An extremism warning

Nicolas Pirsoul writes in the Herald:

Isis, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and other terrorist organisations are all inspired by a particular understanding of : Salafism.

Salafism is an extremist, literalist, and intolerant form of Sunni Islam. Its origins are hard to trace, but it is commonly argued that 13/14th century theologian Ibn Taymiyyah strongly influenced the development of modern Salafi thought nearly five hundred years later. …

In Belgium, my country of birth, the March 22 bombings which killed 32 civilians and injured over 300, revealed two major issues: the strong presence of Salafi ideology in Belgian Sunni mosques on the one hand and the ignorance and leniency of Belgian authorities towards this issue on the other. These two major problems are also evident in many other Western nations.

Indeed, a number of Belgian investigative journalists have exposed the radical discourse of several preachers in Brussels and other cities. These Salafi-minded discourses are heavily at odds with values such as democracy, freedom of speech, or religious tolerance.

These preachers are not terrorists but they provide the environment for extremism to flourish.

First, it is important to recognise the existence of a problem and not to underestimate it. The recent hate speech controversy, involving a cleric from the at-Taqwa mosque in Manukau, is only the tip of the iceberg and follows a well-established pattern of other events involving Salafi clerics preaching in New Zealand, such as Egyptian cleric Sheikh Abu Abdullah a couple of years ago. It would be naïve to think that our nation’s Sunni oriented mosques are immune to Salafi ideology and its intolerant and sometimes violent interpretation of Islam.

We are far from immune.

Second, it is important to understand and adopt the right attitude towards the problem of Islamic extremism. Extremism thrives on division. Mainstream stereotyping and discrimination against Muslims has helped Salafism, and its Manichean worldview, to grow in Europe. It is therefore critical that New Zealand should remain an inclusive and tolerant nation by embracing its diverse Muslim community.

The majority of Muslims, conservatives or not, reject violence and intolerance. They are allies in the fight against terrorism.

By creating a New Zealand model of multicultural citizenship, where Kiwis of all ethnic groups and faiths live with and are supportive of each other, we can become a role model for the world and avoid replicating other nations’ mistakes.

Well said.

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