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Islam’s silent majority: moderate voices drowned out by extremists

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IslamIslam’s silent majority: moderate voices drowned out by extremists

By Ali Mamouri

Published 24 August 2014

Stretching from North Africa to east Asia, many Muslims are engaged in a life-and-death tussle with extremists who are bent on extinguishing the diversity of opinions within the Muslim community. The reality, however, is that there exists more than one Islamic faith. Islam is an umbrella term, which covers multiple differences within the religion. Diversity of opinion is not a recent feature of Islam; evidence of broad shades of opinion can be traced back to its origins. But today the global Salafist movement, funded greatly by the Saudi regime and other sources, publicly occupies most of the Muslim world and parts of Muslim communities in the West. Islam should not be considered from the perspective of fundamentalism as, in the end, this will strengthen the extremists’ position. Rather, it should be understood by opening a dialogue, supporting, and co-operating with the moderates who offer a different understanding of Islam.

Stretching from North Africa to east Asia, many Muslims are engaged in a life-and-death tussle with extremists who are bent on extinguishing the diversity of opinions within the Muslim community. Atrocities perpetrated by so-called Islamists grab the headlines: Boko Haram and slavery markets, the genocide of minorities and videotaped executions of westerners by Islamic State (IS) militants.

In addition to these atrocities, more mundane human rights violations are routinely carried out by theocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran. But what about the rest of the Islamic community? Why have their voices remained unheard?

There exists Islams, not Islam
Incorrect generalizations and minimization of Muslims are offered up in explanation of every new terrorist atrocity. However, the reality is different from this perception: there exists more than one Islamic faith.

Islam is an umbrella term, which covers multiple differences within the religion. While Muslims hold similar beliefs concerning Allah, the prophet Muhammad, and the holy Quran, a wide diversity exists when it comes to the details and interpretation of religious doctrines. Tunisian Muslim scholar Abdul Majid al-Sharafi described this phenomenon as the “municipality of Islam.”

Diversity of opinion is not a recent feature of Islam; evidence of broad shades of opinion can be traced back to its origins. But today the global Salafist movement, funded greatly by the Saudi regime and other sources, has great mosques, institutes, universities and schools. Its strong organization and powerful media outlets enable them to publicly occupy most of the Muslim world and parts of Muslim communities in the West.

The Quran and terrorism
The Quran is typically cited as the ultimate source of terrorism and extremism among Muslims. This inaccuracy is based on cherry-picking selected verses; favorable words are accentuated while contradictory verses are ignored.

The reality is that the Quran — like the Bible and many other sacred books — uses religious language that is open to multiple interpretations. Many verses that could be seen as motivating violence can also be found in the Bible.

Muslims, like Jews and Christians, have a variety of interpretations of these texts. The word “jihad,” for example, is understood by Sufist Muslims as an esoteric term for fighting the evil instincts inside the human soul to gain ethical virtue.

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