The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were a turning point for the world,
one that completely altered its political and strategic balances.
Some political commentators even say that Sept. 11, 2001 marked
the real beginning of the twenty-first century. Looking back at
the century just passed, the most important elements of opinion
and belief shaping it were ideologies and the relations between
these ideologies. Similarly, civilizations, beliefs and the relationship
between these two will work to shape the twenty-first century.
There are claims from some quarters that relations between civilizations
and beliefs will be fundamentally characterized by "clashes."
However, quite to the contrary, it is our hope that these relations
will be based upon peace and friendship. The Qur'an will serve
as the guide for us, Muslims, in this realm. In the Qur'an, God
tells us that the differences between people should be a reason
for them to seek to know one another better:
Mankind! We created you from a male and female,
and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to
know each other. The noblest among you in God's sight is the one
who best performs his duty. God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Qur'an,
In another verse, God specifically calls upon Muslims to treat
the People of the Book, i.e., Jews and Christians, well:
Only argue with the People of the Book in
the kindest way-except in the case of those of them who do wrong-saying,
"We believe in what has been sent down to us and what was sent
down to you. Our God and your God are one and we submit to Him."
(Qur'an, 29: 46)
Thus, Muslims should collectively work to establish a system
that brings societies different from one another into relationships
of mutual tolerance and peace. Certainly it is one of the main
duties of a Muslim to invite people of other faiths to join Islam,
but at the same time they must treat such people well and justly
whether they answer their call or not. Muslims' constant goal
should be the welfare of all humanity, for as God said, "You
are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind" (Qur'an,
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, however, a dire problem
emerged. Certain circles that claim to speak on behalf of Islam,
but clearly lack the understanding of the essence of it, work
to wreak suffering on humanity rather than striving for its benefit.
In attacking and killing innocent people, they committed the vilest
sin forbidden by Islam-in other words, they brought chaos to the
world. Their violent methods and aggressive messages seething
with anger are wholly at odds with Islam. And at the same time,
these circles are putting the world's one-billion-plus Muslims
into a very difficult spot.
The Qur'an speaks about such people who misinterpret religion
and commit terrorism in the name of faith (3: 7; 27: 48-49). God
warned Muslims to steer clear of the forces that are obdurate
in "disbelief and hypocrisy," and against people who fail to perceive
the noble morality lying at the core of religion and so employ
violence due to their hardened natures (9: 47; 49: 14). In the
history of Islam, such groups as the Hashashins and Kharijites
used terrorism in the name of religion and sowed disorder in the
world due to their own ignorance.
Clearly, this is a truly pressing matter crying out for a solution.
Islam should be cleansed of such wicked tendencies, and extremism
and superstitions should be wiped away. Muslims must instead be
educated about true Islamic morality based on the Qur'an, and
in the words of the theologian Imam al-Ghazali, the Islamic world
should be "revitalized."
Problems in the US Policy
Westerners, and especially the United States, the target of the
Sept. 11 attacks, have come to recognize this issue, at least
in part. Therefore the US administration has begun an attempt
to "reorganize the Islamic world" over the next 10-15 years.
However, its strategy has two serious shortcomings:
1. The United States should not employ
The US operation in Afghanistan ushered in an era of military
interventions which so far shows little sign of letting up. To
take one example, consider the impending war against Iraq. Some
observers predict that after it deals with Iraq, the US will proceed
to still more military operations against other countries in the
Middle East. Such a path, however, will not help the US to reach
its goals, and will moreover claim the lives of many innocents.
Military methods will inevitably be interpreted as a "war against
Islam," which will in turn only add further fuel to the fires
of tension and conflict.
If the United States truly wants to wage a "war against terrorism"
it should do so in the realm of ideas and opinion. Terrorism is
not a tangible enemy, rather it is a method used by people guided
by mistaken ideas. One cannot fight against a method, one can
only fight against a force that uses this method. If this force
is an opinion, then it should be defeated on the field of opinion.
The ideology and psychology that lead to terrorism must be done
away with. In their place, people should instead should be taught
the real religion based upon the Qur'an, instead of mistaken religious
interpretations that result in terrorism.
2. The United States should not try
to impose a solution from "the outside."
The reasoning laid out above shows that it is not right for the
United States to try to solve the problem from "the outside."
The problem lies in misinterpretations and distortions of Islam
at the hands of certain people, therefore the solution should
come from the world of Islam. Muslims could work to promote a
proper understanding of Islam and at the same time fight misinterpretations
of it. The United States should support a solution originating
from within the Islamic world.
Were the United States to support such an approach, this would
be better for the US, better for the world's Islamic community
and indeed better for the entire world. Those who claim the opposite
should reconsider their stances, realizing in the process that
such views are leading the world into a bloodbath. The US administration
must be careful not to give credit to the erroneous suggestions
of some forces with various ulterior motives. These forces are
some ideologues and strategists who want fervently to see a bloody
war erupt between the West and the Islamic world, and moreover
are trying to portray US anti-terrorist policies as part of a
"war against Islam." The US government, and in particular President
George W. Bush, has made sensible statements rejecting such "the-West-versus-Islam"
interpretations, and these efforts have yielded some good results.
However, it is also necessary that the policies of the US government
fully reflect a more enlightened viewpoint in the eyes of international
How Should An Islamic Union Be?
So then, the war against terrorism should be carried out in the
realm of opinions and ideas, and its solution should originate
from within the world of Islam. But how will this come about?
Before answering this question, we must point out one fact: The
current divided nature of the Islamic world. Today many different
religious interpretations, views and models exist in the world
of Islam. However, the Islamic world currently lacks a central
authority to separate out doctrines which contradict the faith,
a service which would guide all Muslims. The world's Roman Catholics
can look to the Vatican, and Orthodox Christians have the patriarchs,
but there is currently no central authority in the Islamic world.
However, there is no division and uncontrolled structure in the
essence of Islam itself; on the contrary, there is unity. After
the death of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), the Islamic
world was guided by the Caliphate, and this authority became the
guide for all Muslims in religious matters.
Today, it is still possible to set up an authority
to act as a guide to all Muslims. In the Qur'an, Allah orders
all Muslims to obey "those in command among them."
(Qur'an, 4: 59). Now, the methods used to select "those in command"
can be altered according to the requirements of the age (such
asappointment or popular vote). Thus is possible to establish
an Islamic Union and a central Islamic authority, based on democratic
principles and the supremacy of law, which should do a number
This union should do a number of things:
1. It should address the entire Islamic world, and have
a firm foundation in basic Islamic values and principles. It
should not be the representative of a particular sect or school
2. It should support human rights, and free enterprise.
The economic, cultural and scientific development of the Islamic
world should be its aim.
3. It should establish peaceful, harmonious relations
with other nations and civilizations. This Union should work together
with the United Nations and the international community to control
weapons of mass destruction, fight terrorism and international
crime, and protect the environment.
4. The rights of minorities living in Muslim countries—such
as Jews and Christians—should be protected, and they should
be made to feel both safe and respected. Inter-faith dialogue
and cooperation should be given priority.
5. Just and peaceful solutions should be proposed to solve
conflicts between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, such as the
ones in Palestine, Kashmir and the Philippines. These solutions
should involve both benefits and concessions for both sides. Such
solutions should protect the rights of Muslims and furthermore
prevent the escalation of conflicts to the point of intractability
at the hands of radical groups.
Bringing such fair, rational leadership to the Islamic world
would be good for both its 1.2 billion Muslims who face so many
problems today and for the world at large. The world needs such
a Union. Muslims, since the time of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh),
have led the way forward for humanity in science, philosophy,
art, culture and civilization, and the masterpieces they created
benefitted humanity. While Europe was still living in the Middle
Age, Muslims were teaching science, medicine, art, rational thinking,
hygiene and many other virtues to the world. Today, just as in
the past, a guiding principle based on Qur'anic morality is needed
to restart this Islamic revival stemming from the light and wisdom
of the Qur'an.
Finally, we must emphasize that this solution should be realized
urgently, because the possibility of "a conflict of civilizations"
between the Islamic world and the West is growing with each passing
day. The possibility of a war in Iraq is close at hand, and if
the current situation doesn't change, other wars will surely follow.
Such conflicts will claim the lives of many innocent people. Prejudices
and misunderstandings against Muslims and Islam are a persistent
problem, and this is also causing difficulties for Muslims living
in Western countries. Westerners themselves are living in a state
of anxiety due to their fears of terrorism, not feeling safe even
in their own homelands. We need a solution that would make these
problems a thing of the past.
Truly, the founding of an Islamic Union is such a solution,
one that would bring to all these problems a remedy both permanent
Is Not the Source of Terrorism, But Its Solution
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