Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 36

IS. Following the massacre in Paris in November 2015, Qari Asim, imam of the Makkah mosque in Leeds, UK, placed the following message on his mosque’s website: “ISIS or IS neither speak for Islam nor is their poisonous ideology shared by Muslims across the globe. Once again, British Muslims unfortunately find ourselves in a position of having to publicly disassociate ourselves with the actions of a despicable group of individuals who have hijacked our religion of peace for their own political and territorial goals. Their actions are an absolute affront to Islam and are unequivocally condemned by Muslims throughout the globe.”17 His exasperation is palpable. In the book of Deuteronomy, one of the first five books of the Christian and Jewish bibles, Jews are commanded by God to kill everyone in a city in time of war; they are told to kill all the men but to take the women, children, and animals for themselves.18 Irrespective of such scriptural exhortations, very few in the Jewish (or Christian) community today would regard this biblical injunction as being God’s instructions for the conduct of modern warfare. Based upon the primitive culture and local customs of the time, such actions were undoubtedly regarded then as appropriate and acceptable, but are not seen as relevant in the twenty-first century among most nations of the world today that have roots in Judeo-Christian religious traditions. In fact, such actions would be almost universally regarded as repulsive. In response to IS’s reputedly Islamic justification for its grisly actions, many Muslims are putting forward a similar rejectionist argument with regard to some of the more violent texts in the Quran and hadith; that such are now anachronistic and inappropriate if the Islamic world is to progress forward in step with modern humanistic values. For example, in the United Kingdom, a group of imams have published their own online magazine, Haqiqah (reality), which aims to undermine the arguments offered by IS. The argument they offer is that if Muslims look at the Quran and hadith in a wider context rather than taking selective verses and sayings out of context they will realize that their faith offers a very different perspective. Musharraf al Azhari concludes, “Our struggle [jihad] in today’s world should be for the establishment of peace, to establish goodness and kindness between others, to engage in dialogue, and to truly work on the protection and improvement of our souls.”19 The authors note that rather than prescribing the persecution of people of other faiths, the Quran allows freedom of religion.20 Elsewhere, Tariq Ramadan, professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University, argues that Muslims should use the Quran and sunnah as a whole to derive universal Muslim principles; the precise rules and regulations which are contained in them are purely relative to the time in which they were written. Faithfulness to principles should not involve literal faithfulness in applying individual texts because societies change. In every age there has to be discussion on how the basic underlying principles of the religion should be applied. As Ramadan puts it, “the concern should not be to dress as the Prophet dressed but to dress according to the principles (of decency, cleanliness, simplicity, aesthetics, and modesty) that underlay his choice of clothes.”21 A Singaporean Muslim posted the following on his Facebook page after the Paris attacks of November 2015: “ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] is Islam’s biggest enemy, not the U.S., not Israel or France or Germany or the Russians. We have to own the problem. We have to admit that this is a religious problem.”22 Conclusion Bombing IS in Iraq and Syria may be the right thing to do now, but it cannot be the only thing that is needed; the conflict ultimately is one of deeply entrenched ideology. That ideological war is one that must be fought and, as many Muslims are now saying, one that must be won from within Islam itself.23 Those of us who are not Muslims must support them in the conflict. Lt. Cmdr. David G. Kibble, British Royal Naval Reserve, retired, is a theology graduate of Edinburgh University. He is a recently retired deputy headteacher at Huntington School in York and a former commanding officer of HMS Ceres. He has written extensively in books and journals on theological, political, educational, management, and defense issues, as well as the Islamic background to problems in the Middle East and on the ethics of nuclear deterrence. 34 March-April 2016  MILITARY REVIEW