Islam is a religion of peace!
No.This isn’t what I came here to say. And the reason for this is that it’s quite hard to talk about Islam being peaceful when Muslims we see in the media are either blowing people up or running them over. And I get this. I also understand that perhaps for a non- Muslim the content of the religion which pushes for peace is irrelevant because not only have individuals shown a violent face to Islam but also some Islamic countries. This is why I’m here to talk about things from a different perspective. It’s tempting to say that everything we see in the media isn’t true. That Muslim extremists aren’t ‘real’ Muslims and that our community is suffering under this huge conspiracy. But the fact of the matter is that it is true that Muslims can be violent, oppressive and at time unfortunately barbaric. There is a certain ‘version’ (the word ‘version’ here is key) of Islam that paints a picture of the religion that is completely aligned with common stereotypes of Muslims as being quite frankly backward.
This isn’t an issue of being moderate vs extreme. The view of Islam as this one homogeneous ideology that is split into a moderate wing and an extreme wing is a dangerous simplification of the truth. The reality is if you delved into Islamic philosophy and theology you would emerge from your studies with several different ‘types’ or ‘versions’ of Islam. Some of these are so different it’s sometimes easy to forget that they are rooted in the same basic ideology. Why else would a group like Isis feel comfortable to murder other Muslims, if not for the fact that there can be huge distances between certain interpretations of Islam. We can be very very different. This isn’t some call to disunite Muslims all around the world. It’s simply a description of the reality that we are living in, and the reality of every major religion. The term Islamic fundamentalism is also deceptive because by default the word ‘Islamic’ doesn’t distinguish between the varying schools of thought. It brings all Muslims under one umbrella when the truth of the matter is that if we were going to accurately describe a group like Isis, we would be calling them ‘Salafi/Wahhabi fundamentalists’ in the same way you would say ‘Catholic or Mormon fundamentalists’ and not ‘Christian fundamentalists’.
Perhaps, if these things were clearer to people living in the West, we would seem a little less frightening and less of a threat. So this is a very quick breakdown of the sects of Islam to put ‘Islamic’ fundamentalism into perspective:
87-90% of Muslims are Sunni Muslims which has 5 schools of thought: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Zahiri (This is all based on Wikipedia by the way so don’t quote me)
The Hanbali school of Sunni Islam is followed by the Salafi and Wahhabi movements which have puritanical and jihadists views on Islam. In terms of percentage they make up less then 1 percent of the world’s Muslims. Yes you heard me less than 1% (I was a bit surprised too I must say). This may come as a surprise to some of you given how loud these groups come across, right? Isis and Al-Qaeda are Wahhabi Muslims.
10-13 % of Muslims are Shiites – the followers of whom are mostly located in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain some parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Shiites are also split into Twelvers, Ismailis and Zaidis.
And oh let’s not forget the Sufis- our Muslim mystics.
There are many more sects than these. But what I trying to highlight is that Muslims are so unbelievably diverse and it’s about time that people in the West understand this and stop holding us accountable for the actions of a minority group that follows a completely different version of Islam to the rest of us. Non-Wahhabi Muslims have been the primary target (yes us, not you, we’re the primary target) of ‘Islamic’ fundamentalist groups for decades. More Muslims have died than non-Muslims and yet we get harassed by some individuals in the West who accuse us of being terrorists. I’m like: seriously dude? It’s like you can get off the phone after finding out your home town in Iraq or wherever has been blown up by a fundamentalist group and then some idiot on the tube will call YOU a terrorist. What is wrong with the world? Isis’s Islam is not my Islam. I follow a different ideology, different scholars and even different historical sources.
So no, I’m not under some moral obligation as a British Arab Shiite woman to apologize for the actions of an Asian Wahhabi man across the globe- unless I gave birth to said man. But even then that would be disputable. Nor should we suffer for their sins. I mean would a Catholic apologize for an Anglican? Would a Greek Orthodox apologize for a Methodist. Would an Evangelical Christian apologize for a Mormon? I think not.