Islam has had a bad press. It has also had a number of poor representatives; Isis/Daesh being the current bogeyman and sponsor of atrocities. Created in the intelligence operator and military contractor infested devastation of the US led war on Iraq, it is a repeat of a previous strategy of persuading Muslims to be US mercenaries armed and paid to fight the US enemy of the day. In Afghanistan that enemy was the Soviet Union and it was followed by the US just leaving the various mercenary groups in charge who then just fought each other for years bringing utter ruin to the country. The same strategy happened in Libya recently and has ruined that country. The same chaos has been brought to Iraq and Syria. It is not a new strategy, it is a very old strategy of divide and conquer and the British empire excelled in its practice and the US has willingly stepped into Britain’s imperial shoes.
It is in the nature of empires that they are just doing what circumstances let them do to defeat their enemies. The anglo saxon empire has been dominant over recent centuries because of two values it has fought for: Freedom and Democracy. Whatever their day to day tactics this is their main moral asset. It is the thing that makes their empire strong. It is this right that gives them might. There are many rivals and would be enemies who seek to oppose that might and in doing so their pride takes them into rejecting the morals they should instead not only embrace, but be champions of and even claim to have a better right to be champions of. Labeling anything your enemy identifies with or does as fundamentally morally wrong and “kufr” is a recipe for being misled into rejecting the truth. We don’t reject the idea of high speed roads even though Hitler was the first to build them.
Muslims will not unite except on the truth. The division that keeps us Muslims weak is because of our moral weakness, this in turn is because we do not challenge ourselves enough to follow the moral guidance of the Qur’an when we have left it in favour of another direction.
Isis has now squarely established its reputation on the targeting of innocent civilians who are far away from any fighting. It seems to them the more defiant they are of moral condemnation of others the better they think they behave. But they are only the extreme end of a spectrum which justifies wrongful killings in the name of Islam. Many traditional interpretations in the Muslim world also endorse killings in contradiction to the Qur’an.
The Qur’an instructs us about the taking of human life, that it is forbidden except when taking the life of murderers. Even then we are told not to waste life that could be saved. This is consistent with all other positions in the Qur’an. There are no death penalties in the Qur’an for any other crime. There is no death penalty for adultery, blasphemy or apostasy. There is no right to fight people unless they actually fight you even if they leave Islam and abandon the Muslims in the middle of a battle. There is certainly no right to fight other Muslims just because they didn’t want to pay their charity donations to you or accept you as their leader.
The Qur’an has much more to say about the principles of politics in Islam and I hope to expand on them more in future blog posts.
Specifically the Qur’an teaches us that Muslims must organise together and reach decisions without forcing opinions on one another, including decisions about who should be in charge. Instead Muslims must reach decisions only by mutual consultation. People must be free to form whatever opinion their heart reaches and only God will judge their opinion. There can be no compulsion in the religion. People must be free to believe and free to disbelieve and everything in between; free to join and free to leave. All state enforced rights must be equal for all people and show no favouritism. Muslims must organise around clear well known high standards of good behaviour, uniting in respect for one another forming a nation that protects each other’s lives and freedoms and able to negotiate with one voice to bring peace.
It is not what is taught in the Qur’an that needs reform, it is Muslims who need to reform their lack of practice of its teachings and what they – for whatever reasons – call the teachings of Islam.