As with any religion, teachers and leaders can emphasize scriptures about forgiveness and cooperation, or they can emphasize scriptures that promote intolerance and militaristic expansionism. As a result, large numbers of people strongly committed to any faith can be persuaded to think and behave immorally and inhumanely.
Example of Extremism from Christianity
An example of religious misinterpretation would be Hitler’s views and subsequent actions as they related to his Christian faith. In Mein Kampf he states, “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” (source) Those who would portray Hitler’s view of Christianity as mainstream Christianity would be making a misrepresentation about the faith. Similarly, Islamic fundamentalist terrorists do not represent the core intentions of Islam or all Muslims.
Unfortunately, some misguided Muslims have embraced an interpretation of Islam similar to Hitler’s understanding of Christianity. In response to this dangerous trend, reformist and progressive Muslims are actively seeking ways to promote a more compassionate interpretation and form of Islam. For example, organizations such as Muslims for Progressive Values formally states that terrorism is not Islamic and some Muslims have proclaimed a Jihad on Terrorism. (Example: see point #21)
News of Extremism
Below are some examples of extremism in the news.
- “Militants from the radical jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have set fire to a 1,800-year-old church in Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul… The burning of the church is the latest in a series of destruction of Christian property in Mosul, which was taken by the Islamist rebels last month, along with other swathes of Iraqi territory.” (Source: Alarabiya.net, 20 July 2014)
- “Islamic militants killed at least 115 Syrian troops, guards and workers as they captured a gas field in central Syria following daylong clashes, activists said Friday.” (Source: Wall Street Journal, 18 July 2014)
Unfortunately, a handful of extremist Muslims eager to promote their view of the religion can sometimes broadcast that message to large numbers of people. The examples below are from children’s television shows where intolerance is being taught.
- Shahadah: A profession of faith declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger.
- Salat: ritual prayer five times a day
- Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy (in addition to other giving)
- Sawm: fasting and self-control during the blessed month of Ramadan
- Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he/she is able to
While pillars 2 through 5 are fairly easy to comprehend, the development of a person’s faith and religious understanding is more elaborate. There are four primary texts or sources for religious teaching:
- Qur’an – revealed by Allah SWT to Prophet Muhammad SAW.
- Sunnah – sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad SAW.
- Ijmaa’ – the consensus amongst Muslim religious scholars.
- Qiyaas – the analogy based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah.
Islamic Documentary About Jihad
The following multi-part documentary “Jihad on Terrorism” was produced by the Bridges Foundation and has contributions from various muslim scholars. According to Islam, Jihad is defined as the struggle against evil inclinations, not the acting out of them. (See Part 1 at 5:39)