The beheading of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff are among the many recent atrocities that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL) has carried out in recent months. More frightening is the speed at which this group came into power. Just a few months ago, the name meant nothing; then after June 9, following the sudden take-over of the city of Mosul, ISIS suddenly became an international name.
Then came a surprising declaration: they re-established the Islamic caliphate. Or, at least, they did in their own minds. Rather than by consent of the Muslims, as is required for a legitimate Islamic caliphate, ISIS established a caliphate the same way a tyrant establishes dictatorship: through force and coercion and oppression. And by claiming they have established a new caliphate, they are basically saying “We speak for the Muslim world.”
But ISIS does not speak for me.
Nor does it speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world. Nor does it speak for the people it wantonly oppresses under its tyranny. As a Muslim, I reject their extremist ideology, their “caliphate”, and consider them and their kind to be acting against the justice that Islam stands for, and the human dignity it recognizes upon all people.
ISIS and their ilk have only served to further tarnish the world’s view of Islam. With their unjustified killing and oppression, they have done no service to Muslims around the world other than make the world hate Muslims more.
I could tell you how Islam is a religion of peace. I could tell you how innumerable scholars of Islam have denounced ISIS and their actions. But you’ve probably heard it already. So instead, I’m going to tell you what you can do:
Fight back—with peace.
Fight back—with knowledge.
Fight back—with your words and your mind and your voice.
As God says in the Qur’an:
“Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.” (41:34)
And so I call upon all my Muslim brothers and sisters to let the world know that you are not ISIS. Let the world know that what you stand for is better than ISIS, better than Boko Haram, better than all the extremist groups out there combined. Arm yourself with knowledge of your faith and with the characteristics of a proper Muslim, and be a source of guidance and goodness for those around you.
I call upon all people with a conscience to realize that ISIS is not a representation of Islam. Learn what Islam is first through the everyday people you know, and then from legitimate sources. Do not be tricked into believing that ISIS is the true representation of Islam.
If my words can reach the world, I pray that the world will stand against ISIS and their twisted version of Islam. The speed at which they grow is terrifying, like a malignant cancer, and unless people stand against them they will continue to spread and choke the life out of the people they touch.
If my words can reach a nation, I pray that the nation will not judge their Muslims by the ridiculous acts of these villains. Don’t listen to the extremist ramblings of terrorists who claim to represent Muslims, nor the incoherent bafflegab of media personalities who claim to be experts on Muslims. Ask the Muslims themselves.
And if my words can reach just one person, I pray that it is one of the youth that ISIS targets to join its fetid ranks, promising them paradise with the push of a button or the pull of a trigger. I pray that this person will heed the lessons of history, the lessons of the Qur’an, and the lessons of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I pray that this person will not be seduced by their honeyed lies.
And to myself, I pray that I can continue to let my words be a voice for Muslims and Islam, and that I will remain sincere in doing so.
Next week, I’ll give a brief overview of the history of extremism by focusing on the first group of extremist Muslims: the Khawarij.