Contrary to common opinion, Jihad is not a violent concept. In fact, the meaning of Jihad is struggling or striving – not holy war.
With the rise of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, it is important to understand the root causes of terrorism, learn about its standing in Islam, and explore possible ways to combat it.
“The true believers are those who believe in God and His messenger, then attain the status of having no doubt whatsoever, and strive (jahadu) with their money and their lives in the cause of God. These are the truthful ones.” 49:15
The “cause of God” is described by the following verses:
“You shall not kill any person – for God has made life sacred – except in the course of justice. …..” 17:33
The Quran warns Muslims not to engage in violence against non-Muslims:
” ………. If they leave you alone, refrain from fighting you, and offer you peace, then God gives you no excuse to fight them“4:90
The Quran promotes ideas of tolerance among different religions:
“Proclaim: “This is the truth from your Lord,” then Whoever wills let him believe, and whoever wills let him disbelieve“18:29
Not only does the Quran define Jihad as a peaceful means for Muslims to live their lives, but so do an overwhelming majority of Muslims. A Gallup Poll showed that most Muslims define Jihad as one of the following:
- “a commitment to hard work” and “achieving one’s goals in life”
- “struggling to achieve a noble cause”
- “promoting peace, harmony or cooperation, and assisting others”
Therefore, the way terrorist organizations define or interpret Jihad is not only false but also insolent to the true spirit of Islam and Jihad. ISIS and other terrorist organizations engage in appalling practices, such as child molestation, unlawful beheadings, and suicide bombings, which are clearly condemned by Islam. Not only are terrorists tarnishing the true spirit of Islam, but they are also fueling prejudice against Muslims all across the globe.
Terrorism is a despicable radical ideology created by abhorrent individuals. It is certainly not Jihad.
Can we kill radical ideas by killing radicals?
Since radical ideas spawn from radicals, it makes sense to combat terrorism by killing authors that create and promote radical ideologies. Killing radical authors could be a great tactic to reduce terrorism. When the authors are killed, they will no longer be able to advertise their ideologies and cause promotion of terrorism. Also, killing authors before they can create potentially dangerous documents is a viable strategy.
On the other hand, research has shown that this is not necessarily the solution. When popular radical authors or authors of radical documents are killed, the popularity of their ideas is likely to increase. This rise in interest can cause the conversion of more terrorists.
Therefore, the targeted killing of radical authors is a double edged sword. Fortunately, there are far more effective ways to counter terrorism than simply killing terrorists.
What is the real source of these ideas?
The best way to fight back against a violent ideology is with a peaceful ideology. The ideal method to defy darkness is to wield light. Instead of trying to kill radical ideas, why can we not prevent them from ever getting born?
In Pakistan, the breeding grounds of radical ideas – where innocents are manipulated to pursue unjust and terrifying ideologies – are madrassas.
Madrassas are seminaries which are supposed to educate students about Islam. However, many of them do the complete opposite. At many of these madrassas, radical teachers defile Islamic teachings and promote incorrect ideas in the younger generations. The minds of children are twisted to think in dangerous ways; innocents are manipulated to become terrorists.
When the backgrounds of the suicide bombers who attacked the province of Punjab were analyzed, it was discovered that two thirds of these terrorists had attended madrassas.
Who is responsible?
Underprivileged Pakistani families have no choice but to send their children off to these madrassas. As most of these madrassas provide free food and residence to students, the impoverished parents are forced to send their children to such institutions. Madrassas take advantage of the widespread poverty in the nation and use to forward their own radical agenda.
The corrupt and weak Pakistani government is to blame for the unchecked power of madrassas. The public education system is abysmal and inadequate. The education provided, if any, is of very low standards. Classrooms are overflowing with children who are deprived of food, clean water, and other basic necessities. Some areas of the country are not even served by public schools. And that is where madrassas step in to fill the vacuum.
What must be done?
The Pakistani government must reform the broken public education system. It should provide security and facilities to the millions living in poverty. It should create and uphold just and effective laws. The Pakistani government must do a lot of things but it highly unlikely the Pakistani government is reading this article right now to learn what it must do.
It is you who is reading.
And we must do something.
Acknowledge the Truth: The first and easiest thing we can do is to acknowledge that the cause of terrorism and radicalization is not islam – it’s poor education, widespread poverty, and corrupt governments.
Raise Awareness: Not only is it our responsibility to understand the truth and acknowledge the facts, but it also our moral duty to educate others about it. This can be done by simply talking to others and increasing their understanding of the root causes behind terrorism and how to properly counter it.
Take Action: Read the news. Make the right decision at the voting booth. Sign a petition. Write a letter to a local representative. Participate in a protest. Donate to NGOs tackling social issues in developing countries like Pakistan. Go to Pakistan and directly help the people fight terrorism. Run for office so that you are at a position to directly influence policy making. The possibilities are endless.
Be Tolerant: Islam is not the cause of terrorism and neither are Muslims. Muslims despise terrorism and want to stop it just as much as you do. Instead of isolating and discriminating against them, we need to work with them for a common cause, especially in these dire times.
You can do so many things to oppose terrorism. The only person limiting your ability to do so is yourself.