Former SA Ambassador, Ebrahim Rasool, addressed the International Peace College of South Africa (IPSA) Symposium on Wasatiyyah – and gave a similar message at the Interfaith Peace Corps in Kampala, Uganda, against countering extremism.
Before 1.6 billion Muslims could even utter their intentions to fast, to perfect their worship of God, and to engage in acts of solidarity with humanity, the extremists who act in our name and appropriate our rituals for their purposes, already announced the arrival of Ramadan. For them, Ramadan should arrive with a bang, a bang that killed in Manchester, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and soon other places, in striving to outdo even their efforts of Ramadan 2016, which is noted as the bloodiest Ramadan in history. In ISIS’ pre-Ramadan video, their call was blood-curdling: “Where are the Lions of War?” So much for the importance of the Sacred Months!
This places a special responsibility on the 1.6 billion Muslims. Your fasting has to be innately spiritual, but has to exude social reassurance; it has to be intensely personal, but must embrace all of humankind; and it must be a celebration of our Muslim identity, but it must also define who is not within this identity! Let our silent fast be a loud condemnation of all who feed this murder. Let our nightly prayers echo a Quran whose abiding values of mercy and peace overwhelm the contextual verses permitting defense. And let our acts of charity for all humanity be an attempt at contra-distinction for what a few do in our name.
Address to East African Islamic scholars in Kampala
“In grappling with the phenomenon of Al Shabaab in East Africa, it is crucial that the Muslim clergy gathered here in Uganda from the region must reflect on the theological sustenance from extremists feed. No one here preaches violence. But do we preach intolerance of others that create the basis for extremists to do violence? No one here condones rape of women slaves. But do we preach the subservience of women that allow extremists to take this further? No one here understands Shariah literally. But do we create such an idealized yearning for it without contextual considerations, that extremist recruits may feel incomplete Muslims without it? Yes!
We did not create the vacuum in the failed state where Al Shabaab was born, nor did we cause the poverty that makes recruitment fertile, nor are we the purveyors of islamophobia that engenders humiliation.
But are we speaking to the restless hearts of the young, holding their attention, guiding their choices, speaking their language & understanding their turmoil? Or are we in the comfort zone of speaking to the chairmen – the senior citizens praying in chairs – and abdicating our ministry to the young? Let us here resolve to reach out to them …or Extremists will speak to them”
“Fundamentalism is not always a quiet, sullen adherence or return to an ideology’s or faith’s original form or fundamentals. The last few decades have witnessed fundamentalists becoming increasingly assertive and increasingly extreme in standing for what they believe in. Ultimately, it is a mindset that wants to reshape the world in its own image. They are not satisfied with individually and quietly returning to what they idealize! They want all of society, all of humanity, to be on their path to truth. The fundamentalist community can no longer see itself as ‘an island of virtue’ in a ‘sea of depravity’.
When fundamentalism identifies its success or failure by the degree of influence it has over the rest of its community, society or nation, then it is making the transition from an idea into which it retreats to an active mission to impose its worldview over others or to defeat those it considers different and evil. Alarmingly, they now see the importance of grasping political, financial or territorial power in the broader quest to construct a more fixed and manageable world, in their image. When, indeed, fundamentalist extremism acquires a source of power – political, territorial or military – it is capable of a quick transition to terrorism.”