What has Jesus got to do with ISIS? A lot

Original article here: http://religionnews.com/2016/10/21/what-has-jesus-got-to-do-with-isis-a-lot/

Militant Islamist fighters ride horses as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province

(RNS) This week, the assault on Mosul — the last stronghold of ISIS — began. As a student of religious history, it reminded me of the battles and horrors of first-century Judea.

In 66 A.D. began a series of wars between the Jewish tribes of Judea and the superpower of the day: the Roman empire. Today, in the first century of the second millennium, world events strike a remarkable parallel. Only this time, they involve Muslims. Just as the Zealots in the time of Jesus killed Romans — as well as Jews who disagreed with them, in their bid to re-establish the Israelite kingdom, now we have al-Qaida and the so-called Islamic State group, or ISIS, slaughtering anyone in their attempt to re-establish the Islamic caliphate. But what really underpins such extremism?

Research into the motivating beliefs behind ISIS confirms that its theology is apocalyptic. Its members believe that fighting Western powers will precipitate the appearance of an individual called “The Guided One” (Mahdi) — and the second coming of Jesus. Jesus will then lead ISIS to victory against all the nations of the Earth, apparently. Indeed, its mouthpiece, “Dabiq,is named after the city in Syria that its members believe will precipitate this apocalypse — the city that, incidentally, they just lost to Kurdish fighters.

In 19th-century India, similar beliefs were evoked by clerics to stir up hatred against British rule. In 1899, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, linked the violence and extremism among Muslims of the Wahhabi sect in particular to their belief in the return of Jesus from heaven, as a warrior-messiah who would wage wars for them and establish their political and economic supremacy.

A study by the Pew Center in 2012 showed that more than 50 percent of Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia collectively believe that the appearance of the Mahdi and the subsequent return of Jesus is “imminent.” That suggests ISIS has a powerful recruiting tool at its disposal. Its members are playing on the hopes of religious and spiritual rejuvenation, believed in by millions of Muslims worldwide, while giving it a nationalistic and barbaric twist.

The prophecies ISIS draw on do not originate from the Quran, but from various hadith, or traditions, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad but varying in their reliability. They state that when the second coming of Jesus appears, he would fight against the “Dajjal,” also known as the Antichrist. The Dajjal would be easy to spot, according to the narrations, since he would be known by the donkey he would ride. Various traditions say the donkey would eat fire and breathe smoke, and ride over land, sea and air so fast that “a month’s journey would become a day’s.” The donkey would also have one foot in the East and the other in the West, and would jump from nation to nation. Other traditions describe the donkey as possessing compartments in its belly, into which passengers could climb, and journey with it.

According to ISIS, all this is literal. Jesus himself will return and slay the Dajjal and his donkey, after which Jesus would establish the caliphate. Confused yet? Hasn’t ISIS already established the caliphate? So where is Jesus? Indeed, ISIS grew tired of waiting for its warrior-messiah and the Antichrist’s remarkable donkey, and established the caliphate itself, in a bid to hasten Jesus’ return.

Most ordinary Muslims know of such traditions as a matter of academic knowledge. For others however, these prophecies are deeply significant. Ahmad, who himself claimed to be the second coming of Jesus, explained the prophesies metaphorically. The donkey represented future modes of transportation as a sign of the times; the “deceiver” represented those holding the doctrine that Jesus was the son of God — a belief held by Christians but rejected by the Quran. Ahmad understood such a battle as theological, and denounced the idea of physically fighting non-Muslims as un-Islamic.

Whatever interpretation one takes of Jesus’ life and death, such prophecies must be interpreted by Muslims in accordance with the Quran; particularly the verses that safeguard freedom of conscience. The belief in a future warrior-Messiah who will wage wars for Muslims against non-Muslims is not in line with such Quranic verses.

We may defeat ISIS today, or tomorrow, but unless the beliefs that produce such extremism are eliminated, we will only be pulling out weeds by their stems and not by their roots. Yesterday’s al-Qaida became the ISIS of today and today’s ISIS may refashion itself into yet another monster tomorrow.

An Open Letter to Revolting Labour MPs

Original article can be read here

Corbyn

Photo by Jessica Taylor

 

Dear revolting MPs

I write fiction in my spare time, and often I find that when I become engrossed in my own story, I can lose all perspective on whether my plot, my characters and my dialogue are at all convincing. At times therefore, I find it useful to get fresh eyes to look at my work and tell me if I’m going down the wrong track. To all 172 revolting Labour MPs, today, that’s what I’m going to do for you.

The central issue of your coup against Jeremy Corbyn is that he is “unelectable” as proven by a nine month history of leadership and a supposedly lack-lustre performance as part of the Labour “Remain” camp. The failure, you believe, of his leadership on this issue, is a perfect example of his failure as a leader in general. For that reason, you feel that for him to continue, with the possibility of a general election approaching, is untenable, and that a new leader, with less leftist-leaning attitudes and a more centrist approach to politics (whatever that means) is the way forward.

My problem with the above narrative, is that it’s pure fiction. Don’t get me wrong – if you were trying to write this as fiction – it would go down a treat! But I hear that you’re trying to pass this off to real human beings, with actual brains. And that’s problematic. Here’s why.

First of all, Jeremy Corbyn is evidently not unelectable, given that he was elected to leadership with the largest mandate in the history of British politics. You could argue – and many of you reading this will – that they were young, flamboyant hippies with flowers in their hair and no relation to the “old Labour vote”. You might be right, but hey, it’s a heck of a start, isn’t it? If the leader needs to unify the young left-leaning liberal and the older Labour vote, then Mr. Corbyn has already got the former, sorted. As for the older Labour vote, who better to seek that vote than a leader whose political career has been spent fighting the very de-industrialization that brought poverty and disaffection to so many of those older voters? When we consider further that after nine months of Corbyn’s leadership, the party has gone from a catastrophic general election result to being neck-and-neck in the latest polls with the Tories, we see further that it is not Corbyn who is out of touch with the public, but yourselves.

Brexit was a staggering result. It shocked everyone. But in a way, I am more shocked by the utter contempt you must have for the average Briton. Do you think that we are so stupid as to blame an entire referendum result on one man’s campaigning, especially when we see that Labour voters voted to Remain in the same proportion as SNP voters – 63%. Is Sturgeon also a failed leader, then? No, I didn’t think so.

But come now, I guess we shouldn’t let facts get in the way of a pre-planned coup. Shall we ignore the fact that in the beginning of June pre-referendum, news emerged that Labour rebels were planning to topple Corbyn by instigating a mass resignation of his shadow-cabinet? Should we ignore the fact that the instigators of this coup are organised by members of the right-leaning Labour think-tank, the Fabian society (like MP Margaret Hodge, vice president of the Fabian society, who drafted the vote of no confidence bill), which has ties to the PR machine Portland Communications, which in turn, has Alastair Campbell (Blair’s spin-doctor) and Jimmy Leach (Blair’s former head of communications) on its strategic council? Shall we ignore the fact that fifteen of the shadow secretary of states and nine of the shadow ministers who resigned, are affiliated to the Fabian society? Shall we forget that Corbyn has expressed willingness to call for Tony Blair and his apparatchiks to stand trial for war crimes? Are we meant to be surprised then, at seeing Alastair Campbell (who drafted the dodgy WMD dossier) emerge from the woodwork, calling for Corbyn to step down?

No, with the approaching Chilcot Inquiry publication on July 6th, I am not in the least surprised that you, the conservative element of the party, have triggered a coup now. However, what I am surprised by is how you have forgotten that it was a quarter of a million ordinary people like me who elected Corbyn to leadership. Let this then be my parting advice, as an onlooker with fresh eyes: you are drawing upon yourselves the disgust of a nation at a time when you should have brought it together in unity. Do not confuse airtime in the press with public approval. You are betraying the trust of thousands of your members by behaving in the most obscene and undemocratic fashion.

Trials and tribulations often expose the real mettle and character of people. This last week, we have seen how Corbyn has stood firm against a sea of opposition, unrelenting, on his democratic principles. Take heed, revolting MPs – your opposition to him is drawing not only public ire upon yourself, but public approbation and support for him.

Yours sincerely,

A disgusted citizen.

 

In Britain, between a rock and a hard place

Original article can be found here

Flag pic

A British flag that was washed away by heavy rains lies on the street in London on June 24, 2016, after Britain voted to leave the European Union in the Brexit referendum. Photo courtesy of: REUTERS/Reinhard Krause

(RNS) My country doesn’t know what to do. Its citizens are confused on who they are and what they stand for. It is a fractured nation, unsure about its place in the world today and its standing in the eyes of others.

I am talking about Britain, of course, but you could be forgiven for thinking that I was talking about Pakistan, my country of heritage. In a way, I’m talking about both.

The United Kingdom recently held a referendum in which its future in Europe has been voted on by around 70 percent of its population. Not a bad turnout. Fifty-two percent voted to leave the European Union, with immigration to Britain from the EU being cited as the most common reason for doing so.

Britain stands now on the brink, with many in the country embarrassed at its isolationism, realizing slowly that departure from the EU may be the end of the United Kingdom as we know it, with Scotland seeking a second referendum and some in Northern Ireland seeking a referendum to join the Republic of Ireland.

For many younger voters, there is a deep sense of violation. We feel as if our identity has been shaped by views that we do not share by a generation so far removed from us. Many of us embrace immigration, with our British identity inexorably tied to our European one, having only ever lived in a British European nation. This is especially the case since around 75 percent of those 24 or younger voted to remain in the EU.

This sense of violation is evidently new to many of my generation, but the feeling is not new to me.

As an Ahmadi Muslim of Pakistani heritage, I know full well about having your identity forcibly taken and shaped by others. In Pakistan, Ahmadiyya Islam is banned. Any Ahmadi expressing an Islamic identity can be imprisoned for three years and subject to a fine. If one’s expression is deemed blasphemous, one can be put to death under the blasphemy laws.

The reality, however, is that before the law can even get hold of such dastardly criminals, vigilante groups execute them in the cold light of day. In the last two months, three prominent of members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community of Karachi, Pakistan, were gunned down. Most surprisingly, however, is that such behavior is no longer confined to Pakistan, but has been exported to my own country – the United Kingdom.

In March 2016 a Glaswegian shopkeeper, known for his friendliness and kindness in the local neighborhood, was stabbed to death in the early hours of the morning while opening his shop. At first, the killing was thought to be Islamophobic in nature but it was quickly realized that his killer was also a Muslim. The attacker’s reason was simple: Asad Shah had “disrespected” the Prophet of Islam by virtue of being an Ahmadi Muslim. It soon emerged that leaflets calling for the death of Ahmadi Muslims had been distributed in British mosques as well as at London universities.

In the recent referendum, fears of immigration from Eastern Europe and from Muslim refugees coming freely to the U.K. were exploited by the likes of Nigel Farage. This has resulted in hate incidents such as the distribution of cards in Cambridgeshire stating “No more Polish vermin” and the graffiti of a Polish center in London with the words “Go home.”

After Shah’s killing, Ahmadi Muslims too are in a precarious position. To the indigenous British community, we are visibly and noticeably Muslim. To many other Muslims, however, we are not Muslims but Ahmadis posing as Muslims. A heretical sect in a pure religion. We are, in many ways, between a rock and a hard place.

I do not live in fear since Shah’s killing. I know, however, the road that Britain is going down and I know where it leads. I have seen it in Pakistan, where fear of Ahmadis has turned into hatred. I know that because my faith is vilified in their legislation, I would never fit into Pakistan, despite my ethnicity.

Similarly, Britain’s recent referendum result, driven principally to Brexit out of fear of other people, has made me feel that I no longer fit in today’s British society. I am a British European Ahmadi Muslim of Pakistani heritage. If home is where the heart is, then I belong everywhere and nowhere.

The Muslim Council of Britain is failing Ahmadis like Asad Shah

Originally posted on Guardian, here
In 2013, I organised an event at University College London for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association UK titled Innocence of Muhammad. The aim of the event was to portray the true and peaceful character of the prophet of Islam, in light of the wild and violent responses of some Muslims to the slanderous video, The Innocence of Muslims. Unfortunately, towards the end of the event, a prominent member of the university’s Islamic society entered and distributed leaflets calling for the social boycott and “capital punishment” of Ahmadi Muslims.

As an Ahmadi myself, I am sadly familiar with such harassment. This minority community of Islam faces persecution in countries like Pakistan and Indonesia, and we are often treated with open hostility by many orthodox Muslims in the UK. The reason can seem arcane to those not of the Muslim faith: Ahmadis, who believe in their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the expected Messiah and Mahdi of Islam, differ from the mainstream belief that prophethood ceased after Muhammad, as orthodox Muslims believe is laid out in the Qur’an.

I reported the leaflets to the university union and the matter was resolved internally. I thought that was the end of it. It was then a great shock to read media reports of similar leaflets recently discovered in the Stockwell Green mosque. Their discovery came a few short weeks after the fatal stabbing of another Ahmadi, the shopkeeper Asad Shah, in Glasgow. The man charged with his murder, also a Muslim, later released a statement saying Shah had “disrespected” Islam.

These are difficult times for my community in the UK. The leaflets in question were written by the now dead leader of an organisation called Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, meaning “the Seal of Prophethood”, which in Pakistan calls for the elimination of Ahmadis. This organisation also has branches in the UK, where it is a registered charity and an affiliate of the Muslim Council of Britain. A posting on the Facebook page Anti-Qadianiat (Tahafuz Khatme Nubuwwat), included the Guardian’s report of Shah’s death, with the message “Congratulations to all Muslims”.

It couldn’t be any clearer that Khatam-e-Nabuwwat is a hate organisation dedicated to the demonisation and social ostracism of Ahmadi Muslims. Yet somehow, it isn’t obvious to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) who, until this past week, registered the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat organisation as one of their affiliates. Only after the furore raised in the media at this did the MCB release a statement that it would temporarily suspend the affiliation of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat, and would launch an independent investigation into whether it really is a hate organisation. But what further proof do they require?

The MCB cannot be ignorant of the history of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat. It was founded in Pakistan as a movement under the umbrella organisation of Majlis-e-Ahrar-ul-Islam by Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari in 1953. The next year, Majlis-e-Ahrar along with Khatam-e-Nabuwwat sent an ultimatum to the then prime minister of Pakistan, Khawaja Nazimuddin, to remove all Ahmadis from leading government positions and to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim. Unless these demands were met, Majlis-e-Ahrar and Khatam-e-Nabuwwat threatened “direct action”. The government refused to capitulate, and the two groups responded by setting ablaze Ahmadi homes and businesses, resulting in the death of hundreds of Ahmadis, the demolition of mosques and the displacement of thousands. Thus was Khatam-e-Nabuwwat born, bathed in the blood of its fellow citizens.

Since then, Khatam-e-Nabuwwat has been instrumental in doing exactly what its leaflet claims – encouraging “Islamic” theocracies around the world to enact legislature making Ahmadi Muslims liable for capital punishment. Indeed, in Pakistan, Ahmadi Muslims are liable to three years imprisonment and a fine under its anti-Ahmadiyya laws, or death under its blasphemy laws, both of which were lobbied into existence by Khatam-e-Nabuwwat clerics.

The “independent investigation” into whether the activities at Stockwell Green mosque (where Khatam-e-Nabuwwat is based) spread hatred is utterly defunct – especially since it ends with a disclaimer that “the investigation panel shall not involve itself in matters of theology or in actions/conduct/laws in countries other than the United Kingdom”. In other words, the MCB investigation is little more than a rigged jury, since all the evidence of Khatam-e-Nabuwwat’s hate-mongering is widespread in “countries other than the United Kingdom”. Do the crimes of an organisation abroad cease to be relevant when considering their potential harm in the UK?

It is easy to point the finger and blame Khatam-e-Nabuwwat for anti-Ahmadi hate speech, but the reality is that the MCB is also culpable. After Shah’s murder, the MCB released a statement, expressing its condolence and grief at his murder, but re-affirming that Ahmadis aren’t Muslim, despite Ahmadis self-identifying as such. Thus, the MCB has taken a position that is fundamentally at odds with the British values the MCB claims to hold dear: namely that a person must be accepted in accordance with their own self-identification. The right to self-identify, and to be acknowledged by others in accordance with that identity, is the cornerstone of religious tolerance.

By sitting in God’s seat of judgment, the MCB enables hate organisations to take it one step further by acting as God Himself, dealing out death to whomsoever they deem heretical. Until the MCB recognises this, its rigged “independent investigation” won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.

Was Muhammad a Man of Peace? A Detailed Response to Nabeel Qureshi

This article first appeared on Patheos, here

With greater scrutiny on Islamic teachings in the wake of terrorism committed by Muslims, a raft of pundits, not least of the Christian evangelical strain, like Nabeel Qureshi, have emerged.

In his latest piece in the Huffington Post, his misrepresentation of Islam follows two steps:

Firstly, he argues that when studying Islam, preference should be given to oral traditions, first written down more than two centuries after the death of the Prophet of Islam, rather than the Qur’an, of which we have copies dated to the life time of the Prophet of Islam himself, such as the Birmingham manuscript. There is perhaps no better endorsement of the Qur’an’s peacefulness than his earnest efforts to ignore it completely. Secondly, having discarded most of the Qur’an, he goes on to focus on oral traditions, yet only selects such oral traditions as present Islam as barbaric and inherently violent.

By ignoring the Qur’an – the earliest window into Islamic history that we have, and then by selectively quoting historical sources, Qureshi white-washes the entire history of seventh century Islam so as to serve the evangelical purpose of portraying Islam as a violent religion and Christianity as its peaceful counterpart.

As regards Qureshi’s first step, the Qur’an refutes him at every turn. Indeed, he ignores the fact that the Qur’an adamantly states that taking up arms is only permissible in self-defense, that hostility is only permitted against aggressors, thatpeace treaties must be kept irrespective of the religion of others, that peace must be preferred over conflict if the aggressor inclines to peace, and that non-Muslims must be treated with kindness and equity if they have do not persecute Muslims for their faith.

Ignoring all this, Qureshi focuses entirely on 9:29, claiming that it is a standing order for Muslims to kill Christians, Jews and others, until they pay money. Why? Because apparently Muslims were hard up due to the loss of trade after the idolatrous tribes who had butchered Muslims for 23 years were expelled from Arabia. This is an astonishing act of historical revisionism, when we consider that the Jews and Christians referred to were those who had actively plotted with the Byzantine empireto attack the Muslims, had attacked Muslims in the Battle of the Trench as well asencouraged other tribes to renounce their peace treaties with Muslims. He also ignores the fact that they had hired soldiers from the tribe of Ghatafan to kill Muslims. Despite all this, the Prophet reaffirmed his treaty they had broken and warned them against future breaches. That the Prophet did not force them to convert nor did he expel them from Arabia despite their persistent hostility, gives the lie to Qureshi’s statement that the Prophet fought them on account of religious differences. If that was the case, then why didn’t the Muslim empire attack the Abyssinian empire on its doorstep? The Abyssinian kingdom, despite being a bastion of Christendom, was not invaded because the kings of Abyssinia did not amass armies against the Muslims, as the Romans and Persians did, but instead welcomed Muslims into their country and permitted them freedom of religion. Indeed, Qureshi would have us believe that Muslims went all the way to Tours in France in a bid to convert Christians and Jews on pain of death, yet forgot to invade the Christian Abyssinian kingdom at their feet.

Qureshi goes on to cite another a-contextual tradition in support of his interpretation of 9:29, in which the Prophet of Islam is quoted to have said that he will fight people until they convert to Islam. He ignores the fact that such statements were made only in relation to those who had waged a war against Muslims, for their faith, butchering innocent people, forcing people from their homes and looting their properties. The Prophet of Islam stated that such people who deserved capital punishment for their crimes against humanity, were only to be given pardon if they became Muslim, as this was the only way that, de-facto, persecution against Muslims would end. Their pardon was an exception, despite their deserving capital punishment. Had Qureshi paid attention to the Qur’an, he would have known that as regards those who have not fought against you on account of your religion and not driven you forth from your homes, Muslims must be kind to them and act equitably (Qur’an 60:9). Indeed, if the Prophet was killing people of different faiths, then why did he not kill or harm Musaylimah, who openly renounced Islam and indeed, formulated a new religion with himself as its prophet, after the revelation of 9:29? Musaylimah did however meet his end after the Prophet’s death, when he raised an army and began butchering Muslims in an attempt to seize power in Arabia.

Therein lies the rub: in his second step, Qureshi conveniently ignores or omits all evidence demonstrating that the individuals or groups against whom the Prophet of Islam fought, always instigated war against him first and that he was always the instigator of peace treaties.

Using this technique, Qureshi’s misrepresentation reaches astonishing heights. He claims that the Prophet of Islam invoked curses on others, forgetting that all prophets of God, including Jesus, prophesy an evil end for their opponents. He claims the Prophet assassinated Ka’b Bin Ashraf, ignoring the fact that Ka’b instigated the tribes of Mecca to wage war against Muslims and himself tried to murder the Prophet of Islam. He claims that the Prophet encouraged deceit to kill Ka’b, ignoring that the earliest and most authoritative traditions make no mention of this. He claims the Prophet assassinated Abu Rafi in his sleep, ignoring the fact that Abu Rafi was an arms dealer, supplying weapons to tribes actively killing Muslims for their faith. He claims that the Prophet of Islam had his enemies’ eyes gouged out as a punishment, ignoring the fact that the earliest tradition sources deny that he blinded anyone and that they were not simply his “enemies” as Qureshi misrepresents, but criminals who had themselves gouged out the eyes of innocent people in addition to robbing, killing and decapitating civilians and raping women. He further claims that the Prophet of Islam ordered the killing of an entire Jewish tribe’s male population, despite the fact that this was not ordered by him but by another who was appointed by the Jewish tribe themselves as an arbiter, Sa’d ibn Mu’adh, who had judged in accordance with the Jewish teachings, not Islamic teachings, against the tribe, for their treachery against the Muslims in wartime. He further omits that the Prophet granted security to any of the Jewish men who sought it, and protected them from being killed. He claims further that the Prophet of Islam led armies against unarmed cities, referring to the city of Khaybar, which was one of the most heavily fortified and armed cities in Arabia and which has already been spoken of as attacking the Muslims at the battle of the Trench and encouraging other tribes to renounce peace treaties with Muslims.

The above are a few examples of how Qureshi white-washes history. Given that such facts have been presented to him time and time again, and yet he continues to misrepresent these events so as to serve his own evangelical ends, indicates that it is not ignorance but dishonesty that drives him.

In my last article, I challenged Qureshi to provide a statement from the Bible that is as clear as this Qur’anic one, teaching the importance of maintaining peace treaties, as well as on the fact that fighting is only permitted as self-defence. He has failed to provide anything, indicating that he has no reply. The reality is that Islam, being a complete guidance, provides teachings on when the fight for freedom is legitimate. Those of other faiths, especially Christianity, have had to look outside their religion for guidance on when to fight and how to behave in wartime, since neither Jesus nor any of his immediate successors had to go to war. The Prophet of Islam however provided guidance on all aspects of life, since he was confronted with both times of peace and times of war.

Qureshi and others like him who deliberately spread such misinformation about Islam are the best allies of terrorists like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. Misinformed Muslims, seeing extremists on one hand and Christian evangelicals posing as historians of early Islam on the other, are led to the wrong conclusion that Islam is a religion of violence. Qureshi’s false argumentation leads to a self-fulfilling cycle of extremism where Islam is misrepresented, leading to further radicalisation and further terrorism, resulting in the further misrepresentation of Islam.

Then again, that might just be precisely what he wants.

Why the Quran Protects Against Radicalization: A Rebuttal to USA Today’s Nabeel Qureshi

This article first appeared on Patheos, here.

The dust from the bombs had barely settled in Brussels when the first anti-Islamic articles started appearing in major news outlets. In particular, Christian pundit Nabeel Qureshi was brought out on USA Today to make some rather remarkable claims about the Quran.

They were remarkable, not just for their falsehood but for their total lack of originality. As a reply, I could have just sent him this article, or this one or this one, but I felt compelled to write something with his name on it that would make him sit up and actually read.

Qureshi argues that radicalization occurs when people return to the original sources of Islam and learn of its barbaric teachings. He says, if we want to tackle radicalization, then we need to tackle the roots of terrorism in the Quran. It’s a point that has been made many times before, but does it hold water?

MI5 – the British intelligence service, certainly doesn’t think so. After studying hundreds of cases of Brits who went abroad to join ISIS, they concluded that the more religious you are, the less likely you are to join terrorist groups. Many ISIS recruits, in fact, indulge wholeheartedly in un-Islamic behavior like drug taking, prostitution and drinking alcohol.

Religious illiteracy was one of the only common threads between recruits. Otherwise, the demographic of radicalized individuals ranged widely in terms of education, socioeconomic status and family background.

This tells us that ISIS is in fact only fooling those who aren’t educated in their religion and that knowing the primary source of Islam, the Quran, is protective against radicalization.

It is however, undeniable that ISIS uses Islamic literature to support its bloodbath in Syria and Iraq. In this, Qureshi and ISIS have something in common: The arguments they both use are identical.

Both Qureshi and ISIS claim that the Prophet Muhammad was peace loving during the early part of his ministry and that as he became a political leader, it was then that the “violent” verses of the Quran emerged.

They forget that the declaration “there is no compulsion in religion” came about afterhe attained political rule, as did the teaching that fighting is only permitted against aggressors and that fighting is forbidden against those who seek peace.

Qureshi particularly focuses on chapter 9 of the Quran, claiming that this chapter lays the foundation of violent “jihadism” in the world. The chapter was revealed immediately after the Prophet of Islam had entered Mecca as a victorious conqueror and declared a general amnesty and forgiveness to all, Muslims or not,  — even individuals like Habbar, who had murdered the Prophet’s daughter, and Hind, who cannibalized the Prophet’s uncle on the battlefield.

Can you imagine ISIS forgiving so liberally?

Chapter 9 is its own best defense against allegations of both anti-Islamic pundits and ISIS terrorists alike. The Prophet Muhammad conquered Mecca because the Meccan idolaters violated the peace treaty he had held with them for two years. He had peace treaties with other tribes too — some who had also violated their pacts and some who had not.

Having conquered Mecca after they violated their treaty by mercilessly butchering Muslims for accepting Islam, chapter 9 declared that other tribes who had similarly violated their pacts by aiding and abetting the Meccans had de-facto re-established war on Muslims. Contrary to what Qureshi claims, chapter 9 is emphatic that for their part, Muslims must keep their peace treaties with such idolaters who have been true to their pacts:

“Allah is clear of the idolaters, and so is His Messenger…excepting those of the idolaters whom you have entered into a treaty and who have not failed you in any thing nor aided anyone against you. So fulfill to these the treaty you have made with them till their term. Surely, Allah loves those who are righteous.” (Quran 9: 3-4)

I would challenge Qureshi to show a passage of the Bible that is as emphatic in teaching its adherents to keep to their promises and treaties during times of war.

And that’s the key point. Muslims were at a time of war when verses relating to fighting were revealed. Yes, the early Muslims were commanded by God to fight non-Muslims. This is no secret. The reason for this is not because the latter had not accepted Islam. Were that the case, then the Quran wouldn’t advocate keeping peace treaties with idolaters, as quoted above. The reason is clearly stated alongside the first injunction to fight:

“Permission to fight is given to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged…those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only because they said “our Lord is Allah” – and if Allah had not repelled some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down temples, churches, synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft-commemorated.” (Quran 22:40-41)

 Again, I would challenge Qureshi to demonstrate a statement from Jesus’ teachings as emphatic and clear on when the fight for freedom of conscience is necessary. This is perhaps the greatest irony in Qureshi’s piece, for Qureshi claims that as a Muslim, he could not reconcile verses in the Quran calling Muslims to fight in self-defense, with his own conscience, and so he became a Christian.

It is true that Christianity and Islam are not the same. In Christianity, there is no similar statement from Jesus on when a Christian should fight for freedom of religion. Islam on the other hand, claims to be a teaching covering all aspects of human life — whether in peace or in war. For this reason, the Quran teaches Muslims how to conduct themselves in war, whether it be relating to when fighting is permissible to how peace treaties must be honored.

The Quran acknowledges that sometimes good people must stand up for what is right and be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to establish peace on earth.

For this reason, in line with the MI5 report, it is education, not renunciation of the Quran that will defeat the likes of ISIS. This is not just a theoretical claim. It has been practically demonstrated by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community — a community of tens of millions of Muslims, who have not a single terrorist act to their name over their 127-year history. (And it has been practically demonstrated by millions of other Muslims — Shi’a, Sunni and other — as well.)

The reason? Ahmadi Muslims study the Quran from a young age and understand it deeply. Qureshi of all people should understand this best, given that before becoming a Christian, he was an Ahmadi Muslim too.

Tahir Nasser focuses his writing on Islam in the modern world, especially in relation to issues of terrorism, extremism and radicalization. He has served as the national UK President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Students’ Association for three years and has spoken on numerous university campuses on theology and radicalization. Visit his site at www.tahirnasser.com or find him on Twitter @TahirNasser

Is ISIS’s Interpretation of Islam Legitimate? How Top Journalists Cenk Uyger, Julia Hartley-Brewer and Gavin Ashenden All Got it Wrong

This article first appeared in the Huffington Post here. The Qur’an by Phalinn Ooi

Twice in as many days have I come across high profile journalists arguing that ISIS isas Islamic as your run-of-the-mill Muslim neighbourino Ned Flanders, eager just to spread the love.

Are they right?

The first was Cenk Uyger of The Young Turks (who should be applauded on otherwise great political commentary), stating that extremist and peaceful Muslims havedifferent interpretation(s) of their texts and when you read their texts, both interpretations are justifiable. In a similar vein, The Telegraph columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer wrote that:

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This is not a new issue. Gavin Ashenden asked the same question in The Times on the 20th March 2015 after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in his piece ‘Muslims Need to Face Up To The Violence of the Koran’. “Jesus says love your enemies; where is Islam’s restraint?” he asks.

It sounds right doesn’t it? How can all those crazies go around murdering people while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” if their holy text doesn’t advocate it in some way? Is the difference between a “moderate” and “extremist” Muslim, just a question of interpretation?

The Qur’anic answer is, emphatically: No. Why? Because the Qur’an tells you how to interpret it. The Qur’an highlights that it contains two types of verses: the first provide general, timeless principles, while the second are applicable within certain contexts only. The Qur’an goes on to condemn those who apply contextual verses out of context and in contradiction to the general, timeless principles. The Prophet of Islam too forbade this when he said: Thus were ruined those people who have gone before you, for they interpreted certain parts of their scriptures in such a manner as to make them contradict other parts (Musnad).

That’s all very nice in theory, but how does that work in practice with such verses as: kill them wherever you meet them (2:192)? How could such verses ever be justified?

Well, firstly, one could stop cherry picking and read on two more verses, where it commands us to remember…no hostility is allowed except against the aggressors. The other thing to note is that such verses have a context: a war of self-defence thrust upon Muslims. Don’t take anyone’s word for it – the Qur’an itself is explicit on this point: fighting is permitted it proclaims, for those on whom war is made (22:40,41). This is the earliest verse that permitted fighting, and it sanctions it only as self-defense. It goes on to clarify that Muslims have a duty to protect temples, synagogues and churches in addition to their own mosques.

But why does the Qur’an talk about “fighting disbelievers” at all? Well, Muslims took up arms in self-defense after being driven out of their homes by pagan non-Muslims, for accepting Islam. The division of the two armies was of belief, which is why there are verses that speak of “fighting disbelievers”. It’s not a standing order to fight all non-Muslims for all time, in the same way as Winston Churchill’s “we shall fight on the beaches” speech was not a standing order to kill Germans for all times.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the Qur’an categorically commands Muslims to be kind and act fairly to non-Muslims who have not fought against you on account of your religion and who have not driven you out of your homes. Why? Because Allah loves those who are fair (60:9). How much clearer does a religious text have to be?

Some, like Mr. Ashenden, claim that Muslims were peaceful for the sake of expediency while they were the minority in Mecca, and bloodthirsty after establishing themselves in Medina. He ignores the fact that the Qur’anic declaration that there is no compulsion in religion (2:257) and that no aggression is permitted except against the aggressors (2:194) were made when the Prophet of Islam was the ruler of Medina. The Prophet’s example of declaring general amnesty and forgiveness for all when he conquered Mecca further demonstrates that Islam is a religion of peace and reconciliation.

Mr. Ashenden finally argues that Christianity is morally superior to Islam for teaching love of one’s neighbour. He fails to realise that it is from that same love that Muslims are permitted to take up arms to protect the persecuted. What do the Gospels advocate for the likes of ISIS, when they massacred the Yazidis in the mountains? Turn the other cheek? A teaching that claims to be from God and yet gives no guidance as to when the fight for freedom is legitimate is seriously lacking. Islam is not such a teaching.

In short, the Qur’an tells the reader how it should be interpreted, so the notion that “it’s all in the interpretation” is false. Extremists are desperate for all to accept their poisonous narrative as Gospel truth. My message? Don’t believe the hype.