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February 10, 2016 2

The Marrakesh Declaration

By Rabbi David Fox Sand­mel
ADL Direc­tor of Inter­faith Affairs

As a pro­fes­sional in the Jew­ish com­mu­nity who works on inter­faith rela­tions, I am often asked “why aren’t Mus­lims speak­ing out against ter­ror­ism and ISIS?” The answer is that, in fact, many Mus­lims have done so. Equally impor­tant is for reli­gious lead­ers to speak out and address the root causes of extrem­ism in their com­mu­nity, and find ways of dis­cour­ag­ing ter­ror­ist activ­ity, par­tic­u­larly among youth who are con­sid­ered among the most sus­cep­ti­ble pop­u­la­tions. In this regard, one of the most hope­ful ini­tia­tives, some­thing that has not got­ten much atten­tion in the main­stream media, is the “Mar­rakesh Dec­la­ra­tion,” released at the end of last month.

The “Mar­rakesh Dec­la­ra­tion” is the prod­uct of a gath­er­ing of Mus­lim lead­ers from more than 100 coun­tries around the world spon­sored by the Moroc­can gov­ern­ment and the Forum for Pro­mot­ing Peace in Mus­lim Soci­eties.  At the meet­ing, Mus­lim lead­ers heard sev­eral tes­ti­monies about the grave sit­u­a­tion of var­i­ous reli­gious minori­ties in Muslim-majority countries.

Marrakesh Declaration

At the end of the meet­ing, the Mus­lim schol­ars who gath­ered in Mar­rakesh released the “Mar­rakesh Dec­la­ra­tion,” a brief state­ment that in which they:

  • Call upon Mus­lim schol­ars and intel­lec­tu­als around the world to develop a jurispru­dence of the con­cept of “cit­i­zen­ship” which is inclu­sive of diverse groups. Such jurispru­dence shall be rooted in Islamic tra­di­tion and prin­ci­ples and mind­ful of global changes.
  • Urge Mus­lim edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tions and author­i­ties to con­duct a coura­geous review of edu­ca­tional cur­ric­ula that addresses hon­estly and effec­tively any mate­r­ial that insti­gates aggres­sion and extrem­ism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruc­tion of our shared societies;
  • Call upon politi­cians and deci­sion mak­ers to take the polit­i­cal and legal steps nec­es­sary to estab­lish a con­sti­tu­tional con­trac­tual rela­tion­ship among its cit­i­zens, and to sup­port all for­mu­la­tions and ini­tia­tives that aim to for­tify rela­tions and under­stand­ing among the var­i­ous reli­gious groups in the Mus­lim World;
  • Call upon the edu­cated, artis­tic, and cre­ative mem­bers of our soci­eties, as well as orga­ni­za­tions of civil soci­ety, to estab­lish a broad move­ment for the just treat­ment of reli­gious minori­ties in Mus­lim coun­tries and to raise aware­ness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the suc­cess of these efforts.
  • Call upon the var­i­ous reli­gious groups bound by the same national fab­ric to address their mutual state of selec­tive amne­sia that blocks mem­o­ries of cen­turies of joint and shared liv­ing on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviv­ing this tra­di­tion of con­vivi­al­ity, and restor­ing our shared trust that has been eroded by extrem­ists using acts of ter­ror and aggression;
  • Call upon rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the var­i­ous reli­gions, sects and denom­i­na­tions to con­front all forms of reli­gious big­otry, vil­i­fi­ca­tion, and den­i­gra­tion of what peo­ple hold sacred, as well as all speech that pro­mote hatred and big­otry; AND FINALLY,
  • AFFIRM that it is uncon­scionable to employ reli­gion for the pur­pose of aggress­ing upon the rights of reli­gious minori­ties in Mus­lim countries.

Lest any­one think that this is a depar­ture from “tra­di­tional” Islamic teach­ing, the Mar­rakesh Dec­la­ra­tion explic­itly traces its ances­try to the Char­ter (or Con­sti­tu­tion) of Med­ina.  Accord­ing to Mus­lim tra­di­tion, this Char­ter was writ­ten by the prophet Muham­mad in 622 C.E. in an effort to end polit­i­cal strife in the city; it guar­an­tees auton­omy and free­dom of reli­gion to the res­i­dence of Med­ina, includ­ing, explic­itly, its Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion.  While the Char­ter is not a mod­ern doc­u­ment and reflects the his­tor­i­cal set­ting in which it was cre­ated, the prin­ci­ple of reli­gious free­dom is found in the Quran itself and other clas­sic Islamic sources.

The threat of Mus­lim extrem­ism is real, dan­ger­ous, and must be taken seri­ously; even though it rep­re­sents a small minor­ity of Mus­lims, we have wit­nessed its tragic con­se­quences.  The vast major­ity of Mus­lims (and let us not for­get that it is Mus­lims them­selves who are most often the tar­get of these extrem­ists) reject the ter­ror­ists and their ide­ol­ogy.  The Mar­rakesh Dec­la­ra­tion is an impor­tant, but cer­tainly not the only, exam­ple of Mus­lims speak­ing unequiv­o­cally, from their own tra­di­tion, against extrem­ism, ter­ror, and the infringe­ment of reli­gious free­dom.  It is a pity that this and other efforts have not gar­nered the atten­tion they deserve.

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November 13, 2015 0

A Religious Ruling Forbidding the Killing of Jews Sparks Controversy

A  recent video fea­tur­ing a Mus­lim reli­gious leader issu­ing a rul­ing for­bid­ding the killing of Jews has sparked con­tro­versy on social media. The video shows Jor­dan­ian Salafi Sheik Ali Al-Halabi giv­ing a les­son to a group of stu­dents. One of the stu­dents says to the Sheik: “The Jews in Pales­tine — some say it is per­mis­si­ble to kill them under any cir­cum­stances.” The Sheik replies: “One who pro­tects you, pro­vides you with elec­tric­ity and water, and trans­fers money to you; one for whom you work and whose money you earn – you will double-cross him, even if he were a Jew?! This sort of killing is per­mis­si­ble dur­ing con­fronta­tion, dur­ing a declared war, whereas when there’s mutual trust and you double-cross and kill him – this is not permissible.”

The stu­dent then asks if this also applies to armed sol­diers walk­ing in the street, to which the Sheik replies “The same answer. Let me ask you a ques­tion: ‘Does a gun­man walk­ing in the street kill every Mus­lim he sees?” The stu­dent replies “No.”

Another stu­dent asks the Sheik if it were true that they [Israelis/Jews] don’t attack unless attacked first? The Sheik answers that while he didn’t know, that is what “the broth­ers in Pales­tine informed us.” How­ever, the Sheik adds, “this gen­eral rul­ing – one shouldn’t think we thus defend the detested Jews, but this is the real­ity. Oth­er­wise, if they killed any­one they saw, no one would remain in Palestine.”

Headline: "A Salafi Sheik in Jordan forbids killing the Occupation's soldiers!"

Filastin news­pa­per (Gaza), Novem­ber 3, 2015 Head­line: “A Salafi Sheik in Jor­dan for­bids killing the Occupation’s soldiers!”

Per­haps unsur­pris­ing, the Sheik’s com­ments sparked a wave of angry reac­tions on Face­book, where the Sheik was tar­geted with hate­ful posts includ­ing: “His face indi­cates he is of Jew­ish ori­gin,” “This garbage, who refers to them as sheiks?,” “God’s curse upon you and your likes, it is not per­mis­si­ble to kill the Zion­ists because they trans­fer you money and food,” “I spit on sheiks, shave off your beard and make it a broom for the toi­let,” “It is per­mis­si­ble to kill you, may God kill you and your likes”.

Fol­low­ing the angry reac­tion to his com­ments, Sheik Al-Halabi clar­i­fied his rul­ing, say­ing “The Jews are usurp­ing occu­piers, a double-crossing and treach­er­ous peo­ple who are decep­tive and cun­ning. They killed the mes­sen­gers and the prophets … Jihad against the Jews is an oblig­a­tory one, incum­bent upon every Mus­lim state and upon every Mus­lim who accepts Allah as his Lord and Islam as his religion.”

Another reli­gious leader, Sheik Abu Himam, who was present at Al-Halabi’s les­son, also renounced the pro­hi­bi­tion against killing Jews. In a Novem­ber 7th video, Sheik Abu Himam says: “I empha­size and reit­er­ate that it is per­mis­si­ble to kill the Jew­ish occu­pier, and that it is legit­i­mate for our peo­ple in Pales­tine to defend [them­selves] in every means and in every way which enables them to repel this enemy and kill them to the extent that they can.” He adds that “Our lofty and sub­lime Salafi method is known for its fidelity to those who believe and for being devoid of poly­the­ism, athe­ism, and oppres­sion, first and fore­most of which are the descen­dants of apes and pigs, the Jews.”

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January 20, 2015 0

Calling Radical Islam What It Is

By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

If we want to win the war against rad­i­cal Islam — and in my view it should be the num­ber one pri­or­ity of the West­ern and Mus­lim worlds — we need to call it what it is. Too often, out of a mis­placed sense of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, polit­i­cal lead­ers, includ­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and French Pres­i­dent Fran­coise Hol­lande, avoid iden­ti­fy­ing the extrem­ists as pro­po­nents of a rad­i­cal Islamic ideology.

The solu­tion to the threat lies pri­mar­ily within the Mus­lim world itself. Main­stream Mus­lims must on every level, start­ing with edu­ca­tion, dis­cour­age young peo­ple from tak­ing the extrem­ist path. But if we in the West are reluc­tant to explic­itly say what it is, why should Mus­lim mod­er­ates speak and act?

I address this as some­one who rep­re­sents an orga­ni­za­tion that stands up against defam­ing of Mus­lims in gen­eral or Islam as a reli­gion. When indi­vid­u­als try to show their bona fides in sup­port of Israel by claim­ing that Islam as a reli­gion is ter­ror­ist or that most Mus­lims are, we stand up to say no.

In Europe, the hes­i­tancy to say the words “rad­i­cal Islam” may largely be the prod­uct of intim­i­da­tion or the fear of vio­lent retal­i­a­tion. That is why the com­ments by French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls before the French Par­lia­ment and in an inter­view with Jef­frey Gold­berg of the Atlantic are so important.

He pulled no punches and told it like it is. The enemy is rad­i­cal Islam. French soci­ety must stand up against the out­rage com­mit­ted by jihadists against France and against the Jews of France. The jihadist ide­ol­ogy surely does not rep­re­sent most Mus­lims and it is a hijack­ing of Islam, but the incite­ment to vio­lence and the acts of ter­ror are done in the name of Islam and influ­enced by teach­ers of fun­da­men­tal­ist Islam in schools and other insti­tu­tions through­out the Mus­lim world.

As Michael Walzer has writ­ten, it is not prej­u­dice but ratio­nal to fear Islamism, as opposed to Islam. When ele­ments within a reli­gious com­mu­nity pro­mote anti-democratic atti­tudes and anti-Semitism, and turn to ter­ror, anti-democratic atti­tudes, and anti-Semitism, it is not racist to oppose it forcefully.

There is noth­ing sim­ple about try­ing to fig­ure out how to defeat the rise of this rad­i­cal­ism within the Mus­lim world.  Social, eco­nomic and polit­i­cal forces within Mus­lim coun­tries and in rela­tions between the west and the Mus­lim world all con­tribute to it.

But what we know from past strug­gles against total­i­tar­ian move­ments, whether Nazism or Com­mu­nism, is that they require clear and prin­ci­pled think­ing to directly engage the danger.

That starts with say­ing that Islam and Mus­lims are not the enemy, they are part of the solu­tion.  We need to empha­size and acknowl­edge that there is prej­u­dice against Mus­lims because of recent events and to emphat­i­cally oppose it.

But we also must not hes­i­tate to point out that those who suf­fer the most from rad­i­cal Islam are Mus­lims them­selves. Just think of the recent news in Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Nige­ria: Mus­lims being mur­dered, mosques being attacked by extrem­ist Muslims.

The basic mes­sage from polit­i­cal, reli­gious and civic lead­ers must be that all good peo­ple are in this strug­gle together. The Islamic extrem­ists are a threat to Mus­lims, a threat to Jews, a threat to civilization.

Just like the strug­gle against Nazism and Com­mu­nism were defeated by a col­lec­tive effort and by a set of clear ideas, this 21st cen­tury strug­gle can be won as well.

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