Islam ≠ Terrorism
Meaning: “Western education is forbidden.” It is prohibited to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society.
Objective: To make northern Nigeria an Islamic state.
Activities: Attacks on institutions of the Nigerian government, churches, schools, bus stations and mosques; suicide bombings, kidnapping.
Meaning: “Submission to the will of God and obedience to His law.” Derived from the Arabic word ‘Salema’ meaning peace, purity and submission.
Objective: Strengthening the connection between man and his Creator, preserving life’s order, developing knowledge and connection with the Universe.
Activities: Hajj, fasting during the month of Ramadan, alms giving, five daily prayers, Shahadah.
How possible is it for the religion of peace and extreme acts of terror to be put together? Well, the sad truth is that, that is what it is in the present world.
Since the onset of the 21st Century, the world has been living in fear of terrorism. 9-11 brought to the previously rarely heard word “terrorism” and placed it in our everyday lives. The security systems of Western countries tightened up as they tried to grapple with the tragedy. Most importantly, terrorism came to be synonymous with Muslims or Islam. Every Muslim became a potential terrorist.
However, some questions come to mind when we think about this development. Did terrorism not exist before 9-11 and did other groups of people aside from Muslims not perpetrate it? Do only Muslims perpetrate terrorism in the 21st Century? How many Muslims are terrorists? Most importantly, are these “Islamic” terrorist groups Islamic?
With these in mind, let us examine the evidence that lies before us.
The earliest known terrorist group was the Zealots of Judea, who were involved in the assassination of Roman soldiers occupying Judea, in modern-day Middle East. Since then, the world has seen the emergence of different groups of terrorists, each with its own agenda cut out for them. With advancements in technology and weaponry, the impacts of these terrorist groups has grown tremendously over the years. Africa has not been spared from this rise in terrorism.
Islamic terrorist groups in Africa
When anyone mentions terrorism in Africa, the first thought that pops into the minds of most is Boko Haram. Then probably Al-Shabab. These groups claim to adhere to Allah’s calling. Well, there is also the Lord’s Resistance Army, which operates in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. This is not an Islamist group.
This group was founded in 2002 and its initial focus was opposing Western education. In 2009, it launched military operations in order to create an Islamic state. It declared a caliphate in areas it controlled in 2014. The group has claimed responsibility for assassinations, suicide bombings and kidnapping. It is most famous globally for the kidnapping of the 200 Chibok girls in 2014 in northern Nigeria, which inspired the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The girls have neither been rescued nor found till date.
Boko Haram has professed from the very beginning to be adhering to the will of Allah. They believe that they are embarking on jihad, a holy war against infidels (non-Muslims) and moderate Muslims. It believes that anything to do with Western culture is forbidden and should not be tolerated. However, the issue of whether Boko Haram, or any of the other Islamist groups that operate in Africa adhere to Islam is debatable. Many have said that the group is more of a political group with a political agenda rather than the religious group it claims to be. It has displayed inconsistencies between the doctrine it preaches and its actions. It not only targets non-Muslims but has killed several Muslims as well. If this group claims to be Muslim, why have they perpetrated acts of violence against their fellow brethren?
The Qur’an is the revealed word of God for the Islamic religion and gives guidelines for how Muslims should live. Therefore, in order to determine the authenticity of the faith or beliefs of any one or group that claims to be Muslim, we must turn to the Qur’an for guidance.
What does the Qur’an say about terrorism?
“On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (5:32)
Islam is a religion of peace and condemns murder. The Holy Qur’an states that if anybody kills a person, it would be as if he killed the whole world. How can a group that claims to follow Allah be a murdering machine?
The Qur’an also says that, ‘Do not kill women or children or non-combatants and do not kill old people or religious people….’ However, acts undertaken by these Islamic groups mostly involve innocent civilians who are not in direct combat with them. Men, women, children and the aged have suffered at their hands. Sometimes, children or youth are employed as suicide bombers. Again, we ask, how does the teaching of the Qur’an inspire the violence we see?
Many people think of Islam when they think of terrorism. Muslims have to live with the tag of being terrorists although you will find that most Muslims are against terrorist groups and believe that terrorists are not true Muslims. There are over a billion Muslims in the world. Out of that growing number, only 1% are terrorists. However, in the media and in our minds, that 1% is representative of the whole.
It is true that Boko Haram, al Shabab and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, among others, claim to be adherents to Islam. However, to say that the religion is inherently violent or a brood of terrorists is an unfair judgement. There are Christian groups like the Ku Klux Klan that have committed violence in the name of the Christian God, yet Christianity is not branded as a violent religion. Branding such a large group of people because of the actions of a few is highly unjust. Terrorism exists for diverse purposes and is influenced by many factors including poverty, inequality, quest for power and religion.
Boko Haram is not Islam.
Islam is not terrorism.
Religion is not terrorism.
By Makafui Fie and Efua Bentsiwa Bainson