Extremist trends have often defined the perception of Islam by outsiders and even by Muslims, states the Islamic German monthly Islamische Zeitung (May) in introducing an interview with researcher Muhammad Sameer Murtaza, himself a practicing Muslim, who works with the Global Ethic Foundation.
Murtaza traces the roots of these problems to the influence of (Saudi-funded) Wahhabi doctrines and derived currents. Murtaza disagrees with the common view that radical Muslims engaging in terrorism or other extremist activities are not “true Muslims.” Such people are not eager to make Islam instrumental for other purposes, but come from a Muslim background and really believe that what they are doing should be done in the name of Islam. Rather than challenging their Islamic identity, Murtaza states that it is more fruitful to research from which kind of Islamic ideological background radicals have derived their views, i.e. Wahhabi influences.
Such groups tend to see themselves as the only real Muslims, going back to the purity of pristine Islam. This does not necessarily lead to violence: some follow the way of missionary work, spreading their version of Islam (including distributing huge numbers of copies of the Quran in the streets of German cities, a recent activity that has given rise to polemical debates). Murtaza feels that local Muslim leaders in Germany have not always managed to react appropriately to extremist calls, because they were not highly qualified and moreover felt overwhelmed with a variety of challenges; however, there are now signs of an increasing professionalism.
Radical trends have managed to remain relatively unopposed for years in Germany in particular due to the poor quality of available Islamic literature and teachings, and consequently an ignorance that led many Muslims to misread any kind of criticism of specific currents of Islam as an attack against Islam itself. Moreover, Saudi-funded Wahhabi organizations widely spread literature claiming to present “just Islam,” but actually promoting their own views, a phenomenon that has continued with the Internet.
Murtaza states that such teachings have become popular, but the way to counteract their influence would be to develop Islamic religious teaching for young people and adequate training for converts to Islam, who are often left to their own ways after being welcomed into the community. Intellectual openness is required, but Murtaza warns that, even if it will bring some people from the fringe to mainstream Islam, the presence of such groups will remain a lasting phenomenon.
(Islamische Zeitung, Beilsteiner Str. 121, 12681 Berlin, Germany – www.islamischezeitung.de)