The march of unity and solidarity that was held with the participation of leaders from around 40 countries in Paris demonstrates that French political will and the world community basically consider the matter a terrorist act and an unacceptable assault on humanity, rejecting its correlation with Islam. These developments could be considered in some way positive, but in other respects, there is an unchanging reality. Several people who say they act on behalf of Islam can carry out barbarous acts. And a considerable number of Westerners think that this act was carried out on behalf of Islam, and they might target all Muslims and Islam as a religion, rather than the act itself. Similarly, a remarkable number of Middle Easterners might think this act is legitimate. Both approaches are nourished by a radical and pathological perspective of Islam. Both of them have the same reference and both branch out from rigid beliefs. They concern the clash of cultures, beliefs, traditions and civilizations rather than the actions themselves. They show that they pay no attention to individual rights and freedoms.
It goes without saying that both approaches are becoming widespread around the world, indicating a global state of insanity. It is high time that political and social leaders who repudiate these approaches and who have not lost their sense of responsibility seek answers to some questions.
The question of "what are the causes that created radicalism in the Islamic world?" may have many answers. But if this radicalism is considerably nourished by religion, and claims that it derives its apparent legitimacy from Islam, then this must be questioned. After all, radicalism uses the same discourse both in the Islamic and Western worlds and is nourished by this relation. Westerners could incite the public against Islam and Muslims and take the chance to subvert the democratic center. In the Islamic world, however, radicalism undermines state authority in order to ensure a radius of action for itself. With the legitimacy they derive, they could conduct destructive activities both in the Islamic world and the West, and they could recruit people to this end.
Here are two important arguments. The first one is whether Islam constitutes a source of legitimacy for such barbarous acts. The text of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, contains a coherent paradigm of individual, society, morality and ethos. This text should be interpreted scientifically and logically and this coherence should not be ignored. It is crucial to resort to methods of interpretation. In this regard, Islamic history and law consists of a rich archive offering rich sources. The interpretation of the text reveals that the monopoly of using violence does not belong to individuals, but to the authority that establishes order and security in society. It is a distortion to present the Quran as a source that legitimizes killings by citing its verses out of context. Such distortion is possible only in a chaotic atmosphere where traditions, culture and historical archives are destroyed or rejected. This gives way to the second argument. Radicalism is a product of regions that lack state capacity or where legitimate state authority is subverted. Unfortunately, the West has a large role to play in the Islamic world in this regard.
Therefore, the West should revisit its policies toward the Islamic world and quit its overt or clandestine support for anti-democratic policies, regimes, coups and tutelary structures in the region. At the same time, the Islamic world should find the opportunity of confronting radicalism in a healthier way. The establishment of democracy in the Islamic world could prevent making the Quran into an weapon, and would give no room for an authority gap. This is the only way to destroy the ground that produces and nourishes radicalism.
About the author
Osman Can is a Law Professor and Reporting Judge at the Turkish Constitutional Court. He holds a PhD from the University of Cologne, Germany.