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Muslims Stand Against ISIS, Too

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A friend told me recently that the horrific conduct of ISIS -- Islamic State in Iraq and Syria -- has left many people with the impression that all Muslims are like ISIS. However, a simple Google search reveals the Muslim response to ISIS.

Muslim volunteers from the humanitarian group Islamic Relief provided food parcels, 2,000 hygiene kits and about 32,000 articles of clothing to over 3,000 Christian and other families who fled the ISIS persecution.

More than 17,000 displaced people have been sheltered in the Hussainiyat -- Shii congregation halls, mosques and other religious buildings. The Holy Shrines of Imam Ali and Imam Hussain and the city of Basra opened their doors to host displaced Christian and other families and serve their needs.

In solidarity with their Christian neighbours, Muslim social activists launched the "I am Nazrene (Christian)" campaigns. An Iraqi TV host broke down in tears and referred to Christians as our "own flesh and blood." Law Professor Mahmoud Al Asali gave up his life by standing in solidarity with his Christian brothers and sisters.

Sunni and Shii clerics in Iraq jointly drafted and distributed a religious edict to over 50,000 mosques declaring ISIS as an un-Islamic terrorist organization. Sheikh Taha al Karkhi, grand preacher in Baghdad, declared that resisting and standing up against ISIS is a religious duty.

Over 80 Muslim intellectuals, activists and religious leaders in India jointly urged the United Nations to hold ISIS accountable for its brutality, which they termed as a "crime against humanity" and "religious cleansing."

Over 100 British Sunni and Shii Imams released a powerful video to urge Muslim youth to stay away from ISIS, which they branded as an illegitimate and vicious group. About 5000 Norwegian Muslims rallied in Oslo against ISIS.

The Caliph of the Ahmadiyyah Muslim community and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group representing 57 countries and 1.4-billion Muslims, also forcefully condemned ISIS. The Indonesian President urged Muslim leaders to unite their efforts, prohibited Indonesians from joining ISIS and blocked the ISIS Internet sites.

In North America, the two largest Muslim umbrella groups -- Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) -- issued statements condemning ISIS. CAIR strongly urged American Imams and other community leaders to speak out against American Muslims traveling abroad to join extremist groups like ISIS.

Conservative and progressive Muslims are united in their condemnation of ISIS.

Yasir Qadhi, a conservative Muslim leader, stated that the Prophet warned us about groups who would spread bloodshed and yet think of themselves as the best of worshipers. He further mentioned that, "no amount of the evils of American foreign policy can justify the murderous rampage of ISIS and its ilk."

On the progressive side, Mike Ghouse of the World Islamic Congress went so far as to call for drone attacks against ISIS. From Switzerland academic Elham Manea urged Muslim communities and nations to look inward and vanquish intolerant dogma and regressive politics to remove ISIS.

Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) USA President, Ani Zonneveld, tweeted that IS does not stand for Islamic State but "International Scum." The eighth annual MPV retreat will also focus on countering supremacist ideologies espoused by groups like ISIS.

Shahla Khan Salter, Director of Universalist Muslims in Canada has stated, "if we become aware of any individual or group, specifically promoting ISIS, their activities shall be reported to the RCMP, for inciting hatred, as ISIS is clearly committing genocide."

In Canada, Muslim leaders in Manitoba unconditionally condemned the ISIS persecution of Christians and Yazidis as an affront to Islam.

About 200 Sunni and Shia Muslims gathered outside Calgary City Hall to condemn ISIS. The President of the Shii group stated that he and other community leaders were working hard to wean youth away from radicalization and that the Government of Canada should be vigilant about the influx of radical elements.

About 200 members of the Kurdish community, many of whom are Sunni Muslims, also gathered in Calgary and asserted that the international community should support the Kurdish forces fighting against ISIS to protect global stability and security.

Imam Soharwardy, who founded the first anti-terrorism NGO -- Muslims Against Terrorism -- in Calgary, went on a 48 hour fast to draw attention to the issue of radicalized Canadian youth. He wants Muslim youth considering going overseas to join ISIS to instead reach out to him.

He claimed receiving death threats from both radical Muslims and Islam bashers. Yet, he is firm in asserting that Muslims must unite to isolate deviant groups like ISIS and that the government should be more vigilant.

ISIS has no theological base to stand on. Media sources indicate how two British men who pleaded guilty to terrorism offenses had bought 'Islam for Dummies' and "The Koran for Dummies."

Far from being devout adherents of faith, who are guided by humility and service to humanity, those drawn towards groups like ISIS are motivated by a hunger for power and thrills.

Muslim religious rulings are quite clear against targeting of civilians and collateral damage. According to Oxford based Malaysian jurist, Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al Akiti, Islamic law specialists are appalled by the legal style of "jihadi fatwas" and reject them as anomalies and misguided innovations.

There is no legal precedent in Islamic jurisprudence on circumventing the prohibition of targeting civilians. Perpetrators of such acts are treated as major sinners meriting punishment in this life and the hereafter.

However, despite all these condemnations, the conflation of Muslims with fringe groups has become normative. The Internet is rife with comments like there are "too many Muslims in Canada", "they need to completely renounce Islam," "they need to be sent back to their country" and "those in the Middle East should all be nuked."

Perhaps such sentiments arise out of a concern that, notwithstanding the umpteen condemnations, change is not happening. People are also aghast that hundreds of ISIS fighters have emerged from those living in Western countries that offer relative economic stability and human rights.

On the other hand, even Tarek Fatah, Canadian media personality whose views are construed as opposed to most Muslims, wrote in his book "The Jew is not my Enemy":

"The task of these Muslim reformers is obstructed not just by the Islamists and the jihadis but also by non-Muslims who would rather these reformers fail so that Muslims continue to be seen as a people devoid of reason and consumed by hate."

Given the vicious cycle of hate, fuelled by Islamists and Islamophobes, Muslim comedian and writer, Dean Obeidallah, has said we should build stronger interfaith communities.

We have to stand united against fear mongering and hate, otherwise groups like ISIS will have won. Instead of giving into complaints and negativity, we need to offer positive solutions to eliminate the ISIS menace that affects Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Progressive Muslim leader, Dr. Amina Wadud writes, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into a cataclysmic way of thinking by "just nuke em"-type comments. Etty Hillesum, who was murdered in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, taught us that we have to destroy within ourselves things that make us destroy others.

Notwithstanding their differences, Muslims of all stripes -- Sunni, Shii, Ismaili, Ahmadi, LGBTQ -- must unite to amplify their efforts to isolate groups like ISIS and not allow Islamophobia to dishearten them.

A wide array of Islamic texts, including the Prophet's covenant at St. Catherine's monastery, compels Muslims to stand against groups like ISIS. The admonition of the Prophet (upon whom be peace) is clear, "Whosoever wrongs a Jew or Christian will have myself as his prosecutor on the Day of Judgment."


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