A CALL TO AN "ISLAMIC
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
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, 3: 110).
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 military
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
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 of
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 and peaceful.