By: Dr Alhagi Manta Drammeh (PGCert THE, Fellow HEA)
The Sacred text (Quran) Sanctity Human Life
“Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors” (Qur’an Al-Maidah 5:32).
I write with a very heavy heart seeing on TV screens the images of so-called Muslims butchering fellow human beings in the name of Islam in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria and most recently in France . Islam condemns categorically the killing of innocent people in whatever circumstances regardless of their, race, ethnicity, religion or region.
I cannot fathom how the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIL) and the Boko Harams perpetuate those murderous acts and call themselves Muslim. The Islam I know and have taught for about 20 years at different levels and in different cultural contexts, dignifies the children of Adam and honours them. Islam teaches compassion, peace and human fraternity. What the ISIL, the Boko Haram and their affiliates do have nothing to do with the noblest universalist teachings of Islam that are based on justice and equity. The mayhem they are causing is an act of criminality and banditry. They have a utopian fantasy about Islamic State/caliphate both of which are arguably political and not divine. The ideology they espouse cannot and shall not represent Islam.
The above Qur’anic passage I have quoted says in the clearest terms that it is a duty of a Muslim to protect the human life without discrimination. Reflecting briefly on the Arabic semantics, the Qur’an has used the indefinite article (nafsang) in order to emphasise the absolute need of protecting human life. Protecting and saving a life is like saving the life of the entirety of humankind. On the contrary, losing a life is like annihilating the entire human race.
In my view there are many factors that may contribute to extremism , extremist views and extremist acts from a Muslim point of view. Some give foreign policy issues as one of the factors as it is believed that the dictatorial regimes are sometimes Western-backed to foster the interests of Western powers while human rights in those Muslim countries are seriously flouted and violated.
I would argue that people fail to understand the complex nature of the complex relations between politics and theology, theory and reality. In essence, Islam is divinity and revelation. Islam should not be used as a political football. Internally, Muslims and Muslim organisations should make the utmost effort to integrate into the main stream society as opposed to being on the fringes of the society. Similarly, governments should create opportunities for the young Muslims to be better educated and employed in all sectors. Lack of proper education and good working opportunities can make the youth despondent and disenchanted. The idea of equal citizenry idea with equal rights and opportunities should be entrenched.
In the end, I will assume that the discourse and narrative should be shifted from one of “us” and “them” to one of integrated efforts to tackle the causes of extremism and find possible responses.