By Shawki Allam, Grand Mufti of Egypt
16 November 2015
I was as shocked as any sensible human being would have been when I learned about the senseless, heinous, appalling and cowardly act that took place in Paris this week.
This attack is shocking, and offends the conscience of every sane person, regardless of their religious identity. I wish to stress categorically and unequivocally our complete solidarity and unwavering support for the French people in their plight and their determination to combat terror. The innocent victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers. The whole Muslim community is in a state of mourning like the rest of the French people since an attack of this magnitude is in reality an attack on all humanity as our Holy Book emphasizes.
I have been absolutely clear and unequivocal in condemning all acts of terrorism and vigilantism like this one, and I reiterate that Islam stands utterly against extremism of all kinds
Terrorist groups flagrantly use religion as a cloak to cover up for their cowardly acts of violence. Their ideological fallacy reveal their warped logic and ill-informed and unauthentic sources which they turn to in order to derive their justification for their insatiable desire for power, control and bloodshed. These ideologies of hate and terror must be challenged and rooted out.
But where did all this begin? In both Islam and other religions we are witnessing a phenomenon in which self-claimed people without a sound foundation in religious learning have attempted to set themselves up as religious authorities, even though they lack the scholarly qualifications for making valid interpretations of religious law and morality. It is this eccentric and rebellious attitude towards religion that opens the way for extremist interpretations of Islam that have no basis in reality.
Not Educated In Islam
Furthermore, and this is very important, is that none of these extremists have been educated in Islam in genuine centres of Islamic learning. They are, rather, products of troubled environments and have subscribed to distorted and misguided interpretations of Islam that have no basis in traditional Islamic doctrine. Their aim is to create havoc and chaos in the world
There is, it must be said, another part to this equation. I have been absolutely clear and unequivocal in condemning all acts of terrorism and vigilantism like this one, and I reiterate that Islam stands utterly against extremism of all kinds. If we wish to tackle this problem however, we must make an effort to properly understand the many factors that provide a rationalization for terrorism and extremism of all kinds in the modern world. Otherwise, we run the risk of never being able to properly address and eradicate this scourge. There is no option but to understand this if we are serious about building a better future, one which confronts and puts an end to this grave situation that threatens people in all parts of the globe.
None of these extremists have been educated in Islam in genuine centres of Islamic learning
We must remember, however, that as recent events in many parts of the world indicate, violent extremism knows no particular faith. It is rather a perversion of the human condition, and must be dealt with as such. We are all responsible, collectively, for fighting against such deviance. Muslims, Europeans, Americans, Asians– we all have homework to do to eradicate this menace, and the burden must be shared by all of us.
It is because a true spirit of cooperation is absolutely indispensable at this critical time that I worry about the exploitation of raw emotions by fanatical groups to place the very existence of Muslims in Europe in jeopardy. Blaming an entire religion, and targeting a diverse and overwhelmingly peaceful religious community because of the acts of few outcasts is not only patently unfair, but counterproductive in achieving our shared goals of combating terror.
It is important for us at this time of great sadness to stand together and process this horrific incident in a way that is fair and just. It is important that we refrain from demonizing Muslims without cause – not because it is good for Muslims, but because our future ability to eradicate the courage of terror depends on it.
Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam is the 19th and current Grand Mufti of Egypt through Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah, educational institute founded to represent Islam and a centre for Islamic legal research. He received his PhD in 1996 from the Al-Azhar University in Jurisprudence and Sharia law. Prior to his appointment, he served as the chairman of the Department of Jurisprudence at the School of Sharia at Al-Azhar University’s Tanta branch.