Saturday, 10 January 2015

Enough Is Enough. No More Excuses. No More 'Buts'.

Finally, in the wake of the attacks in Paris, there is a significant change in response from some quarters of the Moslem community in Europe and in the Islamic world in general. Too often the extremist outrages have been greeted with a ‘Yes, but . . .’ response that usually winds up indirectly blaming the victims. Now, important voices in the Moslem world have said enough is enough, and we must look to answers within our own community. Yes, the West has not always been welcoming or kind in its response to Moslem immigration. But that type of moral equivalence to justify the jihadi violence is beginning to break down

            Whatever one may think of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, he  recently delivered some important home truths in a speech to Islamic scholars and clerics at the heart of Islamic learning, Al Azhar, in Cairo. He called for nothing less than a revolution in the teaching of Islam.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi offers a few home truths
          “I am referring here to the religious clerics. We have to think hard about what we are facing . . . It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the umma (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible!”

            He added that Moslem clerics needed to approach Islam "from a more enlightened perspective" -- and that this necessitates a "religious revolution." These are dangerous words for a Moslem leader, and he was quickly condemned by more radical Moslem groups. It is worth noting that el-Sisi is the first Egyptian leader, ever, to attend a Coptic Christian service in Cairo.

                      Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul  issued a strong statement condemning the Paris attacks.

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul condemns 'barbaric acts'
“It is clear that this kind of violence is totally immoral and against the fundamental precepts of any religion, and indeed of  Islam.
“The perpetrators of this barbaric act not only betrayed and tainted Islamic values and principles, but also targeted millions of European Muslims who have nowhere to live other than Europe.”

Gül also called on the Islamic world and all Muslims to denounce “the inhuman attack and demonstrate solidarity with the people of France against religious extremism.

             This was a refreshing contrast to the current Turkish president, Tayyip Erdoğan whose default position to such attacks is to remind everyone that what he calls Islamaphobia is really responsible for such outrages.

                      Turkish journalist Ahmet Hakan wrote a powerful column saying “No More Excuses Left For Massacres.”
Ahmet Hakan: Beware the 'buts'
We are going through days when sentences containing ‘but’ have peaked.
‘I condemn this, but . . .’
‘Of course killing is horrendous, but . . .’
‘One would not support a massacre, but . . .’
‘I would never tolerate what has been done, but . . .’

Here’s how to understand these types of sentences. Disregard all of the words before the ‘but.’ Concentrate on what comes after the ‘but’, because the actual ideas are hidden there.

The benchmark is this

When our religion and our prophet are mocked, it is legitimate and acceptable to turn your face away. To protest and to show discomfort is acceptable. To oppose is acceptable. Even to say ‘This can not happen; this is unacceptable’ is quite fine.

However, to kill, attack, behead, strafe with a machine gun, massacre, bomb, or blow up . . .Such reactions are never legitimate and never acceptable.

Having to remind (people) of the very basic humane and Islamic benchmarks to such an extent, however, is simply humiliating, shameful.”

While it is refreshing to hear calls for a serious re-think in the Moslem community, it is also important to rebut the ridiculous claims about the “Islamization of Europe.” From a demographic point of view this fear is sheer fantasy. Take Germany with about four million Turkish Moslems. This is less than 5% of the German population. And the vast majority of Turks I have encountered in Germany identify themselves as Germans. They are widely represented across all professions and businesses. I make it a point of asking young German-Turks if they ever think of going ‘home.’ The vast majority look at me quizzically and say firmly that their home is Germany. They were born there, their German is better than their Turkish, they went to school there, they work there, and they are delighted to be German citizens.

Mouhanad Khorchide: A voice of reason
            If the short-term answer to this Moslem-extremist violence is better security, the long term answer is education. Too much of Islamic education is based on rote-memory of the Quran or listening to hate-filled sermons from semi-educated self-styled imams. Non-Moslems need to understand that Islam is more than the distortions of the jihadis. The New York Times did an interesting story about Mouhanad Khorchide, a professor of Islamic pedagogy at the University of Münster in Germany. His courses are intended to groom teachers who will teach Islam in primary schools and then secondary schools, putting it on a par with Christianity and Judaism. This effort to take real Islamic instruction out of the hands of the fanatics will take time, but it is the only way to reduce the attraction of the violent jihadi groups like Al Qaeda or ISIS who prey on the ignorant and the vulnerable.

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