ISIS: Un-Islamic state?

British Prime Minister David Cameron recently said that BBC should stop calling IS Islamic state “because it is not an Islamic state”. Rehman Chishti, a Conservative Party MP, also echoed Cameron’s words and urged everyone to use ‘Daesh’ for the Islamic State (IS), because “Islamic State blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists.” Cameron also said that “So-called, or ISIL is better,” with Daesh being a popular choice among many in our part of the world as well.

Notwithstanding that Daesh (داعش) is an Arabic acronym for  الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام which translates into Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is what it is popularly known as, or that ‘ISIL’ also has ‘Islamic State’ as a part of the acronym, nit-picking over what to call ISIS is self-defeating.

The reaction in Britain to its youngest ever suicide bomber Talha Asmal blowing himself up fighting for ISIS, has mirrored the average moderate Muslim’s repost to ISIS’ brutalities in the Muslim world: that these terrorists aren’t Muslims and/or they have nothing to do with Islam. This denialism helps the likes of ISIS further penetrate the mindset of youngsters with their Islamo-fascist propaganda, with no effort being made to address ideological roots.

To state the obvious, ISIS is not representative of all Muslims or Islam, as is evident by the lack of popularity it enjoys in most parts of the Muslim world. But they do represent a significant percentage of Muslims and a version of Islam common to all Islamist terrorist organisations. However, it can be argued that even the most brutal interpretation of Islam’s canonical texts does not justify many of ISIS’ goriest manoeuvres.

Having said that, ISIS is attracting Muslims from all over the world. Its successes have ensured that Taliban factions in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have queued up to join the Islamic State's jihad by pledging allegiance to the ‘global Islamic caliphate’ which is supposed to be formed when Dar-ul-Islam (House of Islam) conquers Dar-ul-Harb (House of War). Polarising the world into Muslim and non-Muslim realms and the peddling ‘mandatory’ jihad against the Dar-ul-Harb – much like many of ISIS’ actions – stems from orthodox Islam and Islamic scriptures.

The popular call to unanimously excommunicate ISIS, vying to decrease the lure of the organisation for youngsters, is the Muslim world’s Ostrich policy. It’s an ironic replication of the one act common to all acts of terror committed in the name of Islam: takfir (the act of Muslims apostatising other Muslims over theological differences and the declaration of non-Muslims as ‘impure’).

To try and beat the Islamist terrorists at their own game is to ignore the fact that the ideas propagated by the likes of ISIS are proliferated in mosques and Islamic literature all over the world. This is why a significant chunk of Muslims all over the world have become flag bearers of Shariah law and endorse harsh punishments for blasphemy, apostasy, ‘adultery’, and homosexuality.

The much cited Pew survey from 2013 highlights overwhelming popularity for Shariah law in most parts of the Muslim world, with wide endorsement for primitive laws including capital punishment for crimes of conscience. Would we call 88% of Muslims in Egypt, or 62% in Pakistan, ‘un-Islamic’ for believing that apostates should be killed? Or should we apostatise the 11% Muslims in Britain who according to a BBC survey believe that anyone drawing ‘anti-Islam’ cartoons should be attacked?

While we rightfully point out that most of the victims of Islamist terrorists are Muslims, vying to counter the terrorists’ claim to being Islamic or Muslims, we ignore that those Muslims being targeted had been apostatised by the terrorists using Islamic scriptures. The same text is then used to justify the attack.

We can call it a perversion of Islam, or an interpretation no longer workable in the 21st century, but to say that it has nothing to do with Islam is escapism that’s continuing to backfire.

Using Islamic scriptures to deem ISIS un-Islamic is precisely what many renowned Islamic scholars around the world do to excommunicate the Shia and Ahmadis, by claiming that the communities contradict the ‘essential’ teachings of Islam.

The second amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution in 1974 also emulated Islamist terrorists by apostatising the entire Ahmaddiya community. Calls to do the same to the Shia community have escalated ever since, with unprecedented hikes in Shia killings over the past decade or so.

Three members of the Shia Hazara community were targeted and killed in Quetta on Monday, with the Hazara Shia undergoing barefaced ethnic cleansing in what has evolved into genocide. The suicide bombing at a Kuwaiti mosque that killed 26 and injured over 200 two weeks ago, and the vandalised Shia mosque in Bradford, UK depict that takfir, which is at the heart of jihadism, is now unfortunately spread all over the world.

To excommunicate those who have formed their jihadist superstructure through religious scriptures, and apostatise them is to bury our collective head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room. To counter ISIS, we Muslims need to readdress our adherence to Islamic scriptures and the role of religion in the society, which is what other religious communities have done over the past centuries.

Muslims will stop supporting Islamist terrorists, or antediluvian laws, only when we start subordinating religious ideologies to humanistic ideas. Peddling the infallibility of scriptures and their monopoly over truth – regardless of how noble the intention and how tolerant the interpretation – will never allow us to redefine the role of Islam.

To peddle any form of Islam as infallible is to vindicate its imposition over society, which in turn nurtures jihadism. And apostatising the takfiris can never work out as long as jihadist ideologies continue to persist among the Muslims.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a former member of staffHe can be reached at Follow him on Twitter

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt