In France, Germany and other European countries, marketing the ideology of Nazism is a crime punishable by law. This is not because opposing ideas is prohibited, but because this specific ideology threatens social peace and incites prejudices.
Some believe marketing extremist Islamic ideology, such as that of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, is no less dangerous than Nazism and must be similarly categorized. However, some thinkers and politicians fear conflating extremist Islamic ideology and Islam as a religion. After all, Muslims are the primary victims of extremism.
Theoretically, all who study doctrines that accuse others of infidelity, and call for harming those who do not believe in them or implement them, can be considered extremists who must be punished. Practically, however, it is unreasonable to consider someone who has not yet committed a crime a criminal who can be punished.
Every time a hideous crime is committed, pressure increases on politicians and legislators to set laws that allow pursuing extremist Muslims and limit building schools and mosques. French President Francois Hollande supported stripping citizenship or not granting it to those involved in terrorist operations and anyone linked to them. However, he backed down later after reading the situation and relevant laws.
How can one differentiate between what is allowed and prohibited to teach and preach among Muslims in order to isolate extremists and their ideas, fortify the Muslim majority and protect the entire society?
Voices demanding the pursuit of extremists instead of waiting until they commit a crime and then arrest them are expected to rise further. Politicians will not be able to reject this, especially after hideous terrorist crimes have been committed and the world has seen the corpses of passers-by in the French city of Nice. This is not the first crime of its kind, as two years ago another terrorist ran over 11 passers-by in the French city of Dijon.
In a society enflamed by terrorism, such as France’s today, it is normal for anger to be voiced by the majority, which does not differentiate between Muslims and extremist Muslims. It is also normal for the majority to not accept anything less than laws pursuing extremism in general.
How can one differentiate between what is allowed and prohibited to teach and preach among Muslims in order to isolate extremists and their ideas, fortify the Muslim majority and protect the entire society? This calls for Islamic thinkers to present projects of Islam that call for peace and coexistence on the basis of sacred texts in the Quran and hadith.
Many have written books and submitted studies about moderation in Islam, but they have not been transformed into educational projects that are obligatory for all in basic curricula. The reason for this is a lack of plans for change and correction.
In the past, under the slogan of reforming education and mosques’ work, everything clearly calling for extremism and hostility against others was prohibited. However, it did not present an alternative Islamic proposal that fortifies them against extremist intellect marketed outside the official mosque and school.
Islam preaches good ethics, such as showing compassion toward the weak, being kind to people, helping the needy, and forbidding injustice and treachery. However, amid the rise of extremist religious ideology over the past 30 years, preachers of religious parties are promoting clashing with non-Muslims and accusing moderate Muslims of infidelity.
They have succeeded in establishing an extremist approach that dominates over the moderate interpretation of Islam. We can see the results of all this among terrorist organizations, and among people who believe that extremists express the right Islam and defend it.
Following brutal crimes such as that in Nice, the price will be paid by millions of innocent Muslims, who will be restrained and unjustly categorized as long as no one comes forward to show the difference between them and extremists.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 19, 2016.
Extracted from english.alarabiya.net