UPDATE: Watch Dr Ahmed discuss this article on CNN here
The appalling attacks in Paris last night were, as Francois Hollande said, an act of war. They were Islamism’s declaration of war on free society – but, crucially, they represented something else. An act of war, by Islamists, upon Islam itself.
As Douglas Murray says, it is lazy and wrong to argue that these attacks had nothing to do with Islam. The repugnant creed of the Islamic State is certainly related to Islam – but it is also inimical to Islam. The scenes in Paris will shock Muslims world over; indeed, when we Muslims hear of gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” before committing the very acts of murder explicitly prohibited by the Koran, our repugnance is joined with a sense of desecration.
To assert that this Islamism is un-Islamic is not a kneejerk response to the atrocities we saw last night, and so many times around the world. It is the only conclusion that can be drawn after serious consideration of its principles. The Damascene Muslim scholar, Bassam Tibi, identifies six tenets of Islamism – all quite new, and none can be honestly described as Islamic.
- Seeking a new world order through a new dictatorial global ‘caliphate’. (It matters little that the word ‘dawla’ — Islam as state — appears nowhere in the 80,000-word document that we accept as the revealed Quran.)
- The establishment of Islamism within democracies — Islamists are keen to stand for election, but once they get into power they want to shut the democratic gate behind them.
- Positioning Jews as Islam’s chief enemy, thereby making anti-Semitism central to the Islamist project (as Hamas’s founding charter attests).
- The mutation of classical jihad into terrorist jihadism — with which the world has, alas, become all too familiar.
- Sharia law. Not sharia as described by the Quran, but a concocted version used to impose a form of totalitarian rule which is without historical precedent. As the Islamic State regularly demonstrates, mercy has no place within Islamists’ version of sharia. In his searing study of the subject, the British lawyer Sadakat Kadri makes the critical observation that ‘pitiless punishment’, while lacking in Islam itself, has found a comfortable home in much of the Islamist world. Medieval barbarity has become a modern-day reality across much of the modern Muslim world — except that such punishment was unusual even in medieval times. Kadri notes that in five centuries of documented Ottoman legal history, there is only one record of a stoning to death.
- The Islamists’ concept of purity and authenticity. Any challenge to Islamism is, to them, de facto evidence of an un-Islamic behaviour. As Professor Tibi puts it, this is what makes Islamism ‘a totalitarian ideology poised to create a totalitarian state’ on a par with Nazism and Leninism. ‘Given that Muslims constitute more than a quarter of humanity,’ he concludes, the tension ‘between civil Islam and Islamist totalitarianism matters to everyone’.
So this is a new ideology, a form of totalitarianism – and one that has its ideological source not in medieval Islam but 20th century fascism. They dress in the robes of ancient Islam, but the methods and the ideology are terrifyingly modern. The Islamic State, with is easy control of social media, is the most modern incarnation yet.
The Islamic State’s brutality against anyone it encounters – Egyptians, Jordanians, Iraqis or Syrians – has been a reminder to the Muslim world that Islamism is not just directed at westerners. It’s also a reminder of why the animus against Islamism is rising — holding out the prospect of real reform. Crucially, the jihadis are losing the argument. Ten years ago, a Pew poll found that 41 per cent of Pakistani Muslims said that suicide bombings were sometimes justified. Now, it’s down to 3 per cent.
This is the moment for the Islamic world to expose Islamism — but loosening its hold upon our faith falls upon those Muslims who value pluralism and pursue a civilised, enlightened Islam. The reformation many are calling for isn’t needed of Islam, but rather of Muslims — and specifically of Muslim leadership.
So we must name the beast, and do so with conviction. This is not just about weeding out a jihadi menace from Birmingham schools, but about giving millions of Muslims the chance for a peaceful coexistence with the rest of humanity. And it’s about persuading non-Muslims that the Islamists are wrong — that such coexistence is possible.
Muslims are reminded by the Quran that to each people is sent ‘a Law’ and ‘a Way’ and that Muslims should not judge people of other faiths in the light of their own. Instead, the People of the Book must judge themselves by their own revealed texts (‘unto you your religion, and unto me my religion’) as we worship the same God. The Quran teaches that Moses and Aaron are to be revered for their courage in the face of merciless rule. The Torah and the Gospel are to be honoured.
From the Pakistani badlands to the banlieues of Paris, notice must be served to the Islamists: Muslims — that is to say, real Muslims — are coming for you.
This is an updated version of an earlier article.