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Editorial: Combatting The Extremist Cancer
Nov 1, 2015

The more the news places Islam side by side with terrorism, the louder we will cry that Islam is peace. This issue of The Fountain adds one more voice to this cry, with three strong articles. "Muslims Must Combat the Extremist Cancer," the lead article, was recently published in the Wall Street Journal (August 27, 2015). The article clearly posits that for terrorists who claim to be Muslims Islam is no more than a nominal part of their identity. Fethullah Gülen, the author of this article, does not only describe terrorism as a "cancer," but he also puts forward possible solutions to stop it before it metastasizes. It is a call first and foremost on Muslims themselves to denounce violence, stating that "having suffered oppression is no excuse." Gülen emphasizes Islam’s core ethics, which hold life sacred and immutable, and these ethics cannot be overruled by any cultural or political justification. He further underlines the importance of education, both in the sciences and arts as well as in religion, so that religious freedom is observed and the twisted ideologies of unqualified and radical figures do not dominate society.

Another significant contribution to this issue comes from Professor Suat Yildirim, who lays down a comprehensive analysis of two major Islamic concepts, jihad and qital, which are often confused, leading to common misjudgments about Islam. The author briefly mentions the historical context in which Islam has flourished, summarizing how believers suffered oppression, torture, the usurpation of their property, and even death. After years of patient and peaceful resistance to survive, they were compelled to leave their homeland until it became unbearable and the rights of "the oppressed, helpless men, women, and children" (Qur’an 4:75) had to be protected. Yildirim argues that this is not the same thing as the concept of "Holy War," which does not exist in Islamic terminology. He explains in detail all the possible aspects jihad stands for, and he makes clear that qital, or fighting, has many parameters that ontologically tend towards peace; such fighting is conducted not to impose religion on others but to set people free to choose their faith. Observing fairness, forgiveness of the enemy, accepting peace offers, etc., are also listed in the article as other obligations during qital. Fitnah is another major concept dealt with in the article: when the concept is falsely defined, it may easily provoke violence.

Aydogan Vatandas adds a third contribution on the same theme, wondering "Does Islam Promote Violence?" Looking at scholars from Jessica Stern to John Horgan, and Ahmet Kurucan to Richard Bulliet and Zeki Saritoprak, Vatandas offers evidence from a wide spectrum of thinkers that "religion is essentially irrelevant as a causal force." He argues that jihadist actors are not actually religious during the course of their radicalization; that terrorist attacks have no justification in the authentic sources of Islam, nor do they protect the honor of Islam; and that ISIS and other terrorist groups are far from the Prophetic methodology and Islam does not need a state or caliphate to flourish.

So, what is the way toward a solution? The Fountain believes in the power of knowledge and dialogue for global peace. Barbara Anderson and Zeliha Celiker explain how they were able to set up a group dialogue with Christian and Muslim women, and how their friendship helped them overcome bias. The story of the Church of Mary, or Kathisma Church, in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, is told by Elif Guler, who argues that the recently discovered ruins show this place of worship was used simultaneously by both Christians and Muslims, exemplifying the tolerance of both religious communities and the peaceful rule of Umar, the second Caliph. In history, we can find examples of hope for the future.