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Extremism and how to deal with it



Nidal Sakr 



It is no secret that I love Arabic, perhaps just as much as I despise Arabism. Arabic is the expression of the Quran - the Great Book of Civilization, while Arabism is a reminder to some longest lasting and senseless wars that predated Islam. Today Arab kingdoms, republics, and emirates are none but exaggeration in Arabism, and have no relevance to Arabic except for a name assigned to the country by its ruler.


Some of what I like about Arabic is its precision to differentiate meanings between lingual and referential. Linguistically, “Extremism” is an exaggeration in that which people agree as ordinary. Referentially, extremism is excess in understanding and interpretation of that which is acceptable by people, to that which is unacceptable by people.


If people are accustomed to modesty in food and clothing, then extravaganza and waste in clothing and food are considered extremism. In the same token, if people regard extravaganza as normally accepted, then modesty is considered extremism. On the other hand, if people accept fair distribution of wealth as just, and if the ruler took to confiscating the rich’s wealth and giving it to the poor for equal distribution of wealth as measure of fairness, then such a fairness is injustice, and exaggeration in such a perceived justice may in fact be worse injustice than its origin.


Therefore, any discussion of extremism must be exhaustive, in depth, and pragmatic for such a discussion not to be both deceptive and manipulative. It is also noteworthy that views of most of those who talk about extremism have no relevance whatsoever to moderation, and that much of the talk about extremism is in itself motivated by extremism, and only aims to fuel further extremism.


The Problem:


As we all know, Islam is in the heart of the human civilization we know of today. As a matter of faith, Muslims are responsible for liberating mankind from ignorance, killing, and oppression and for leading humanity to success and prosperity for all people through making the world a better place to live.


The Quran praises countries and lands when characterized by peace and security, and condemns the very lands when engulfed with torment, hardship and lack of peace and security. However Islam is very clear in that justice and benevolence are preconditions for stability and peace. Emerging about eleven centuries after revelation of the Quran, many principles of governance you would find in today’s most modern constitutions of leading democracies parallel some of those you would find in Quran and Islamic sources. Interestingly, the Quran condemns lands in which oppression persists, and holds both leaders and public responsible for allowing and condoning such “dysfunctionality.” Further, Quran stipulates that oppression and injustice are the primary threats to stability and peace. Such references are clearly made in a number of citations with regard to Egypt, for example.


Egypt has always been home to some of the world’s most impressive civilizations, old and not so old. Egypt is the birth place of Islamic renaissance, home to the world’s first universities, and birth place to some of the world’s leading scientists and explorers. Egyptians made up the bulk of the army led by Kurdish commander Salahuddin, which defeated barbaric crusaders, signaling the breakdown of medieval Europe, which in turn gave way to the emergence of new Europe we know of today. Salahduddin’s remarkable accomplishment effectively put an end to a dark era of human history highlighted by crusaders’ massacre of Jerusalem when blood of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian inhabitants of the holy land literally ran knee-high through the streets of the old city.


Egypt is the indicator by which human civilization, not only Islamic one, is measured, and a dysfunctional Egypt only means one quarter of world’s population of Muslims live in disarray, thus signaling trouble for all people the world over. Therefore, it is no wonder that president Obama chose Egypt of all places to try to make peace with the world’s Muslims whereas it is the only place to do so.


Egypt is a land of wealth and prosperity, yet chronic mismanagement of its resources causes severe maldistribution of wealth, thus providing seeds for discontent and instability.


But also, Egypt is the birthplace to some of the world’s most prominent thinkers and reformists. In particular, there is one Egyptian thinker who stands out as one of all time geniuses. Although forty years since his execution, world tyrants such as George W. Bush still feared him so greatly that a leading US magazine had this thinker on its cover misleadingly titled: “Godfather of Terror.” Such a thinker, incidentally, was an honorary visiting scholar to some of the US leading institutions in late forties of the last century. Today, he is still regarded by many world thinkers as a landmark in human intellectualism, insights, and foresights, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.


Not only was Sayyid Qutb a thinker, but he was a firm-principled one and a staunch believer in the causes of social justice and the universality of human values. He promoted reflection and contemplation as original Muslim worships so as to attain higher realization. He despised oppression and injustice as disgrace to human qualities, and he wrote on various disciplines of human and social sciences, some of the most sophisticated a human brain may ever produce. Our thinker never held a gun, as the only weapons he ever knew were his brain and the pen which he used to enlighten millions around the world. He lived for a word and a principle, and died for a word and principle so his life would be inspiration for generations to come.


As a civilized principle, human intellect is only confronted with intellect, yet some forty years later his books continue to be banned in Egypt and other countries fearing that his writings will be perceived to be specifically referenced to current ruling regimes.


It is the censorship of intellect and political persecution of community organizers and society builders that are the primary cause for political dissent and violent tendencies. Violent tendencies, by otherwise enlightened and civilized movements, only occur as a result of taking away freedoms including freedom to think, read, learn, assemble, and taking part in solving people’s problems, and that is precisely where the problem to all of us is. Islam is the antidote to mayhem, killing, and oppression, so why is it then Muslims are being deprived of learning their religion which only raises them as such?


The Solution:


Obama is giving his speech today to reconcile with world’s Muslims. It is a make-it or break-it for America and the Western World, as the West can no longer engage in an endless war of attrition with millions who love dying for a cause just as much as living for it. With depleted wallets and empty safe boxes, the US just cannot do without Arab petrodollars to fund its industrial machine, infrastructure, and its economic rebirth. Muslim nations have seen it all from America, and they are not about to buy nice words from some US president merely because they identify with his heritage. It is the redemption and resurrection of Western nations that relies on Obama’s gesture towards Muslims which is bound to backfire unless it translates into true reconciliation with ordinary Muslims. Such reconciliation has only one way to begin that is by siding with the people and demanding public and political freedoms, after siding with totalitarian oppressive and dysfunctional regimes for way too many decades.


Today some of Egypt’s leading thinkers, professors, entrepreneurs, and professionals are kept behind bars. Their convictions by Stalin-style military tribunals are entirely based on cliché charges reminiscent of McCarthyism. These political prisoners are most highly regarded by their western and non-Western counterparts alike. Each of these prisoners has become a symbol in his particular field of expertise as well as to reformists and libertarians all over the world. Political freedom to Egyptians and to all Muslims anywhere and everywhere is the litmus credibility test for Obama, particularly since persecution of these reformists and freedom activists is primarily blamed on Western pressures and influences.


It is about time we all understood that we all have a lot to benefit from Muslims instead of aligning with dictatorships and police states. But we must also understand that we can no longer enjoy our freedoms as long as we insist on taking others’.

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