Contain the epidemic by Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (July 02, 2015)

The epidemic called the Islamic State (IS) has quickly spread from Iraq and Syria to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and, according to some reports, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is a dangerous trend that spells destabilisation and anarchy, cutting a large swath across the Islamic world.

Like all epidemics break out in certain conditions of general lack of hygiene and other factors, phenomena like IS break out and quickly spread across borders in conditions of political uncertainty and social unrest. Lack of clarity on part of policy makers is also responsible for it, as is foreign dominance, war and social disarray.

The situation in the Muslim world is so dismal that anti-Muslim people ridicule individual Muslims in non-Muslim societies. They often ask, “How do you claim that Islam is a religion of peace while every day we see Muslims being killed by Muslims in a gruesome manner across the Muslim world?” Of course, we have no answer to such queries.

In the affected countries, even policy makers and strategic analysts do not have a clear idea of who are the IS, what is their source of funds, which countries are their friends, which their foes. There is virtually no understanding of the phenomenon, no roadmap to contain and eliminate the scourge.

The recent IS attacks on Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are most bothersome. Particularly disturbing are attacks on Shia mosques in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia while the devout were in the middle of prayers. This is a highly dangerous trend that can provoke a civil war and divide a country irreversibly.

The attackers look at it as jihad and are misled to believe that killing others by killing themselves they become martyrs (shuhda). There is a need to educate the Muslim youth that suicide for any purpose is forbidden (haram) in Islam. Besides, a sectarian war is not jihad. Nor is attacking people in the middle of prayers an act of piety as a Saudi aalim said soon after the attack in Saudi Arabia. He rightly asked if attacking Christians while they are in prayer during a war is forbidden in Islam, how can attacking Shia Muslims in a mosque be acceptable.

Beyond fiqh, attacking peaceful citizens, whatever their religion, sect or sub-sect, is not permissible.

The attack in Kuwait is equally reprehensible. It is a well-integrated country, its social fabric as strong and resilient as in any advanced society. Its Shia population, variously estimated at 15-30 percent, is well-integrated with the rest, which is Sunni. Sowing seeds of discord in such a society is cruel, immoral and dangerous. The state stands by the victims and is determined to bring the culprits to the book. The same is true of the Saudi royalty. They are also not going to allow the criminals to get scot free. We stand by these governments and extend sympathy to the families of victims and survivors.

P.S.: At the time of writing this we learn of a similar IS attack in Egypt. The disease is spreading faster than we thought. That requires an urgent response to contain it.


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