The answer to this question must be an emphatic NO! There are plenty of situations where Islamists do not resort to violence. But at the same time they face a real dilemma. They want their society to be more consistently Islamic; but how are they to achieve this goal? Are they to work for a gradual and peaceful Islamisation of the country, or are they justified in using force to win power? And what happens when violence is done to them? These dilemmas can be illustrated from the history of one particular Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Can you trust your Muslim neighbor during this month of Ramadan (and beyond), when they show kindness to you? How should you respond if they invite you to an iftar (the breaking of the fast at the end of each day) this month?
The argument goes that we cannot trust in the good faith of any Muslim among us, since Islam permits them to dissimulate their real intentions at their leisure. This belief is held particularly by those nonMuslims convinced that Islam has the intention eventually to conquer the world. But is the fear factor triggered by such understandings justified?
There are typically two responses to ISIS. ‘ISIS has nothing to do with Islam’ or ‘ISIS are the real Muslims’. It’s easy to understand why so many Muslims—especially in western contexts—dissociate themselves from ISIS. They are thoroughly embarrassed to think that non-Muslims around them might assume that because they are Muslims, they must have some sympathy with ISIS and all that it is doing. They therefore argue that many of the practices of ISIS are completely un-Islamic, even anti-Islamic and cannot be justified by the legal traditions that have been developed over many centuries.
At the other extreme there are many Christians—and, dare I say, especially evangelical Christians—who believe that ISIS is much nearer to the spirit and practice of early Islam than moderate Muslims of today. They point to particular verses in the Qur’an (e.g. about beheading, crucifixion and slavery) and passages in Hadith literature, the biographies of Muhammad and legal texts to show the connections between the brutalities of ISIS and early Islamic texts.
Both of these approaches are thoroughly unhelpful and need to be challenged.
Many have speculated on where Islam originated. Two recent documentary films locate Islam’s origin in Nabatea (modern-day Jordan), Tom Holland’s Islam:The Untold Story (2012) and Dan Gibson’s The Sacred City: Discovering the Real Birthplace of Islam (2017). This would mean Muslims are…