by Ghassan Kadi

(To Speak or Not To Speak)

A lot has recently been said about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL aka ISIS, and IS), but most of the words used were far from the whole truth. Lies and the cover-ups have confounded the problem. Muslim clerics are afraid of facing the truth, Arab anti-ISIL activists are diverting the truth, and the international coalition that is poised to stand up against ISIL, seems to have no idea who, or rather, WHAT the real culprit is.

Yet, criticism and opposition to ISIL are widespread in their origin; including opposition from Muslims who are rightfully saying that ISIL’s actions are giving Islam a very foul and tainted image.

When truth is covered up, problems arise, but in some instances, there are consequences to uncovering it. The world is bursting at the seams with bigots from many opposite dipoles, and any attempt to unmask any one of them would give the opposing party fuel and excuses for retaliatory actions that invariably, and without fail, harm innocent bystanders.

What is then the moral obligation of someone who can reveal some truth about any particular clan of bigots? Would it be better to expose them with the full knowledge that such information can be misused to target others, or should one simply shut up in fear of such retaliations?

Islam is a religion of compassion and love. The Holy Quran is the crown jewel of the Books, but the meanings of its words and their teachings have been distorted like no other book.

The Quran promotes the concept of “Fateh”. There is no real synonym to this word-concept in the English language even though the word literally means “opening”; but this word does not fully explain the philosophical context. The English word that comes closest is “disclosure”; spiritual insightful disclosure that leads to enlightenment. But that original word-concept - which is not at all discussed within a Muslim context in the non-Muslim World - has almost totally lost its meaning in Islam itself. Many such word-concepts in Islam have lost their original meanings. The misuse and distortion of such word-concepts is at its worst/best with the word “Jihad”; a word that literally means “struggle”, is meant to refer to the struggle of the soul in its search for enlightenment. Again, there is no real synonym for it in English, and we may need to borrow the word Yoga from Sanskrit in order to give the meaning of Jihad proper justice.

It is most pertinent to note that the Holy Quran does not directly say that Islam will rule the world. It does however make inferences to that effect, but those hints are not different from saying that the righteous shall inherit the earth. In reality however, the Quran clearly says that only a few (Thullah) of people will be righteous in the latter days; a statement that clearly contradicts any fundamentalist Muslim “prediction” and aspiration that the whole world will convert to Islam.

Like in all other great religions, the teachings say something and practise becomes something else. In total contradiction with the word and teachings of the Quran, “Jihad” was turned into armed struggle that aims for “Fateh”, ie propagation, conquest and expanding the call to join Islam with the sole objective of turning the whole world to Islam.

Many Quranic words have one literal Arabic meaning, and another totally different and distorted one given to them by Muslim clerics. Invariably, without fail, the distorted meaning is one that suits the interpretations of the clerics as they have learnt from their predecessors; and so the distortion continues. This is not the work of ISIL, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), or the CIA.

Even the moderate, secular, non-fundamentalist, patriotic Yasser Arafat chose the word “Fateh” to name his Palestine liberation organization. Fateh’s anthem started with the first verse of Surat Al-Fateh of the Quran as an assertion to what the name referred to. And this man, Arafat, had Palestinians from all walks of life fighting alongside him for liberating the homeland. His cause was national, not religious, and it was very natural for Christian Palestinians to join the liberation organization. It seems that little did Arafat want to concede that his war with the Zionists was not a Holy War. After all, the Zionist misunderstanding of Judaism is not any worse than the Muslim misunderstanding of Islam and it was not Arafat’s job to set them straight in this regard.

Most Muslims, like any other group of people, are peace-loving people and they would never partake into any military conquest by choice especially those who are forty years of age and older, but with all the radicalising that is going on, they may not be able to hold back their youths. As a matter of fact, some Muslim youths these days, including those living in Western countries, are managing to radicalise their parents and forcing their sisters and mothers to wear the Hijab, among other things.

ISIL is putting the distortions in the reading of the Holy Quran into practise, without any false pretences, diplomacy or political correctness. They are not hiding that they believe in forceful coercion as a means to spread Islam all over the world. They are not shying away from killing anyone who does not follow their dogma. This is their interpretation of the Book.

The problem does not stem from ISIL any more than it does from Al-Qaeda, the Talibans, Wahhabism, the MB or the Salafists. It is not in the so-called US-created groups and America and Israel cannot be held accountable for such a belief system. The problem is not in a handful of radicals tainting the image of Islam either, the problem is in the fact that the concepts of Fateh and Jihad have not been addressed and properly explained to Muslims by Muslim clergy. Historically, the militarised version was perhaps employed strategically, but right now, no one is prepared to revisit those definitions.

What is more specifically dangerous about ISIL is that it is bringing home stories of “victory”. For a very long time Muslims have heard stories of defeat and suppression. Wahhabism has been based on reclaiming the former glory. Their misinterpretation of the Book compels them to believe that there is indeed such a moment of global military conquest, and that when Muslims hear the “call”, they will have to stand up and fight. ISIL is giving emotionally-vulnerable Muslims the signs that it is the one to lead such conquest. This is why in the eyes of ISIL, all Muslim youths, the whole billion of them are potential recruits.

When and if such a massive recruitment is initiated on a large scale, Muslim youths will be forced to join if not willingly they will be drawn by intimidation and fear of them and their families and property being targeted by ISIS and its supporters. If they do not join, they will be branded as traitors and their blood and property will be forfeit. Most at risk will be Muslims who will actively oppose ISIS and stand up against it. This is already happening in areas under ISIS control.

For an in-home Muslim resolution, Muslims will need to read the Holy Quran properly and listen carefully to its subtle meanings; even if this means having to challenge some existing interpretations that have been taken for granted.

Certainly, without willing and able financiers, organisations like ISIL cannot pose wide-spread danger. But such interested “investors” are not hard to find. After all, there is a whole potential army there that is ready to fight and die, and its soldiers can easily be manipulated should the interested financier know how to play his cards correctly. These soldiers do run with money, but money is only the catalyst, the recruitment magnet and drive is within archaic and distorted Islam.

Try to convince Arab activists who are standing up against ISIL in Syria that the underlying problem is within some false Quranic interpretations, and they will scorn you and tell you that it is all America’s doing. In doing this, not only they would be refusing to see reality, but they are also diverting attention from the main culprit and allowing it to continue to fester under cover.

In the West, try to criticize the reluctance of Muslim clerics in resolving the problem, and an army of well-intentioned sympathizers who genuinely care about peace and freedom of expression will be scrambling to defend freedom of worship, but they have no idea what jihadi recruiters are doing with this freedom and how much poison they are injecting into the minds of Muslim youths.

This time in history is like the time of the crusaders of Christianity; replacing Christianity with Islam. But, no one will admit it and no one in the West wants to be accused of being Islamophobic and no Mulsim cleric wants to be branded a heretic for challenging ancient interpretations. And for as long as the problem is not identified by those who are making claims that they are intending to deal with it, they will all fail.

Back to where this article started, understanding the nature of the beast only solves half the problem. The next pertinent question to ask would be who is morally qualified to oppose ISIL and by which means? Who can guarantee that exposing the driving force of ISIL is not going to give some anti-Muslim bigots enough reason to wage massacres against Muslims, all Muslims, including those who would never take up arms, even non-practising Muslims, wherever they can be found, cornered or outnumbered? What assurance can one have that such atrocities will not reach those who “look like Muslims” or identified as Muslims? Such repercussions have happened in the recent past.

But will more people get killed if ISIL is allowed to operate under wider Muslim tacit silence if this potentially highly dangerous issue is not brought out to the open? No one knows. I have painstakingly toiled and agonised over this and wondered for a long time as to what I should do, and all I can say is that I have had only good intentions in writing and publishing this, and God is my witness.