Can Islam be reformed?

8a6770695e94f5db9cc333715a1cbeddThe current maelstrom and series of violence in the name of Islam or its prophet testifies to the Muslim leadership’s failure in affronting Islamist extremism that exploits religion for its own purposes.

Extremist Islamism does not merely threaten European values of liberties, but traditional values of Islam as well. Extremists have lynched Muslims throughout Middle east without mercy or fear since the emergence of ISIS. The diverse interpretations of Islam has left the Muslim world with different understanding(s) of Islam, which give rise to conflicting interpretations in the absence of Muslim scholarly leadership.

Ideologies can not be bombed into oblivion. While US-led coalition airstrikes targets extremists belonging to the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, their ideological beliefs are still widely accessible on the internet.

Throughout history, religions have faced periods of reformation, and this is not to cherry-pick from the Islamic religion but to authenticate its narrative, which is essentially one of coexistence and harmony. Extremists such as the recently declared Islamic State have wiped out archaeological sites of Islam’s history, Mosques, ancient churches and synagogues. They are the antithesis of what Islam, as introduced by the Prophet Muhammed preaches on coexistence.

Muslims have suffered under extremist interpretations of Islam on an unprecedented scale. They have been killing each other for far too long. The problem of eradicating (or minimising) extremist Islamism can only be possible if we begin our reformation of how we understand Islam.

We must challenge the ideology that uses Islam to justify mass-murder, ethnic cleansing, arbitrarily targeting of opponents. And I realise that many Muslim bloggers have repeatedly argued that Muslims do not owe an collective apology, and that’s not what I am asking for, nor are they responsible, again that’s not what I am claiming.

I am not asking Muslims to condemn, as beautifully pointed out by Ethar El-Katatney on Twitter because our moral code is not in question.

Instead, we need to acknowledge that there is a inherent link between extremist ideologies used by the likes of ISIS militants in the name of Islam. Denying such a link with, “That’s not Islam” is escaping the reality and magnitude of the problem we are facing. This is not to say, Islam justifies or appropriates the likes of ISIS, but to acknowledge that the Islamic faith, similar to any religion can be misused and misconstrued out of its traditional/historical context by extremists.

Which is why these extremists and those sympathetic towards them must be challenged in a language that they understand. Regardless of the number of coalition countries that have joined forces to defeat ISIS, the reality is, even when eventually their militant basis are entirely eradicated, their ideology will remain unless ideologically challenged.

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