By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
In just the last couple of days, there have been two deadly attacks orchestrated by self-styled Muslims, killing huge numbers of people—the attack on the church in Peshawar and the shopping mall in Nairobi. Attacks on, and persecution of, non-Muslim minorities have escalated in recent years in many Muslim-majority countries.
These attacks are nothing but an expression of frustration. The fact is that in the first half of the twentieth century, some Muslims started a struggle against their so-called enemies. But they completely failed in this. They then tried to destabilize their supposed enemies. What happened on 9/11 was an act of this kind. However, they failed in achieving anything here as well. Now, they have chosen soft targets, like churches and malls. Such acts only show the extent of their frustration. The only cause for these attacks can be found in these Muslims’ deep frustration due to their total failure. The time has now come for Muslims to take a U-turn. Taking a U-turn means accepting one’s own mistakes, but many Muslim leaders have no courage to openly accept their mistakes.
According to Islam, these attacks are clearly haram or forbidden. Suicide-bombing has no justification in Islam. With regard to the bombing of the church in Peshawar, the attackers said that they were taking revenge for US drone strikes. But, taking revenge itself is an un-Islamic act. According to Islam, the argument that these attacks are a legitimate answer to the oppression of others is completely baseless. Islam does not allow taking of such revenge by attacking innocent people. The concept of revenge is in itself an un-Islamic one. But, for the sake of argument, suppose there is any teaching in Islam that does allow taking of revenge, then that revenge must be directed against those who are responsible for the killings for which revenge is sought. And, in this case, those who were present in the church in Peshawar and in the mall in Nairobi were innocent. They were not involved in any kind of attack and did not carry out any killing, and so they cannot be subjected to revenge.
Attacks of this kind do not in any way solve the problems they claim to be a response to. Rather, they only exacerbate them. The claims of people involved in such attacks of representing and championing Islam are completely false. Islam does not give permission for such attacks at all. But the real blame goes less to the attackers themselves than to their intellectual mentors. The real culprits are those leaders who have given a political interpretation to Islam. I think political Islam is the greatest evil in the present age. Such an interpretation has made the violence that Peshawar and Nairobi have just witnessed seem justified to those who carried it out.
Some Muslims quote, among others, the following Quranic verse to justify their hatred of non-Muslims: “O you who believe, do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.” (5:51). On the basis of their erroneous interpretation of this verse, they seek to stir hatred against people of other faiths. Once that happens, then it becomes easy for them to seek legitimacy for violence against them. However, the fact of the matter is that their argument is completely wrong. The Quranic verse quoted above is neither about all the Jews or Christians, nor is it a permanent teaching. It is a temporary teaching and was applicable to those who were contemporaries of the Prophet and were at war with him.
It is a well-known fact that non-Muslims in every country have formed an opinion of Islam being a religion of violence. This kind of negative image regarding Islam is absolutely wrong. The real blame, however, goes to Muslim leaders and not to non-Muslims. Attacks such as the ones Peshawar and Nairobi have recently witnessed are bound to show Islam in an even more negative light. The image of Islam is already under fire, and such acts will only worsen its image in the eyes of the world.
Maulana Wahiduddin heads the New Delhi-based Centre for Peace and Spirituality.