Statement condemning IS unlikely to reap results

On 24 September, 2014, a 23-page document signed by 126 of the most prominent Muslim scholars, imams, and preachers making the theological case against the Islamic State (IS) was issued on a dedicated website under the title Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi. This is the latest of several campaigns of public denouncements of the terror group by Muslim leaders. While such initiatives are necessary to create Muslims-led social and intellectual pressure against IS, they are not sufficient to stop potential recruits, and will have minimal impact, if any at all, to change the minds of those already in their ranks…

…In a recent VICE News interview with Canadian citizen, Farah Shirdon who travelled to Syria to join the group, the IS member revealed that no one recruited him. For him, it was simply a matter of “I opened the newspaper, I read the Quran – very easy”…

…It is commonly understood in Islam that the relationship between the human being and God is a direct one. There is no mediator, and to invoke such an entity is considered a form of polytheism. Hence, it is recognised that all Muslims have equal access to God and His word in the Quran…

…In addition to their nihilistic view of religion, IS members consider scholars who are on government and media supported platforms suspicious. This is bolstered by the lack of freedom of speech and right for political descent in most countries in the Middle East. For example, Saudi Arabia has more than 40,000 political prisoners, most of whom are prisoners of conscience. Egypt has been reported to have as many as 21,000 political prisoners, but the actual number is unknown.

Meanwhile, a number of very prominent Muslim scholars and preachers have either stood silently, or openly supported repressive events such as the 2003 military coup in Egypt that overthrew their first democratically elected government. They also gave religious credence to the authorities in the 14 August 2013 Rab’a Square massacre, where more than 800 unarmed civilians were killed in the dispersal of their anti-coup sit-in. Keeping all this in mind, it is not hard to see why politically motivated groups like IS would reject what Muslim scholars have to say about them…

Mohamed Ghilan is a classically trained student in Islamic law and theology and is currently a neuroscience PhD candidate at the University of Victoria, Canada.

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