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Anti-terrorism and political analysts tend to blame misinterpretation, or perhaps the intentional misreading of the Holy Quran’s contents as the main cause of terrorism. However, it is gradually becoming rather very simplistic to blame the spread of violence and terrorism in the Middle East only on the misinterpretation of the Holy Book.
The Quran is very clear about its prohibition of murder and carnage against innocent souls: it is clearly stated in the Quran: “whosoever kills a human being, except (as punishment) for murder or for spreading corruption in the land, it shall be like killing all humanity; and whosoever saves a life, saves the entire human race” (Al-Ma’idah 32). I argue that one of the main reasons for the spread of terrorism in some parts of the Arab and Islamic worlds is the limitation or lack of appropriate cultural inclinations of tolerance in some societies! To clarify, the lack of real or effective civil institutions, the historic absence of a predominant culture of tolerance in some major Arabic and Islamic societies may have led to the rapid spread of terrorism in today’s world.
Of course, one can blame “imperialism,” or for that matter: twenty-first century colonialism for the supposed instigation of terrorist activities around the world. However, human culture tends to produce its own evil. Terrorism in particular constitutes one other manifestation of perhaps a rooted rejection in some Arab and Islamic societies of difference and a deep-rooted intolerance against non- Arabs and non- Muslims.
Those who continue today to suggest that the misinterpretation of Quranic contexts is a key reason for terrorism, discount the fact that the act of interpreting the Quran erroneously is becoming rather anachronistic.
In other words, terrorism is a product of some criminal minds, and it cannot be fully examined through simple theoretical lenses. Some of the major causes of the spread of terrorism in our region are cultural, religious, sectarian and psychological intolerance toward the other, either due to the absence of effective antiintolerance societal apparatuses, or because of culturally deep-rooted tendencies to discriminate against whatever is “foreign.”
Moreover, Middle East’s commentators and political analysts can continue to blame the spread of terrorism on the negative interventions of foreign powers in the region. However, we also need to refocus our attention on the embedded cultural, religious, sectarian and racial biases in the region. If the basic values of Islam seem to advocate tolerance, peace and the protection of human life for Muslims, Jews, Christians and all non-Muslim innocent individuals, why then some Arabs and Muslims continue to call for the destruction of other innocent non-Muslims?! Muslims are required to abide by what is just and fair, and to deal righteously with those they love and strangers alike. Being just, fair and truthful in today’s world is to declare one’s refusal of violence and terrorism in all its forms.
Unless we as Arabs and Muslims start to encourage the spread of real tolerance in our societies, encourage positive integration of Muslim minorities in the West, and perhaps start to teach tolerance as an independent subject and introduce effective critical thinking in our school curriculums, we will continue to be haunted by a criminality disguised as Jihadism.
By Khaled Aljenfawi