Extremism is a psychological phenomenon, not a religious one, and atrocities are being committed in the name of Islam, according to an Irish imam.
Imam Shaykh Dr Umar al-Qadri, head imam at the Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland and chairman of the Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council, said Islam strictly prohibits the killing of any non-combatant in a war situation.
He said that in Islam, the only justification for war is for defensive purposes.
Dr al-Qadri’s comments come after the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey and a night of terror attacks across Europe which have been linked to Islamic extremists.
He said his religion has been hijacked by these extremists and that the world needs to look at the political, social, economic, and theological factors that contribute to terrorism, particularly in the foreign policies of certain western states that have increased terrorism.
“In Islam, war is in certain circumstances justified and lawful and when it is lawful Islam has stipulated very strictly instructions in regards of how to engage in war. It states very categorically that during just war, one cannot attack women, children, the elderly, ambassadors, religious leaders, or any non-combatant,” Dr al-Qadri told the Irish Examiner.
“Furthermore, Islam prohibits all Muslims from destroying agricultural land and historical buildings. The only justification to engage in war is for defences purposes.”
Dr al-Qadri said the recent spate of violence has left both himself and members of his community feeling appalled.
“It’s appalling to Muslims who find inspiration in Islam to spread peace and harmony, there are atrocities being perpetrated in the name of our religion. I’ve thought about this a lot: Extremism is extremism and extremism linked to Islam is making the headlines,” he said.
“I have thought about this a lot, the problem is not always necessarily related to religion, it has a very strong political influence. Twenty and thirty years ago there was no such thing as Boko Haram, no such thing as al-Qaeda or the Taliban.”
Dr al-Qadri asked that political leaders look at their role in this.
“What is happening to mankind? What is happening to humanity? Our own policies have created the problems. Politicians and policymakers need to be honest and look into their own policies to see how their policies have promoted extremism,” he said.
“And religious leaders need to look at why and how their religion is being hijacked, be it Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.”
Dr al-Qadri said that while his religion is more than 1,000 years old, it has existed in relative peace and without radicalisation for 900 of those.
He said that when an atrocity is carried out in the name of Islam, the public should not tar all Muslims with the same brush.
“We need to understand that we should not tar everybody with the same brush, we should not generalise. When an individual from any community commits an atrocity we can’t blame the entire community; that’s like blaming every Irish person for atrocities committed during the Troubles,” he said.
In terms of actions ordinary citizens can take to stem the rise of extremism, Dr al-Qadri said it is as simple as reaching out to those around you.
“Every person that wants peace should start with themselves and promote peace, reach out to other people, go to the local church, mosque, GAA club [and so on], and talk to people. I’ve invited members of the LGBT community, people of other faiths, and survivors of the Holocaust to my mosque.”
Dr al-Qadri stated that other religious leaders need to speak out and clear up any ambiguity relating to religion and extremism in order to minimise the risk of further radicalisation.
He is planning an interfaith event “to break bread” on December 30 at the Islamic Cultural Centre Ireland.
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