Condemning Violent Extremism; Is It Working For Us? By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

There is a difference between taking a firm and unequivocal principled position against something, and between taking an episodic stance against something according to media, political, and public relations considerations.

against terrorismI do not regard lightly, the loss of any life; no matter what the cause, or circumstance. Innocent life is sacred, regardless of whether it is a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, or an atheist. It is Allah who grants life to whomever He pleases, according to His Divine will, and His Infinite Wisdom, and no one; has a legitimate right to take that life unjustly without just cause. When people die, other people’s lives are affected. When innocent people are mercilessly killed, slaughtered, gunned down, beheaded, massacred, blown up, suicide bombed, or droned, for no sense at all, it amplifies the tragedy. The Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon Him) once said, “A time will come when the murderer will not know why he has committed the murder and the victim will not know why he has been killed” [Collected by Muslim]

Since 9/11, American Muslims have condemned, and repudiated terrorism, and violent acts of Muslim extremism, through every conceivable network. We’ve taken out ads, marched in the streets, held vigils, convened press conferences, appeared on broadcast and cable television, written op-eds, penned blog posts, and expended considerable time, money, and resources, trying to convince people that Islam is a religion of peace, and that these violent Muslim extremists, do not represent Islam! We’ve made every attempt to distance ourselves from the so-called violent Muslim extremist, and even coined powerful catch all phrases like; ‘not in our name’, ‘Islam is a religion of peace’, and, ‘they’ve hijacked our faith’. Yet, nearly 14 years after 9/11, it seems glaringly obvious that our message is not getting through, and the people who we are trying to convince are not listening. For the record, I do not consider Islam to be a religion of peace; I do consider our faith to be a religion of submission, of which peace is a component.

I agree wholeheartedly that condemning violence against innocent souls is an appropriate Muslim response as it falls into the category of enjoining the good and forbidding evil (nahyi an al-munkar). However, condemning selected instances of violence, while remaining silent about others appears disingenuous, and self-serving. Especially if we do not take a across the board, moral stance against the very principle of violent extremism in the name of Islam. There is a difference between taking a firm and unequivocal, principled position against something, and between taking an episodic stance against something according to media, political, and public relations considerations. When Muslims condemn acts of Muslim extremism acting on cue from the media, according to what the media considers important, we are entering down an ostentatious black hole, with no foreseeable ending or win game. If the desired outcome of this strategy of selective condemnation of Muslim violent extremism, was to somehow convince the media, and the numerous and increasingly vocal critics of Islam, and Muslims, to put the brakes on their vitriol, and give the rest of us a break, then history has shown that we are not succeeding by any measure. Otherwise, we would not find ourselves in the circuitous predicament of feeling compelled to condemn, yet another incident of Muslim violence, and then complaining with the same frequency, that Muslims still get negative press.

The presence of violent Muslim extremism, that disregards the sanctity of innocent life, honor, and property, based upon sect, ideology, ethnicity, race, land, power, or tribe, and done under the camouflage of religion, goes back hundreds of years.  Addressing it is a complex, and sensitive matter that will take more than condemnation, polemics, or public relations spin doctoring. Over the last decade or so, there has been very little variation in our approach as American Muslims, in responding to incidents of violent Muslim extremism headlined in the news, or combatting the anticipated negative backlash directed towards Muslims, and or Islam. The self-delusional, reactionary condemnation strategy, is chockfull of quirks, ironies, and contradictions, and has just about outlived its usefulness. If as Muslims we took a moral, and principled stance against terrorism, and violent extremism, then it’s not only ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban that needs condemnation; we’d have to talk about despotic Muslims governments, American and European foreign policy in the Muslim world, honor killings, ethnic cleansing, racial injustice within Muslim communities, indiscriminate suicide bombings, reckless fatwas, and an host of issues, of which the pandemic of unwarranted violence of Muslims against innocent souls is just one manifestation.

In the global Muslim community, there is a long, and largely unattended laundry list of deep rooted, and debilitating, spiritual, and emotional illness, that we have not only failed to address in any meaningful or comprehensive way; we are in an almost complete denial that they exist. The easy fallback position is to resort to political or media based solutions in the form of marches, selective condemnations, episodic appearances of unity, and the focus on individual occurrences of violence in the name of Islam, per media suggestion. The much more difficult task is to finally get to the roots of the problem, at least that which pertains to our morality, or lack thereof. We have to rethink about how much we want to allow our sacred moral duties to address concerns of grave importance such as Muslim on Muslim killing, and Muslim violent extremism, to be incorporated and manipulated by media executives, pundits, critics and antagonists. Perhaps it’s time to change our strategy. Maybe we should stop worrying about what the media, and other people think of Muslims, and of Islam. After all, we are a people of faith, and the essence of faith is principle, not politics; and certainly not public relations. Before we can take back Islam from violent extremists, we must first take back our moral imperative from the hands of the media.The clock is ticking, and we are long overdue.

Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad

imamluqman@Masjidibrahim.com

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Things You Should Know About Allah, by Imam Luqman Ahmad

There is no knowledge that is more precious, or more valuable than the knowledge of Allah, and that He is The One, and Only True God. To know this reality, is a gift that Allah, by His mercy, goodness, and generosity, bestows upon His servants as He pleases. Allah is Complete, Perfect, and free of any blemish, and He is not in need of any of His creation. His Glory, majesty, and grandeur would not diminish by even the slightest measure, if all of humanity, and all manners of life ceased to exist.

The Lotus Tree Blog

There is no knowledge that is more precious, or more valuable than the knowledge of Allah, and the He is The One and Only True God. To know this fact, is a gift that Allah, by His mercy, goodness, and generosity, bestows upon His servants as He pleases. Allah is Complete, Perfect, and free of any blemish, and He is not in need of any of His creation. His Glory, majesty, and grandeur would not diminish by even the slightest measure, if all of humanity, and all manners of life ceased to exist. No one can behold the full splendor, glory, and magnificence of Allah be He Exalted and Glorified, far beyond what they ascribe to Him. Not even the beloved Prophets who are the most knowledgeable human beings with regards to Allah, can behold Allah in His fullness, for He has no limits. For He cannot be confined by…

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A Muslim Response to Criticism and Parody of Islam

I originally wrote this article nearly five years ago. It still has some relevance. Muslims are still in the position of feeling compelled to condemn selective occurrences Muslim violence, and it hasn’t improved our standing. In the four and a half years since I wrote this article, we seemed to have learned how to ignore criticism of Islam, and the Prophet (SAWS). Now we have to figure out a better way to address extremism than to do a barn dance of condemnation every time an extremist inspired killing gains media traction.  If we truly want to address Muslim extremism, we’re going to have to dig wider, and a lot deeper. Perhaps we need to rethink this whole barn dance.

The Lotus Tree Blog

Part One of two parts: By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad Given the constitutional guarantees of free speech in America, it is not likely any time soon that Americans will simply give up, criticizing or making fun of Islam, the Prophet (SAWS) or Muslims. The national campaign by some Muslim organizations to silence our critics and instill reverence for Islam in every American has not met with the success that people envisioned. In fact, we are now seeing the signs of backlash and pushback from civil libertarians, media, and others free speakers who are questioning why, in an age where every religion is poked fun of and even vilified by some, Islam is off limits. Well our answer to that is simple; Islam is the only true religion of God, Muslims are the best people on earth, and we are all above criticism. The problem is, everyone does not accept that answer, and…

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