Saudi Arabia: Op-Ed: "Time for Scholars to Stand Up"
It is the duty of every imam and every Muslim scholar to stop the spread of the deviant ideology that has hijacked Islam and threatens every Muslim in the world today. Muslim scholars should speak out to enlighten the faithful about the true teachings of Islam and promote Islamic principles of peace, tolerance and moderation in order to allow Muslims to coexist peacefully with the rest of the world.
The majority of the Muslims take their guidelines from khatibs and imams, especially during Friday sermons in the mosques, which is why it is imperative for the revered scholars to assume their role in delivering the proper teachings and providing the needed guidance to protect the well-meaning faithful from being perverted to become messengers of death and enemies of Islam themselves.
It is also crucial for Muslim scholars to make clear the spirit of Islam to the world. There is a confrontation between Islam and the West, and our scholars must bear the responsibility of addressing the controversial issues that have divided Muslims from the rest of the world.
The only thing terrorism has accomplished is alienation between the peoples of the world. Its victims are not only the ones who die but all those whose lives, whose dignity and whose futures are threatened by it. Terrorism does not promote respect. It promotes only disgust, and we all need to stand up to the misguided few who have been corrupted to promote savagery and slaughter. Consequently, Muslims living in the West face discrimination and defamation. In Australia, the federal discrimination watchdog, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, interviewed more than 1,400 Arab and Australian Muslims in 2003 and found that 93 percent believed there had been an increase in racism, abuse and violence against them since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against the US.
Muslim scholars need to clarify the true teachings of Islam. They need to teach the faithful to distinguish between religious rulings and confused cultural practices. They need to urge Muslims living in the West to abandon irrelevant or unnecessary practices that fuel hatred toward Muslims and create misunderstanding.
The Muslim world is weary of those who, in the name of human rights, want to impose Western culture of homosexuality, free sex, alcohol and similar aspects that go counter to Islamic principles. There is outrage about the recent knighthood of Salman Rushdie, whose novel, “The Satanic Verses,” angered Muslims for a long time. His recognition comes from supposed services to literature, but the fact is Rushdie is hardly known as a literary figure except for his offensive and insulting novel against Islam.
Then there is Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali woman who left her country at a young age and lied to gain asylum in Holland. She became famous after insulting the Prophet (peace be upon him) and criticizing the Muslim faith.
Western powers are viewed as colonizers and are motivated by greed. Moreover, Western extremists are perceived as crusaders who aim to destroy Islam and believe all Muslims are enemies. Religious scholars in the West and Muslim scholars should work together to find common grounds that unite them rather than engage in confrontation that divide them.
Muslims should not have to compromise on Islam or its belief. They should not be apologetic about Islamic principles of piety, celibacy, modesty and acts of worship.
The Australian survey revealed that hijab-wearing women fear being spat upon as they walk their children to school, while others suspect they are refused jobs because they have Muslim names. Muslims in the West are accused of failing to assimilate and not doing enough to condemn extremists. Hard-line positions and intolerant behavior of some Muslims living in the West harms the lives of many Muslims living in the West, jeopardizing both their safety and existence in Europe and the US.
Our scholars need to speak louder than the extremists who have hijacked Islam and have confused Muslims who now need direction back to the faith’s true path. The khatibs and imams have a religious responsibility to negate the distorted stereotypes of Muslims. There are many controversial issues that need to be addressed in order to give direction to the Muslim youth and to create a better understanding of Islam in the West. So-called jihad, suicide bombers, Middle East conflicts and world affairs, the veil (hijab), the niqab (face-veil) and the Muslim way of life are the issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps the most important thing that needs to be stressed is the tolerance promoted in the basic tenets of Islam.
Religious scholars of the Muslims world need to clarify the true teachings of Islam. They need to teach the faithful to distinguish between religious rulings and mere cultural practices. They need to urge Muslims living in the West to abandon irrelevant or unnecessary practices that are fueling hatred toward Muslims and creating misunderstanding.
The antagonism between Islam and the West has to end. We all are neighbors in the same global community, and we all have to start acting like neighbors instead of enemies. To some extent, it is up to our leaders to try and find the proper solutions to these issues of conflict. But it is also up to our religious leaders — Muslims, Christians and Jews — to create an atmosphere of tolerance that promote proper solutions instead of meaningless slaughter that impede them.
Religious scholars in the West and Muslim scholars should work together to find things that unite them rather than engaging in divisive confrontation. They should unite to protect humanity and adhere to the values of justice, respect for human rights, decency and tolerance. Politicians, civic leaders, academics and the media should support religious scholars on both sides who work together to confront what is becoming a clash of civilizations as opposed to those who fan the flames of intolerance with sensationalism or propaganda for some petty gain.
I conclude with an optimistic note from a recent BBC poll that questioned some 28,000 people in 27 countries; the overall majority believes that there is no inherent incompatibility between Islam and the West and that problems arise from intolerant minorities on both sides.
Maybe those intolerant minorities need to be reminded that they are minorities and that the majorities want peace and prosperity for all the peoples of the world.
These majorities will stand up and make the noisy purveyors of death sit down when the religious scholars of the Muslim and Judeo-Christian worlds give them the messages and the confidence to quiet the despoilers of their faiths. The true convictions of faith do not lead us to a dark future. What is needed is the courage to defend those true convictions against those who have blood in their eyes and evil in their hearts."
By: Samar Fatany
2 July 2007 Samar Fatany is a Jeddah-based radio journalist. She can be reached at email@example.com
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