Fanaticism in the Muslim world

A suicide bombing at a church in Egypt killed 21 people and wounded 79 on New Year’s Day. According to Time magazine, “for months, al Qaeda militants in Iraq have called repeatedly for attacks on Christians – in retaliation, they say, for the alleged kidnapping and detention by Egypt’s Coptic church of two Christian women who are believed to have converted to Islam”. The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda’s Iraqi affiliate, had previously taken responsibility for a church attack in Baghdad.

Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak urged interfaith harmony and asked the Muslims and Christians of Egypt to put up a united front. The Egyptian government and media warned that a civil war may break out in the country. The Christian population makes up around 10 percent of the 80 million people in Egypt and have complained about discrimination often. Now that a suicide bomber has targeted a religious minority in Egypt, there are fears of sectarian/religious riots. The terrorists aim at destabilising regimes in the Muslim world. There is no better way to do this than by targeting religious minorities leading to an interfaith conflict.

Sectarian conflict is not alien to our part of the world but now the fanaticism that has recently overtaken the Muslim world seems to have spread into the Middle East, which has a history of tolerance for Jews, Christians and people of other faiths. Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organisations are taking advantage of the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq to propagate their terrorist agenda. Instead of falling for their propaganda, Muslims should join hands and fight the scourge of terrorism. Islam is a religion of peace. Our history tells us that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the caliphs protected the religious minorities instead of persecuting them. It is unfortunate that the global jihadist organisations’ targeting of non-Muslims has led to the rise of Islamophobia worldwide. We cannot allow religious zealots to hijack our religion. Muslims must vow to espouse the real message of Islam, i.e. tolerance and interfaith harmony.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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