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Combined view of two streets from Paris and Istanbul

Regardless of faith, background, and nationality, radical and extreme ideologies are a growing trend globally. We all fear that if radical and extreme ideologies are not addressed and mitigated in every society, they will cause unwelcome chaos worldwide.

We live in a global village and whatever happens in any part, we hear it within seconds. Everyone gets afraid whenever an incident happens in their own neighborhood. No one wants innocent people to be attacked or murdered brutally in the streets, markets, and open places. Even though the states and security forces are diligently surveilling everyone and everything, these attacks could be planned and executed even in metropolises worldwide.

November this year arrived with a series of blatant terror attacks in European cities, alerting everyone with fear and anxiety. Given the volatile regions in Asia and Africa, Western countries, especially those with growing populations of Muslims, are confounded and irked with the immigration movements as they face nationwide protests on how to respond to these incidents.

It was an unfortunate moment as French President Macron chose the expression “Islam is in crisis” while reacting to two bloodcurdling acts of terrorism in Paris. These words rendered him an effigy of harsh criticism in Muslim World, a collection of internally divided sovereign countries with different interpretations and practices. While Macron committed an intense blunder by his choice of words, radicals in several Muslim countries proved him right by their behaviors and reactions.

We soon started to see walls and floors in some Muslim countries bedecked with Macron’s pictures not for lauding him but for despising him for his remarks. Videos and still images of people stepping on these pictures or beating them with slippers were served by news agencies worldwide.

In another appalling incident, Former Malaysian PM Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, who has been renowned as a seasoned politician and one of the architects of the Asian success story in the 1990s, posted a hatred tweet in response to the terror incidents in Europe, saying, “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past,” without considering whether it is outright compatible with true Islamic principles and ideas.

Pakistani PM Imran Khan followed suit with Turkey’s President Erdogan in personally overreacting to Macron and summoning the boycott of French goods in all Muslim countries.

What we may glean from these incidents and reactions given by world leaders is that albeit innocent people lose their lives in such terrorist attacks, politicians do not miss the opportunity for using people’s fear to manipulate them for the sake of more populist votes from nationalist and religious veins in their countries. It appears this poses a greater risk than terrorism itself as it perpetuates division and rancor in the guise of ‘democratic processes’.

Humanity as a whole needs to unite around common values and leave politics aside to address today’s massive global terrorism problem. Be they in the East or in the West, believers of different faiths and traditions, and especially Christians and Muslims, should explore the roots of evil, and start first by stopping blaming one another. It is unfortunate that innocent people are losing their lives in the terrorist attacks perpetrated by different religious denominations. Yet, no religion allows the murder of an innocent person. Notwithstanding this, political parties use the repercussions of these terror attacks in terms of political gains but commit great mistakes by making propaganda of terrorism and spreading fear worldwide.

Given the current state of affairs, the leaders of the Muslim World seem to have failed in the ‘test of good judgment and composure’ in the light of the way they lead their nations through their words and deeds indicating spontaneity and vanity. Albeit all goodwill, one cannot help but agree with those who defend the view these leaders do all these on purpose. Because they know one thing well: people would vote for them whether they do correct or wrong only for their so-called “strong stance” against the West from a religious point of view.

While Macron’s remarks were not befitting to address the core of the issue, the Muslim World leaders’ reactions were not compatible with Islam and its soul either. Both sides have seemed to disregard the centuries-long prolific interaction between the East and the West despite clashes instigated by crooked religious and cultural interpretations. This resonance of the East and the West should not be jeopardized.

Every society faces the risk of radicalization, not only on religious grounds. However, radicals in religious garb steal the show by quoting the holy scriptures and parading practices. As for me, I never think that true religion may lead one to radicalization. It is not a cliché but a plain truth that a true Muslim cannot be a terrorist and a terrorist cannot remain as a true Muslim’. Islam, with its true essence and teachings, disallows terrorism.

Islam is not a time-bound religion, no matter if bigoted religious groups serve to feed this misunderstanding in the East or the West. The Holy Qur’an, as divine scripture, is not a source of hatred, radical and extreme ideologies, but those Muslims, who do not directly read the Qur’an but use the works of the radical Islamic topologists to understand it, misrepresent the true meaning of Islam.

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi (1873–1960), a renowned Muslim scholar from Turkey, diagnosed this problem more than a hundred years before and prescribed a solution to address these extremist ideologies. He listed the problems of the world at large as ignorance, poverty, and disunity, and suggested education, art, and unity/dialogue as remedies to these problems. I believe Nursi’s suggestions are still valid and vital to address these problems in today’s world threatened by extremism.

It is high time for all countries, especially those which are suffering in Europe and elsewhere, to understand the root of the terrorism problem and approach the issue from the right angle. Islam is not the source of radicalization. Islam is the religion of peace, not the religion of the sword. Islam, an Arabic word, means peace in English. If European politicians distinguish these important points, they may help Muslims in their countries to build a strong sense of belonging.

Muslims who live in European countries should also understand the sensitivity of the issue and act reasonably. If there is any spread of radical ideologies in their society, they must inform the local authorities to nip evil in the bud. No matter what those ideas are and who spread them, Muslim communities should take action and assist their adopted countries to build barriers against the spread of radical ideologies especially among the youth and the vulnerable.

There is a great responsibility for the leaders of the Muslim world if they could see things realistically. Ignorance of radicalization in the West may cost dearly to the Muslim states. Terror has no religion and nationality. Today, what happens in France and Austria may happen in any other country, too. Everyone needs to act mindfully and consider this as a problem of the entire humanity. Only then we may resolve this problem and secure our tomorrows.

It is time to unite, educate our children against ignorance and vulnerability, and help all nations. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “my existence depends on your existence and if you do not exist, I do not, too.” The East and the West are inseparable friends and we should see their relations from the angle Mandela saw it.

Educator, Author and Activist

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