By Zaher Mahruqi
A couple of days back a declaration that was signed by 126 Muslim scholars was issued condemning the Islamic State and denouncing much of it actions as being un-Islamic. That maybe so but the problem is that many of these scholars are viewed by the masses as nothing more than mouth pieces for their respective governments. Osama Bin Laden called this type of scholars “beggar scholars”.
Be it as it may, whether Bin Laden was right or wrong, the Arab world is bleeding. Out of the 371 million people in the Arab world, half – around 185 million people- are living in countries plagued with bloody confrontations. There is a variety of reasons for the violence; from social, political, to economic factors but much of it is attributable to religious affiliations and sects.
In Egypt there is the Muslim brotherhood versus the secularists, in Iraq there is Sunni-Sunni rift and more acutely there is the Shia-Sunni divergence. In Yemen, Syria and Lebanon there is the Sunni-Shia confrontations. And Somalia and Palestine there is fault line between the “hardliners” and the “moderates”.
Much of the bloody disturbances in the Arab world boils down to interpretation of what Islam represent and as such everyone should strive to do the obvious. Instead of making assumptions that many of young people are radicalized and conditioned into joining different Jihadi groups, why has there been no single debate of scholars from the various sides!
Something to the tune of the Doha Debates but one which the warring parties send their representative and a number of serious questions are asked and then the general population can then make their own conclusions.
In such a debate, a scholarly debate, even the ones shunned upon by the world should be welcomed. Let Al-Baghdadi or the likes of Ayman Al-zawahiri send their representatives or join the debate themselves. We have the technology whereby even those, for security reasons, cant attend in person can still join the debate in other ways.
There may be vested interest in not promoting such a debate. The world may be fearful that indeed the hardliners have serious points to make, more so than their counter parts, the so called moderates. Presently “moderates” have the share of lion as far as media campaign is concerned while the other voices are muted and perhaps those muted voices translate themselves into violence. Allow everyone to be heard.
World powers perhaps are afraid that such a debate would legitimize a version of Islam that is not supportive of their interests. They maybe afraid of unleashing a version that is softer than that of the IS but far stricter than the one they advocate. The CIA, the FBI and even the MOSAD have task forces to study and understand the Quran and as such they maybe worried that some of what the Jihadis are doing is actually ordained and having scholars legitimize it is seen as dangerous.
In any case, if such a debate is to take place some of the most pressing questions would be:
- What version of Islam is more accurate Shia or Sunni?
- When is Jihad prescribed and how should it be conducted?
- Who can Muslims associate with, how and under which conditions?
- What is punishment for blasphemy?
- How should minorities be treated? What are their rights and duties?
- How should Muslim countries deal with Muslims and non-Muslim countries?
- How should women be treated? What are their rights and what are their duties?
Instead of dealing with serious issues that often are handled in piecemeal manner and the consequence is utter confusion leading to bloodshed, let scholars debate these issues in an organized manner and let the whole world watch. The cycle of violence in the Arab and Muslim world is mainly due to ignorance of the majority and their mistrust for religious leaders but if such a debate is to take place at least the most pressing issues will be dealt with.
Let’s learn the truth from the best. This will be the biggest pay-per-view event in the history of mankind.