From Donald Trump’s inciting comments to ISIS’s extremism in the Middle-east to internal tensions between Shiite (Iran) and Sunni Muslims (Saudi Arabia), Islam as a religion has come under immense criticism lately around the Globe. At the heart of such criticisms is the assertion by a growing number of non-Muslims that Islam is incompatible with peace. Of course over the years we have witnessed too many atrocities committed against humanity, some in the name of religion and others politically motivated. But the attention of the world right now though is on sectarian violence and the spread of global terrorism.
Against this background, increased scrutiny of Muslims and the accompanying failure of some people to acknowledge the possibility that good Muslims may actually outnumber a bunch of hateful radicals, I have observed, is forcing more Muslim youths to take a vocal, albeit defensive stand in denouncing such blanket statement of extremism being pulled over the Muslim faith. It is this group of people I refer to as the Muslim Illuminati because of the complex multidimensional task ahead of them. Their argument appears on the surface to go along the lines of violence not being peculiar to Islam and beneath the surface, that the World, Christians especially, is in on a great Western conspiracy to malign Islam, especially after the world has witnessed worse crimes committed against humanity.
There is logic in their argument. For just as Westerners with all their supposed exposure travel en masse to join ISIS hate cause, some of whom have risen to the level of chief executioner for the terror sect as portrayed in it’s propaganda videos, likewise, an ideology of violent extremism is not peculiar to Islamic culture as it is simply the sickness of a band of radicals who have infiltrated the religion to pursue their apocalyptic agenda. Notwithstanding the argument merits, it is necessary to examine the composition behind its logic for inherent inflexibilities that may play out in favor of terrorists and amplify the spread of hate and intolerance across religions.
To begin with, the Muslim Illuminati group must first purge itself of any underlying resentment that sees the West as more of a common enemy than the extremists. This is very important in deescalating proxy cold wars between critics of Islamic extremism, made up mostly of non-Muslims, versus dogmatic defenders of Islam within the Muslim faithfuls; a proxy war which continues to impede the unified effort Islam requires to present itself as a religion of peace. So a better option for the Muslim Illuminati group will be to address the concerns of non-Muslims via a holistic approach from the inside-out; emphasis should be more on reforms within the religion to launder its embattled image without.
In the world we live in, change is the one thing that is constant. Stripped to the bare, extremism is gaining adherence from Islamic faithfuls than any other religion today for two reasons: an authoritarian structure and an inferior set of leadership values. No need to go deep into details of these two reasons as a commonsense reform example for each will provide good starting points. First is the disentanglement of Islam from politics to allow freedom of expression and freedom to religious self-determination irrespective of where a child is born. Except for a few Islamic headquarters in the Middle-east, the idea of declaring a state as an Islamic caliphate is not in consonant with modern changes, wherein social media has enabled democratic norms to take root in nearly all religions of the world today.
Take for example, whereas Christians and non-Christians alike are free to make a caricature or funny jokes about Jesus, one could be tossing live grenade in a Muslim community if such remarks were made in relation to Prophet Mohammed, whose name, by the way, is expected to be used in company of the Arabic acronym, S.A.W., as a sign of piety. Furthermore, politics ought to remain open to rational thinking and free of dogmas inherent in most religions.
Right there is a rigid, authoritarian structure Islam can do without and which can greatly reduce the absolute authority and psychological power of radicals like Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS and Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, who continue to exploit this loophole to distort Islam and preach fundamental intolerance and radicalize our youths.
The second starting point for this commonsense reform will be to review Islamic leadership ethos and improve on the values of Prophet Mohammed to steer it clear of controversy in thoughts, deeds and in actions, especially those that permit male/leadership excessiveness and tramples on feminine rights. This is essential because manipulating the rules to justify morally deficient acts throws nations and religions in disarray while setting followers on the path of extremism. Today it is easy for Christians to call out and dissociate from any Pastor or group that calls for intolerance of other religions or acts in violation to fundamental human values and rights of non-Christians.
The case of Bishop David Oyedepo, founder of Winners Chapel aka Faith tabernacle, readily comes to mind after online reports and videos went viral of the Pastor slapping a lady for calling herself ‘a witch of Jesus’ in church. The debate and widespread condemnation the incident sparked from even the most loyal of Bishop Oyedepo’s followers was a clear reflection of how above board Jesus’ character stood morally in terms of thoughts, words and actions. This doesn’t mean that the church or Christianity is perfect. It simply means faithfuls are able to serve as watchdogs to their Pastors.
And for Posterity’s sake, religious leaders not only owe it to their conscience and followers to walk within the lines of what is morally right, they also have the spiritual responsibility of sharpening those lines to ensure brothers and sisters in the faith recognize them and do not compromise on them if and when extremists try to hijack their religion. The Ku Klux Klan, aka KKK, was a Christian extremists group of American origin that killed black Christians before their hate cause died naturally, due to a lack of widespread adherence by Christian youths living in a free democratic society.
Conclusively, the overall strategy for the Muslim Illuminati group should be aimed at championing generational change in the religion. In doing this, culture should never be disregarded. The beauty of ablution to the spirit is a gem that I personally appreciate and admire in the Islam religion. But displaying rigid intolerance for a Prophet Mohammed joke or having to cut the flow of good conversation by interspersing it with ‘S.A.W’ as a sign of reverence make up part of a long list of cultural habits today’s Muslims can do without. Perhaps, starting out as a minority religion back in the days may have inspired such religious rituals but hey, Islam is the second largest religion on earth today. Rather than fight this long coming eventual evolution in Islam, this emerging Muslim Illuminati group should embrace and then pioneer simple commonsense reforms from within the religion.