“‘Moderate’ Muslims don’t speak out enough against the hijacking of their religion!” whined FOX’s Sean Hannity after the Paris terrorist attacks, his despicably smug outbursts echoed by conservatives and xenophobes across the country after every terrorist attack. It’s a shameful accusation that not only implies that Muslims tend toward extremism and that “moderates” are the exception to the rule, but also redirects the guilt from a small group of extremists to an entire religion and all of its 1.7 billion followers. His network’s anti-Muslim and pro-war agenda does not allow for facts or reality, but the rest of America must learn more about Islam and stop viewing them as the “enemy”.
Here’s a perfect example: at the recent Urs-es-Razvi festival in Bareilly, northern India, some 70,000 Muslims clerics gathered together and issued a fatwa, a religious ruling akin to a court judgement, condemning terrorism and terrorist groups like Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. They declared them to be “not Islamic organizations” and that their members are “not Muslims.” “It is written in the Quran that killing one innocent person is equivalent to killing all humanity,” said Mohammed Ehsan Raza Khan, head of the Dargah Aala Hazrat shrine. Earlier this year, the clerics at this shrine announced they would refuse to perform death rite prayers (salat al-janazah) for those killed committing terrorism, which is a huge symbolic gesture that prevents the dead from being forgiven by Allah or cleansed of his sins.
The clerics were celebrating the ninety-seventh anniversary of the death of Sufi Islamic saint Mujadid Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Qadr. He founded the Sufi Barelvi movement in 1904, defending local traditional interpretations of Islam, known as Sufism, in response to the aggressive encroachment of Wahhabi Islam from Saudi Arabia – the ideological inspiration for terrorist groups like ISIS. Ahmed Raza Khan believed Wahhabism was contributing to a “moral and intellectual decline” in his region, and his creation of a mass religious movement in opposition to it proves that “moderate” Muslims have been fighting Saudi-exported extremism for centuries. Groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda view anyone non-Wahhabi as a heretic, and they hunt down and repress other Muslim sects with even more violence than they unleash on Westerners.
The clerics also took the time to issue a statement condemning U.S. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump for spreading hatred: “If one country imposes such a ban on Muslims, other countries will enforce such bans too, perhaps on other communities. That will only cultivate hatred and divide people.”
Despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that contradicts the “moderate Muslim” myth, it’s clear that the far right-wing has no intention of deviating from the narrative they have established, no matter how many facts are hurled in their obstinate faces. Muslim clerics can condemn terrorism until their throats are raw, but it will still have no effect on the FOX News echo chamber’s relentless campaign to drag America into war in the Middle East and to ensure that the social dominance of white Christian males is overwhelming. Only by taking it upon ourselves to ignore the fear and the hype, to learn more about our “enemy,” do we realize they are no different than we are. Ignorance is the true enemy.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.