There is no true religion that does not regard the sanctity of human life as one of its highest values, and Islam is no exception. Indeed, Allah made this unequivocal in the Qur’an. He emphasized the gravity of the universal prohibition against murder, stating that when a person takes even one life, “it is as if he has killed all mankind.”
Egyptians are still torn by grief for the 21 countrymen who were horrifically beheaded in Libya. It was an exceptionally sad day for the Egyptian nation to have to watch a video of its citizens massacred by a group of thugs. The scenes of bloodbath are heart-wrenching in their severity.
This grisly crime finds no justification in any reasonable understanding of any religion. Only extremists who have perverted the essence of Islamic teaching could countenance the idea that our religion of mercy and reason might allow the killing of innocent workers earning money so their families can live dignified lives.
It took place just days after the so-called Islamic State extremists burned alive Jordanian pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh. It was one more high-profile example of the growing global threat that violent extremist ideologies pose to international peace and security, to the image of Islam and to the future of intercultural and interreligious relations.
These thugs are invoking religious texts to justify their inhumane crimes. Their ill- conceived linking of sacred texts to violence and aggression has led to much misinterpretation of Islam’s lofty ideals. We must make clear that the terrorists’ justification is nothing more than a hallucination of sick minds. It is a flagrant misreading of both the letter and spirit of the Islamic tradition and an aberration from the long history of Islamic civilization.
Murder and terror can never be the outcome of any proper understanding of religion. Rather, they are a manifestation of the immorality of people with cruel hearts, arrogant souls and warped logic.
The corruption and instability sown by their actions are a source of great sadness and outrage for Muslims — and all humanity. These terrorists are not Muslim activists but criminals who have been fed a mistaken interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the teachings and practices of the Prophet Mohammed.
To defeat the terrorists and defend our peaceful, tolerant religion, their ideologies must be challenged and rooted out at the physical level and, even more so, the intellectual level. We must persist with a correct presentation of Islam’s true teachings, as passed down for centuries through the collective wisdom of sages and scholars.
Beyond a military war on terror, we are in an ideological battle — one we must win — against radical extremists who use terror as a weapon to achieve their goals of disrupting global stability and the conscience of the peaceful world. Winning this war requires not just victory on the ground but, more important, in the successful exchange of ideas and information that refutes the dogma of radical clerics.
Let me be clear: Islam is utterly against extremism and terrorism. Unless we dismantle and deconstruct all ideas of extremism propagated by these groups, however, we will never eradicate this scourge. All terror groups essentially carry the same intellectual poison. This must be understood in order to build a better future that can bring an end to this grave situation that is destroying the world.
Egypt is in dire need of the world’s support as it fights against the terrorist cancer. In this battle, Egypt is defending not only itself but also humanity against the encroaching danger of extremism. This is progress that the international community has expressed a genuine desire to understand the perils that radical ideology poses.
Radical movements must be opposed in every way possible — not given moral support to stoke more tensions. The international community must take measures to shut off terror groups’ financial resources, deny them safe haven and prevent them from further growth.
The time is upon us to take up the challenge of ridding the world of radicalization to save our future from further bloodshed and victims’ families from further sorrow.
Shawky Allam is the Grand Mufti of Egypt.