The Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris last week became the latest in a string of violent attacks that have been conducted by Islamist extremists. Bombings, kidnappings and beheadings have become frequent events that are being committed in the name of Islam. The rise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram in Nigeria represent a worrying threat to our interpretation of the religion. Therefore, there has been a great deal of interest emerging on how Muslims can best reclaim their religion.
On January 11th a statement was released in the New York Times, in which leading Muslim figures, including Quilliam’s co-founder and chairman, Maajid Nawaz and Quilliam’s Shaykh (Dr) Usama Hasan, reaffirmed their support for a pluralistic interpretation of Islam.
As highlighted in the statement, justice and peaceful co-existence remain the basic foundation from which Islam is based. Therefore, “true” Islam which champions the ideals of liberty, including universal human rights and freedom of speech should be promoted and encouraged by Muslims who seek to live in a world that is tolerant and inclusive.
Recognising that the establishment of the so called Islamic State would stands in opposition to the true meaning of Islam – this needs to be better expressed by Muslim communities. Moreover, history has proven that the establishment of a state that is based on theocracy or Islamism will fail.
Through critical analysis of scripture and Islamic jurisprudence, an honest interpretation of Islam can triumph over the current jihadist narrative that is being channelled by Islamist extremists. Greater efforts to encourage reforms through the principals of liberty need to be actively pursued by both Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Ultimately, a coordinated effort is needed by society to enable true Islam to be reclaimed.
As highlighted within the statement, both Muslim and non-Muslim communities need to reclaim and embrace the true meaning of Islam. Part of this role is to reject the narrative that is currently being voiced by extremists. Moreover, providing un-wavering support to individuals who courageously speak out against abuses and oppression, should also form part of this new narrative.
This statement in the New York Times should be viewed as an example for other groups and individuals, who should also use their voice and help Muslims around the world reclaim their religion.