MYTH: Islam & Terrorism

One student’s thoughts on Islam and Terrorism

By: AIA Intern Ali J.

(High School Student from Fairfax County Public Schools)

In the past few years, Americans have seen many terrorist groups emerge in the Middle East and other areas, including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram, and Taliban, as a result of the unrelenting political turmoil in region. These groups may claim to be religiously motivated and to follow Islam, but in truth their actions are utterly un-Islamic and violate all the very core values of the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

Recent accounts of terror attacks committed by Muslims have continued to fill the news, but these reports neglect to note that the victims of most of these terror attacks are Muslims themselves.  The National Counterterrorism Center reports that 82 to 97% of the victims of terrorism-related fatalities between 2006 and 2011 were Muslims. After the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) proclaimed itself as a global Islamic caliphate in 2014, it grew quickly in the Middle East, promising to overturn the local instability, corruption and persecution that populations were experiencing at the hands of sectarian rulers and militias.  ISIS then committed many atrocious terror attacks, killing thousands, including 18,800 civilians in Iraq alone, proving that it too was even more corrupt than the local leaders it had supplanted.

One of the most common tactics that terrorist groups like ISIS employ is suicide bombings targeting large groups of civilians in markets or other public gatherings. Suicide however is considered a heinous crime in Islam according to the Quran (4:29), and as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) repeatedly said “Indeed, whoever (intentionally) kills himself, then certainly he will be punished in the Fire of Hell, wherein he shall dwell.” (Bukhari #5578).

In the past few months, ISIS claimed responsibility for suicide bombers who attacked a Kabul mosque where Muslims had gathered for prayer in the holy month of Ramadan, and two months earlier, two Coptic Christian churches were attacked by ISIS suicide bombers in Egypt on Palm Sunday. Ironically however, one of the rare cases in which violence is permitted in Islam is not to damage but rather to protect religious freedom. As the Quran (22:40) states “…If God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed.”   Islamic scholar and convert Muhammad Asad has explained that this verse means that “… the defense of religious freedom is the foremost cause for which arms may – and indeed must – be taken up.”   If ISIS and other “Islamic” terrorist organizations were to actually follow the Quran as they so falsely claim, they would protect places of worship instead of destroying them.

We have seen many populations under the control of ISIS being forced to pledge allegiance to the so called “Caliphate” and men are forced to attend prayers at mosques. Throughout the history of Islam, Christians and Jews and other People of the Book have typically been free to practice their religion even in area controlled by Muslim rulers.  ISIS however has subverted that long history, and the required tolerance of other religions, by giving their subjected populations only two options: convert or die, and those who resist the rule of the Islamic State are killed. This is a complete negation of the spirit and indeed the very tenets if Islam.  The Quran (2:256) clearly says “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion,” therefore, when ISIS forces people to convert to Islam and pray at the mosque, ISIS is actually ignoring and even repudiating the teachings of the Quran.

Islam also does not allow the killing of children or of innocent people. The Prophet Muhammad said, “Do not steal the spoils, do not be treacherous with the enemy, do not mutilate the dead, do not kill children, and fear Allah.”  He also said, “Do not kill children or women or old men.”  The Quran (5:32) says that  “…if anyone slays a human being – unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all of mankind.”  Terrorism by contrast targets innocent civilians, with no concern whether its victims fall within these strictly prohibited categories.  The May 2017 ISIS attack on an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK, killing 22 people, mostly children, are the epitome of actions that definitively go against Islam.

The prohibition against suicide bombings, against any compulsion in religion, against the killing of innocents, and the obligatory calls for the protection of holy sites, therefore make it incomprehensible to compare Islam to terrorist groups like ISIS.  Just as Catholic and other Christian Churches continuously condemn violent extremism by groups like the KKK, Muslim mosques will never sanction terrorism by deranged groups like ISIS and other such extremists.

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