and extremism through the following stipulations:
- There is a need for direct and courageous review of the heritage of violence in the history of Islam. Individual research should be surpassed to collective views to affirm that any script is usually bound to reasons for revelation and it is associated with specific time and place. Thus, eternalization of script is harmful to the script itself and an ignorance of the logical framework of intellect and jurisprudence. Identifying time, place and liability is a principal issue that needs decisiveness and courage for investigation of Jihad, Jeziah, slavery, rape, apostasy punishment and judgement of those who are reluctant to say prayers.
- Reconsideration and reanalysis of the history of Islam from a scientific and neutral perspective to avoid sanctification of individuals is an essential step. Sanctification of war should be rejected as a culture, and wars throughout history should be perceived as a competition of civilizations which is know with all nations. Violence, incursion and rape shouldn’t be justified under titles of Islamic benign invasion. Simultaneously, hostile and spiteful attitudes shown by declamatory persons who want to destabilize societies and reinforce conflict between Islam and other civilizations should be all avoided. This is based on a rule that considers the nation as past one with all its merits and demerits, and that we are not bound to what it used to do, nor we are responsible for what our nation had once done.
- Muslim’s relationships with other non-Muslims should be corrected. Accusation of apostasy and considering all other religions to be evils and illegal should be all stopped. An end to project of Islamatization of the World should also be exterminated. This concept should be replaced by the Quranic call for a common word for accordance and co-existence which sometimes requires some kind of concessions related to basic rules of religion like prayers, fasting, Zakat and pilgrimage for the sake of attaining public interests and the harmony between religions
- Dealing with “implementation of Sharia” as a motto raised in a passionate and effective manner should be a priority. This concept should be limited only to physical aspects as all Muslim countries have stopped literal implementation of Sharia rules and started implementing the essence of rules without any physical harm. This policy is accordant with related UN resolutions. Muslim scholars should mobilize their efforts to issue fatwas and advocate ideas that prove the ability of Islamic doctrine to respond to all that have been approved by well-informed elite. Consensus among scholars should be made, and new perception of traditional rules should be enhanced to get jurisprudential consensus of Islam.
- Muslims need to reconcile with international Law which is the fruit of human instinct and an interaction with the purposes of creation, and a fulfilment of God’s wisdom that lies behind the creation of this universe. This International Law is an emphasis on the success of God’s project on earth. Repulsive culture and skepticism over any international convention as a protagonist step against Islam and Muslims should be addressed. We do need to underline the Islamic values that go along with the outcome of human family i.e. harmony and co-existence. Such culture will dismantle fears and concerns as Allah says in Al Baqara Surah, verse 30: “Will you place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood”. Angels said. “Indeed, I know that which you do not know” Allah replied.
Perception of ruling system in Islam should be reformed. It should be capitalized that Caliphate, power inheritance, privileges and detriments of caliphs are not Sharia requirements. It is the furthest concept for Sharia. This is completely against the behavior of Rashidi Caliphates who refused to inherit power and the idea of crown prince. Rashidi Caliphs didn’t make wealth. The democratic aspects of Prophet Muhammed’s behavior should be focused on to show that caliphate is the opposite of tyranny and tyrants’ behavior. A state should be established on democratic basis that totally contradicts with theocracy through which the Church ruled Europe in the medieval ages.
Suppression of women and Discrimination practices like hijab and beating should be confronted. Instead, the values of Quran should be referred to while reinforcing justice, dignity and freedom. These suppressive practices against women are completely against Sharia rules which can provide enough basis for producing a new jurisprudence based on freedom for and dignity of women and their full participation in life on equal footing with men.
It must be emphasized that scientific and jurisprudent studies will remain ineffective until all social and governmental institutions network together so that these studies are collectively presented in an effective and persuasive manner. Only these formulas can affect the commitment of these institutions to the defense of Islamic values of mercy, fraternity and peace. Instead of declaring that hatred discourse and accusation of apostasy are rejected, these institutions are still ruminating the same cultures and discourses that breed and recycle extremism.
The second research
By Ayman Al Khalid, a media expert
We need to start with constitutional interpretation of freedom to worship for different religions, sects and doctrines. Enhancing dialogue between different social components of the country is a positive step. However, this approach seems to remain a mere discussion of the idea of social reconciliation which can, in our opinion, be based on re-interpreting the underlying reasons for religious, social and political dilemmas. Once we do a research on the origin and underlying reasons for the dilemma we trapped in, we can reach a better understanding of the problems and this will help us find better solutions.
I- From a religious perspective, we notice that isolating and besieging political Islam start with the analysis of danger underlying the discrimination concept Islam is abased on. It has abandoned its party-like whatness to become a circulated social concept advocated by many extremist entities. These extremist entities pretty know that unless they maintain this distinction in the minds of people, it will diminish.
The concept of discrimination is basically dependent on the denial of social reconciliation which means that all social components tolerate each other under the rule of law. Wherever political Islam is absent, Islamic societies in general have been living in a state of harmony and co-existence for hundreds of years. In these societies, worship rituals have been considered as relationship between the Muslim and his creator. Islamic societies have never gone beyond this interpretation and have been dealing with all social components in the light of this interpretation. These societies have always dealt with social components on the basis that there is a creator who is responsible for holding creatures accountable for their behavior and believes.
As for political Islam which considers itself as a distinctive feature and a corrector of the society’s religious, political and social track. We can easily notice that once this trend settles in an area, it quickly turns into a heterogeneous entity. It beholds an implicit doctrine that authorizes it to judge all other social components whether Muslims or Non-Muslims. Here lies the real problem. Political Islam has obliterated the idea of mandating God for accountability. Instead, we found ourselves in front of a new thought that judge people and their believes through mixing politics with religion and its own vision. Therefore, all those who don’t belong to this trend, whether Muslim or Non-Muslims, have been badly affected.
All those who are beholden to a religious movement that practices violence are politically motivated under a religious cover. If we know that the first movement to adopt this course is Muslim Brotherhood Movement, we see how Al Qaeda and Islamic State in Iraq and Sham ISIS are no more than extensions and a military manifestation of this movement. All of them claim the right to judge people on earth by virtue of a Godly authorization granted to them. Thus, there is a need for rehabilitation of education system for current generations on the religious level by reconsidering the concept of Godly authorization in societies that have been badly affected by the concept of discrimination advocated by political Islam.
II-From a social perspective, nationalistic or military tyrannical regimes are enacting discrimination through the reinforcement of social differences on different levels. The capital city swallows other big cities, and cities swallow the countryside. In such ruling systems, the state provides better chances to specific social slices and specific cities. This usually causes distinction between two neighboring entities, one is a parasite and the other is victimized, but none of them can do without the other.
This discriminatory behavior of the state is not only limited to the materialistic aspects, but also goes further to include psychological and human ones. This might be embodied in rural people whose ambition is to get rid of bullying urbans at universities or workplaces, sometimes because of cloths’ style. In Syria, for example, thousands of females failed in their attempt to integrate in university life. Here we are not talking about rural males of Scotland who wear skirts. Rather we are talking about the bourgeoise culture which underestimates rural people. This discrimination usually pushes people of the countryside to cling to any power that might promise them self-fulfillment.
Of course, we are not talking about Syrians trying to integrate in Western countries as much as about integration inside homogeneous social, political and cultural communities. This necessitates introducing an educational framework based on one rule i.e. unified public education for all components of the society.
III- From a political perspective and away from the number of ministers and high officials in a government, we can see that the crucial dilemma is a political one, that nobody pays attention to, is the discrimination in services provided to citizens. This includes all services provided depending only on political affiliation. This discrimination creates a state of disunity between cities and even between parts of the same city. Such policies produced marginalized shanty towns around big cities where people suffer this kind of discrimination and gradually start taking negative thinking and attitudes towards society. That is why we do need to restore people’s positive thinking and attitudes and we also need to enact laws that provide equal opportunities to all citizens so that they can acquire skills. This issue is stuck in the political mind which brings us back to the concept of Law State that provides relatively equal opportunities to all citizens.
Discrimination is a problem that can be solved. Certainly, no successful start can be made without enacting laws that are liable to be enacted. However, laws alone are never enough if forcefully enacted. Societies need to go for collective change and social upheaval that can be added to enacted laws. By this we can achieve social reconciliation through comprehensive social and cultural tracks to get satisfactory results.
Role of the cultured elite in the confrontation with terrorism and extremism.
By: Ussama Yaghi, a Strategy Researcher
It is very important to identify the concept of terrorism which is covered with a religious Islamic cover, its social and cultural reflections so that we can make a scientific work plan and a strategy for confronting terrorism and drying up its resources.
We do need to figure out the concrete relationship between the dominant pattern of education and terrorism and extremism. This requires relentless efforts to be made by the cultured elite that works in an institutional manner so as to identifies the sources that breeds this terrorism in religious and social incubators. The cultural perception and form of education dominating the society should be closely investigated.
To confront terrorism, we do need to scientifically diagnose the reality of social environment that breeds and incubates it. This environment is characterized with ignorance and backwardness with high rate of poverty as a result of long-time subjugation to political, social and intellectual tyranny. Such diagnosis can’t be an individual endeavor, it should be a collective and institutional effort made by many entities according to a plan that is collaborated with other players so as to successfully deal with environments breeding terrorism.
Cultured elite needs to have a concrete vision of a social and educational pattern which is adequate for nurture generations through educational institutions. This vision should review dominant educational concepts and circulated religious concepts which are taken for granted as ultimate axioms. A program should be implemented to inject intellectual, cultural and cognitive contents that can promote the importance of science and the development of individuals’ characters. The relationship between individuals and religion should be reconsidered through humanitarian and civilization concepts. People should be informed about all concepts that had dominated the minds of people for ages and that this misguided thought was promoted by religious figures. These figures were dominant at a specific time and can’t be followed at different times rather than that ancient times.
The educational pattern that should be proposed by the cultured elite is a pattern that should investigate the interrelation between religion and sociology throughout the Islamic World. The role of schools in bringing up children should be focused on as well. Existing civil societies and those which should be established will have a greater role. A new educational culture should be proposed and enhanced. It should be based on deduction and critical thinking rather than on dictation and induction. The new culture should reject the dominating educational pattern which is based on obedience and submission. The dominant educational system prevents individuals from formulating their own culture or discovering the importance of this culture. Self-dependence and sense of responsibility are the outcome of the new educational system. Cultured elite has to launch a campaign to reject dictation, submission and obedience culture.
Cultured elite also needs to end its isolation in which it imprisoned itself as a result of its fear of the oppressive ruling regimes. This oppression means a structural contradiction between what is wanted by the authorities, the social cultural initiative and the normal role that should be played by the cultured elite in the context of general social progression. Achieving this requires the establishment of civil societies and the creation of social innovative frameworks and independent civil societies that can work away from the oppressive grip of the ruling authorities and the ideological boundaries i.e. real civil societies.
Once cultured elite ends its isolation, it means that new horizons for new visions and open humanitarian practices are started for upgrading human beings. This will require forums and innovative cultural clubs. We need to push for a new science-oriented syllabus that is not spoiled by ideologies of parties or religions or sectarian inclinations. Through these forums, the cultured elite is supposed to reproduce people’s awareness by free and open dialogue.
The backbone of culture and awareness is the free circulation of books that need to be closely monitored by the cultured elite which is responsible for prevention of any publishing or books that call for hatred towards others or accusation of apostasy. What is broadcasted or posted on the media or social media should be scandalized in case it promotes violence, hatred and terrorism. It is a collective responsibility to call for ban of any media that helps in breeding terrorist and extremist thought.
The cultured elite should stop its ideological loitering and care for social integration with all other different social components. This requires the formulation of new intellectual and cultural discourse that promotes integration of all individuals in the society through the concept of citizenship which entails equality for all citizens in terms of duties and rights regardless of their ethnic, religious or sectarian identity. Integration in this context implies equal religious, cultural and social rights governed and regulated by a national constitution.
Abandoning patriotism will reinforce feeling of isolation, alienation and fear which will normally lead to frustration and bitterness that pave the way for extremism and terrorism.
Cultured elite should focus on reality and practice rather than theories and ideologies in order to contribute to scientific, social and economic development as a goal to be attained through pressure imposed to fulfil integrated development. This development has become an inevitable necessity to prevent oppression, poverty and alienation through active participation in having applicable visions for urgent and palpable development.
Political and cultural figures, who produce thought and knowledge, are in charge of making a road map and identifying the real needs of people in a society, and prioritize these needs according to their relevance to freedom of self-expression and criticism. This map will help in bringing stability and prevention of inclination for terrorism.
The role of cultured elite can never be complete unless there is a palpable strategy for confronting terrorism in its social medium, a strategy that dries up the sources of this terrorism and its causes and motives like poverty, illiteracy and non-belonging.
Working this strategy out requires full knowledge of the material capabilities available to attain goals through active role of the cultured elite. This largely depends on the situation in the country confronting terrorism and its re-emergence in a social environment.
Cultured elite are concerned with converting from their former role into a social and patriotic role, a humanitarian one that is based on values of citizenship and its economic, social, political and cultural implications. This requires a full integration between the public and the cultured elite.
Conclusion of Part One:
Middle East and North Africa Media Monitor conducted this virtual symposium online which fall into two sections. In the first section, we have presented some views that represent future vision of the best way to prevent the re-emergence of terrorist organizations like Islamic State in Iraq and Sham ISIS. Some of the ideas have been presented above by participants in part one of the symposium.
This extremist project named ISIS is capable of re-structuring itself all over again for many reasons unless the political dilemma represented in absence of justice and stalemate of political horizons is dealt with.
The following issues should be worked on:
- The disability of the religious institution to understand the core problem that causes terrorism and best ways to deal with it;
- Violence in Islamic history should be reviewed through understanding scripts in the light of their time, place and reasons for revelation. This means that these scripts can never be ultimate truths;
- Violent practices against women like beating, hijab and quarantine should be terminated;
- History of Islam should be reformulated and presented in a way that accords with modern age. Historical wars of Islam should be perceived as conflict of civilizations that had been experienced by most nations throughout history;
- The constitutional interpretation of freedom to worship related to different religions, sects, doctrines and encouragement of dialogue between all social components on that same country;
- Political Islam should be isolated and besieged due to the dangerous concept of discrimination on which political Islam is based;
- The need for a better understanding of the palpable relation between dominant educational system and extremism with all its forms, and this requires institutional efforts by the cultured elite to terminate all sources of terrorism in its social and religious incubators, the cultural trend and the educational pattern existing in the society in question;
- The need for palpable vision for social and educational system that is adequate for nurturing generations through educational institutions to re-produce the relation between individuals and religion depending on humanitarian and civil values;
- The role of development as an inevitable necessity to prevent oppression and poverty, and how this requires considerable contributions for palpable visions and urgent solutions so as to anticipate any preconditions for extremism resulting from social changes.
Part two of the symposium will be published soon. The following experts and researchers participated in the symposium:
- Hawazen Khadaj, sociologist
- Muhmoud Ibrahim, security expert
- Hassan Al Naifi, author and politician
- Ahmad Taleb Al Naser, history researcher
 Money taken by invaders when they invade a country and defeat it.
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