Sunday, 22 April 2018
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Islam is in Crisis and needs reforming, writes Nehad Ismail, U K Defence Forum Research Associate

Political Islam gained strength and influence in the 1970s after the demise of the Nasserite Arab Nationalist movements but has failed to deliver the promised benefits. It did not have viable political and economic policies to tackle the chronic problems of poverty, absence of freedoms and basic human rights. It offered violence, jihad, terrorism and anti-West rhetoric.

Hamas failed in Gaza, Omar al Bashir failed in Sudan and committed atrocities in Darfur and is being pursued by the ICC. But Political Islam most significant failure was in Egypt.

Iran Islamic rule brought poverty and misery to the Iranian people. There is no freedom of speech. Hanging for run-of the-mill petty crimes are common place. The regime has hanged homosexuals from cranes and forced Iranians in Western dress to drink from latrine cans. A series of acid attacks on women in various Iranian cities have raised concerns the victims are being targeted for not adhering to Islamic dress codes.
In Afghanistan, the Talibans failed to address the real issues that touch people lives like improved living standards, education and health. Instead the Taliban regime has torched girls' schools and music stores. In Gaza shops catering for women fashions and hair-dressing salons were forced to shut.
In Egypt on 25 January 2011, Egyptians filled Tahrir Square to protest the rule of Hosni Mubarak. By 11 February President Mubarak was deposed. In his book "Inside the Arab Revolution" Koert Debeuf said "Muslim Brotherhood formed the government but the experiment failed. In Cairo, on 30th June 13, millions took to the street. Morsi was ousted."

The Islamists are on the rise again but the people are not so sure. They hear slogans and promises but very little is delivered. ISIS the latest kid on the block is terrorising Muslims, Christians and Yezidis but it will be defeated as its barbaric practices are alienating many Muslims and uniting the world against it.

Islam and Human Rights:

Islamic teachings and practices are in conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR 1948). On 10 December 1948 in Paris, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The Declaration was the first international recognition that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms and it continues to be a living and relevant document today.

Attempts were made to reconcile the UDHR 1948 with Islam. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) approved a document in 1990 that is now referred to as the Cairo Declaration in an attempt reconcile the concept of human rights and Islam. The Declaration protects many of the universal human rights: it forbids discrimination; supports the preservation of human life, supports the protection of one's honour, family, and property; and affirms the human right to education, medical and social care, and a clean environment. But in practice it has failed to address the basic issues of freedoms and human rights. For example take articles 12, 22, 24 and 25 which are not only ambiguous but they assert the need to strictly adhere to Sharia's laws which are restrictive and empowers the state against the individual. In the final analysis even these restricted freedoms remain at the mercy of governments. It reinforces discrimination against women and prohibit freedom of conversion to other religions. Articles 24 and 25 further makes Sharia's supreme by asserting that Sharia's is the Declaration's "only source of reference."

Whilst Islam welcomes Christians converting to Islam it doesn't permit Muslims to convert to other religions.
To quote one example there are verses in the Qur'an affirming that there is no compulsion in religion? In other words Muslims must not force anyone to adopt a religion or change religion. The point was illustrated in an excellent piece in the Guardian recently by Brian Whitaker who wrote in 28th October 2014: "most Arabs share ISIS ideology" Compulsion in religion is the ideological foundation stone of ISIS and Islamist movements in general. Believing they have superior knowledge of God's wishes for mankind, trying to make the world more holy".
Whitaker also says: "Bombing ISIS and banning Islamist movements may suppress such movements for a while but it does nothing to address the ideological problem. Unless the question of compulsion in religion is tackled head-on, and in a serious way, they will resurface later or similar groups will emerge to replace them."

However freedom of worships is a widely accepted principle internationally, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is still far from becoming established in the Arab countries.
As recently as June 2014 the "IS Caliphate" killed and expelled thousands of Christians from Mosul in Iraq. The IS message is clear "Convert to Islam, pay a tax or die". This is blatant compulsion and persecution. This sort of behaviour has done irreparable damage to the image of Islam.
In the Islamic world the killing of people and abuse of human rights is the norm particularly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria Nigeria and Somalia. Terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram, and ISIS are doing their best to tarnish Islam and they use the teachings of the Qur'an as a big stick to beat others with and to commit all sorts of crimes and the ugliest massacres.
The Islamic world is in a state of upheaval. There is no such thing as stability and peace except in a handful of countries like Jordan, Morocco and the UAE.

After the 9/11 attacks President George Bush declared that Islam is a religion of peace. Most people in the West are not convinced. Many still believe that Islam is not peaceful judging by what is happening on the ground. Wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and terrorism carried out in the name of Islam taking place on a global scale stretching from London to New York and from Bombay to Tanzania.
Osama bin Laden, declared on more than one occasion that the only way forward to Muslims is holy war against the infidels i.e. the US and the West. Moderate Muslim voices have not been loud enough in condemning Bin Laden and his destructive philosophy.
Some critics of Islam believe that Saudi Arabia is the epicentre of Islam's problems, a country that stands for virtually everything that the liberal West condemns. It is theocratic. Its legal system is considered barbarous by the standards of Western democracies. It is intolerant of any religion other than its own fundamentalist strain of Wahabi Islam. They argue it is no coincidence that 15 of the 19 terrorists who attacked the US on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia and the rest came from nearby countries. I believe that the Saudi establishment is trying to reform but the very slow pace means it would take decades to see real change.

Conflict, War and Jihad

Islamic States facing failure are ravaged by war and conflict which pose danger to the entire world. Instability breeds extremism and terrorism. Libya, Iraq and Yemen are in turmoil. In Syria the brutal regime of Bashar al Assad opened the gates for al Qaeda elements to enter the country so the regime could claim it is fighting terrorism not its own people. In Yemen the pro-Iran Houthis are flexing their muscles and have defied the government and are threatening to over-run the country. Not to mention Somalia, Afghanistan and the tribal regions of Pakistan. and the sectarian conflict between Shiite an Sunnis.
Jihad originally a noble concept associated with struggle for a better life or defending one's country against invaders has now been hijacked by extremists who actually kill other Muslims and threaten the non-Muslim West. As far as they are concerned the non-Muslims are infidels (Kuffar, the plural of Kafir a non-Muslim person).
There are texts in the Quran that explicitly permit the pursuit and killing of Kuffar. What happened in Iraq against the Yezidis and Christians of Mosul is the prime example. The Muslim brotherhood persecuted Coptic Christians in Egypt for decades.

Problems and Solutions: Reforming and modernising Islam

The basic problem is very clear. It is that millions of people in the Islamic world do not believe in free speech, freedom of religion, democracy, a secular state, free enterprise and human rights.
Muslims live in a state of denial. They always find scapegoats for extremism and terrorism. Blaming all and sundry for the Islamic world failures. We always find excuses for terrorist gangs like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, al-Shahab, the Taliban and others. Blame the CIA, the Mossad, the Imperialists who want our oil and the colonialists who sucked our blood to finance the building of their empires. Even Arab academics I know have said that Great Britain built the underground transport system from the proceeds of colonial blundering of the natural resources of their former colonies in Africa and the Middle East.
The modern Islamic movements such as ISIS are dragging the Muslim world back to the dark ages and slowly but surely taking us into the abyss. All Muslims must stand together and not only condemn them but work together to defeat them and remove them from Muslim society exactly as the medical surgeons remove the tumour from the body. Some critics of Islam blame the strict interpretation of Islam by Wahhabism a Saudi strand of Islam and the teaching of children to curse and hate kuffars for the rise in fundamentalism and extremism. Enlightened scholars and academics have slammed the Madrassas or religious schools for teaching youngsters to hate Non-Muslims, to embrace jihad and for imparting education on terror and love of jihad.
The modern Islamic world is backward and has achieved little in the fields of science and technology. Extremist are killing, maiming and abusing women in the name of Islam. The Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and ISIS in Iraq are all committing heinous crimes against humanity in the name of Islam.
It is difficult to disagree with Daniel Pipes the American historian, writer, and political commentator who wrote in July /August 2013:
"Islam currently represents a backward, aggressive, and violent force. Must it remain this way, or can it be reformed and become moderate, modern, and good-neighbourly? Can Islamic authorities formulate an understanding of their religion that grants full rights to women and non-Muslims as well as freedom of conscience to Muslims, that accepts the basic principles of modern finance and jurisprudence, and that does not seek to impose Sharia law or establish a caliphate?"
That sums up the dilemmas Muslim must confront and deal with.
A growing body of analysts believe that no, the Muslim faith cannot do these things, that these features are inherent to Islam and immutably part of its makeup.
If Islamism is to be defeated, anti-Islamist Muslims must develop an alternative vision of Islam and explanation for what it means to be a Muslim. Modernising Islam to ensure it doesn't conflict with human rights and modern ethics.
Shouldn't Muslim scholars agree to remove such texts that permit the killing of Kuffars (infidels) just because they are not Muslims?
Islam and Muslims face huge challenges. It is not good enough to keep saying Islam is a religion of peace and so on.
The world is tired of the often repeated mantra that Islam is a religion of peace. But people judge Muslims by their actions on the ground against their fellow Muslims, not by slogans. For the average Western person who watch TV news, or internet social media Islam is a violent religion. Though it is wrong to say that every Muslims is a potential terrorists, but almost every potential terrorist is a Muslim including those born in the West to Muslim Asian families or converts.
Muslim moderate voice must wake up and demand reforms to stop this merciless exploitation of Islam.

Nehad Ismail
UK based writer and commentator on Middle Eastern Issues

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