“Violence is not in the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH)”
Muslims pray each day: “O Lord! Keep us on the straight path.” It is a prayer to help us move away from the extremes and maintain balance in our lives. We must neither be hostage to our reactionary instincts, nor must we remain completely silent in the face of the systematic defamation of our values and beliefs.
This balance has been upset by the violent response to the insults targeting the legacy of beloved Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). The violent response was wrong and strayed from the straight path.
Muslims should not be indifferent with respect to the attacks on the Prophet (PBUH). On the contrary, they must show the utmost sensitivity and caution. Those insulting Islam might be seeking to depict a negative image of Muslims, and hence justify discrimination, isolation, persecution or deportation. The deliberate instigation and creation of turmoil in the Muslim world is not new. Our sacred values were attacked in the past through cartoons, today it is done through a movie and cartoons in a French magazine, and tomorrow other means may be used. Muslims must not be beguiled or enticed but instead must speak out to prevent those who are more easily provoked from resorting to violence.
When any negative comment is made about the Prophet (PBUH), however slight it may be, a Muslim should feel deep sorrow. Yet expressing that sorrow is a different matter. Irresponsible actions by individuals damage the image of Islam and destroy the very tradition they are claiming to defend.
Since the rights of every Muslim, as well as God, the Koran and the Prophet (PBUH) are at stake in such a circumstance, one cannot act recklessly. One should scrutinise the possible ramifications of each and every action, and seek the wisdom of the collective judgment.
The question that we should ask ourselves as Muslims is whether we have introduced Islam and its Prophet (PBUH) properly to the world. Have we followed his example in such a way as to instil admiration? We must do so, not with words, but with our actions.
If suicide bombers are the first things that come to people’s minds, how could they have a positive opinion of Islam? How is killing innocent civilians indiscriminately different from the barbarity suffered by Muslims in history? What is the rationale behind attacking an American consulate in Libya, killing an ambassador and consulate officers, who have nothing to do with this wretched movie? If it is Muslims who are carrying out these attacks, it means that they are entirely unaware of what Islam is all about and are committing the biggest crime in the name of Islam.
A Muslim must always be straightforward and consistent in his actions and words. He should respect the sacred values of Christians, Jews, Buddhists and others as he expects his own religion and values to be respected. In reacting, a Muslim should not sway from the proper middle path. Many correct forms of response can be found by appealing to the collective conscience of society and to the international community.
Hate speech designed to incite violence is an abuse of the freedom of expression. It violates the rights, dignity and freedoms of others while pushing humanity towards conflict in an age of horrifying weapons. Instead of falling victim to the instigation of others, we should appeal to the relevant international institutions, such as the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation or the UN, to intervene, expose and condemn instances of hate speech. We can do whatever it takes within the law to prevent any disrespect to all revered religious figure, not only to the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
The attacks on the Prophet (PBUH) we have repeatedly experienced are to be condemned, but the correct response is not violence. Instead, we must pursue a relentless campaign to promote respect for the sacred values of all religions.
The writer is a Muslim scholar in the Sunni tradition and Honorary Chairman of The Istanbul-based Journalists and Writers Foundation. Extensive knowledge and teaching experience in Islamic scholarship. Proficient author with more than sixty boks read by millions of people translated into many world languages. Recognized as the world’s top public intellectual in Foreign Policy / Prospect poll in 2008. Years of service as an imam, preacher, and civil society activist with acclaimed competence as a speaker on Islam, education, and dialogue in Turkey. For more information www.fgulen.com
Fethullah Gülen’s Ideas and Impact “Reserve on your hearth a seat for everyone” Fethullah Gülen has been recognized for his stances for interfaith and intercultural dialogue, for science, democracy and spirituality, and against violence, and turning religion into a political ideology. His readership in Turkey is estimated at around several million. His impact outside Turkey is growing daily as his works are translated into many languages. Gülen has been recognized for his consistent stance against the use of violence with a religious rhetoric. More specifically, he was the first Muslim scholar who publicly condemned the attacks of 9/11 with an advertisement in the Washington Post. He helped publish a scholarly book on the subject, unconditionally condemning terror and suicide attacks on humanitarian and religious grounds. He did not express these views only to Western readers but voiced them in mosque sermons with congregations of thousands of Muslims and to mainstream media outlets serving millions of readers and viewers. Gulen’s ideas and activism have inspired a faith-based social movement in Turkey sometimes referred to as “hizmet” which could be translated as volunteer service movement or in Gulen’s own terms, the movement of humans united around high human values. Participants in this movement have set up charitable foundations and companies that are active in the areas of education, media, health care, relief and business. By some estimates, over a thousand educational institutions such as K-12 schools, tutoring centers and reading rooms have been established around the world inspired by Gülen’s ideas and life. These are non-religious, non-denominational, secular schools sponsored by local entrepreneurs, altruistic educators and dedicated parents. Regardless of their location, these schools are symbols of harmonious interfaith and intercultural relationships, successful unification of faith and reason, and dedication to the service of humanity. Especially in conflict-ridden regions such as the Philippines, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Northern Iraq, Bosnia and Kenya, these schools are bastions of inter-religious and interethnic harmony. The Muslim relief organization Kimse Yok mu, established upon Gulen’s encouragement has been instrumental in bringing aid to disaster victims around the world such as the victims of the Tsunami in South-east Asia, the floods in Bangladesh, the earthquakes in Pakistan and Peru and the ethno-political violence in Darfur. The organization assumed sponsorship of a village in Darfur, rebuilding their schools and a new medical clinic.