An Islamic Aberration

By Jamal Kanj

Animals: was my instinctual response to photos of Syrian soldiers being executed by members of the so-called Islamic State (IS). The same gut feelings two days earlier to the news of the killing of American journalist James Foley in cold blood.

My heart goes to Shirley Sotloff, the mother of journalist Steven Sotloff who was also executed by the same group. No parent should go through the anguish of losing a child: whether in the heartland of America or the slums of Gaza.

In July/August also, more than 500 Palestinian mothers lost a progeny by an American supplied and or financed Israeli weapon in Gaza. Ironically, the murdering of Foley and the nameless Palestinian children is the outcome of the same corrupt US Middle East policies.

Long before stirring up the can of worms, to be exact in 2002, US Secretary of State Colin Powell warned President George W Bush against invading Iraq. ‘Once you break it, you’re going to own it.’

Broke it he did and now, America owns it.

Bush ignored similar advice from top US military brass, including several members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former head of Central Command and even his own father’s national security adviser. They all forewarned that an invasion of Iraq was likely to increase the threat of terrorism.

The young Bush deferred to the counsel of Israeli firsters: Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Pearl, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams to name just a few. Some were once employed by the Israeli government, its lobbying arm or even indicted as Israeli spies.

Then, Al Qaeda was hiding in the desolate caves of Tora Bora in the cold mountains of Afghanistan. Eleven years later, a more radical Al Qaeda offshoot, IS, has taken control of the second largest city in Iraq and is roaming freely in the expansive swathe of territory extending deep into Syria and Iraq.

IS was incubated in the political vacuum created by the Israeli promoted US invasion. The organisation found fertile ground in the ethno-sectarian democracy left behind by Neocon Paul Bremer ‘“ exploiting the dissatisfaction of the marginalised Sunni Muslims in Iraq.

Young Muslim recruits from as far as the US, UK, Chechnya and even China marched to the drums of a charismatic leader, named Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. He bestowed on his men the power of god to enslave women or decide who lives and who gets killed; spreading a perverted form of Islam and contradicting the Quran’s basic message of religious tolerance.

The Quran admonished the first Muslims more than 1,400 years ago, ‘No compulsion in religion.’ (2:256). ‘Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious.’ (16:125)

The IS leader adopted the name of Abu Bakr in reverence to the first Muslim Caliphate (leader), Abu Bakr As-Siddique. He, however, fails to adhere to his namesake’s 10 commandments ‘you must not kill a woman or a child, or an elderly person; do not cut down trees, or vandalise homes, or wound a sheep or camel except if you must eat it; do not drown a palm tree, or burn it, do not be treacherous; do not be cowardly; and you will pass by people who have devoted themselves to monastery life: leave them alone with their devotions.’

All forms of religious extremism must be debased and fought with vigour until defeated. IS is to Islam what Hitler was to Christianity or Israel’s political Zionism is for Judaism today.

Defeating IS, by reason or coercion, is the responsibility of Muslims first and foremost. The Quran teaches Muslims to ‘take the middle way in all its affairs before all humanity,’ (2:143) for ‘God loves those who are just,’ (60: 8) and ‘abhors extremeness,’ (6:141).

IS is an aberration.

– Jamal Kanj ( writes regular newspaper column and publishes on several websites on Arab world issues. He is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America. He contributed this article to A version of this article was first published by the Gulf Daily News newspaper.

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