Islam is a religion of moderation, tolerance and justice that preaches peaceful coexistence and harmonious relations with people from different ethnic, social and sectarian backgrounds. As such, Islamic societies have produced perfect examples of endogenous, inclusive cultures and urban fabrics in complex multicultural environments around refined cosmopolitan cities such as Istanbul, Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem and Sarajevo over the course of history under the rubric of various political establishments. Writing in Strasbourg, France following Eid al Fitr celebrations with a comprehensive Muslim community, including French citizens and others from across the world, I am thinking about the underlying causes of radicalization among the Muslim youth and how DAESH became crystallized as an existential threat to the religion it claims to represent.
The emergence and flourishing of radical terrorist groups such as DAESH inevitably have a lot do with ongoing injustices, invasions and imperialist interventions in various Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Taking advantage of widespread anti-Western sentiment and skillfully utilizing the dangerous Shiite-Sunni cleavage in failed states characterized by massive political vacuums, DAESH managed to control vast swaths of land in the Middle East and formed a sui generis politico-economic system. While the international anti-DAESH coalition was ineffective in weakening the group in its heartland for years, DAESH's violent attacks in Paris and Brussels were a wake up calls for European leaders to engage in proactive anti-terrorism cooperation. But paradoxically, the real danger posed by DAESH has begun to turn into an existential threat to Islam and the Muslim world at two interdependent levels.
First, the degenerated image of Islam, allegedly represented by radical groups affiliated with DAESH, created a global milieu of disinformation about the true character of Islam and the hundreds of millions of its peaceful, moderate and tolerant adherents. So much so that explaining the fundamentals of Islam increasingly is to correct false images, prejudices and wrong assumptions that associate Islamic communities around the world with terrorism, violence, intolerance and oppression.
Secondly, and more importantly, the perverted religious teachings disseminated by DAESH that represent an extreme version of Salafist jihadism based on an easy production of perverts and infidels from among Muslim populations is increasingly utilized to justify mass killings in Muslim countries. Recent attacks in Istanbul, Baghdad, Bangladesh, Jeddah, Qatif and Medina were apparently justified using similar pretexts. Especially the final suicide bombing at the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, which is accepted as the second holiest place of worship for Muslims and also holds the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed, demonstrated the level of mental and religious distraction that DAESH members are associated with. If someone was to follow DAESH's deviant logic, there could be ample room to find excuses or justifications to kill non-Muslims, Shiite Muslims or Sunni Muslims by simply declaring them infidels who deserve to die for various reasons. This rude, inhumane, violent and irrational mode of thinking never existed in mainstream Islamic societies at any time in history and deserves to be resisted by religious scholars, academics, intellectuals and statesmen through robust collaboration. Unfortunately, however, there is an ever-growing reservoir of disenchanted youth in Europe and Muslim countries who stand ready to internalize this deviant perspective because they consider themselves to have been excluded by socio-economic systems in various ways and are looking for channels of self-realization.
As we celebrate Eid al-Fitr under the shadow of coordinated DAESH terrorist attacks y across the Muslim world, it is crystal clear that both the waves of terrorism accomplished with false Islamic rhetoric and a perverted approach to religious teachings pose an existential problem for Muslims. President Tayyip Erdoğan rightly called DAESH "a dagger stabbed right in the chest of the Muslim world," and added: "Whoever supports this organization through sectarian fanaticism or any other motive becomes a partner in the same sin." U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein also remarked that "the attack against the prophet's masjid during Ramadan can be considered a direct attack on Muslims across the world." Political leaders and opinion makers in the Islamic world will have to show similar commitment and solidarity in fighting DAESH in order to avoid its destructive impact.