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Editorial: Islam and Extremism
Jan 1, 2015

I felt exhausted trying to write yet another message of shame when the kidnapper in Sydney was reported to have asked for an ISIL flag. "How many more times am I supposed to discredit such violence?" my inner voice cried. I looked at that act of violence and thought, "this is not my Islam!" I was upset and tired - until I stumbled upon the news coming from Pakistan: 148 people, most of them students and teachers, violently killed. The attack was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, which, it is reported, is planning another hit. I felt that my soul had been gutted. The despair was so powerful, I couldn't move my fingers on the keyboard.

I am not going to repeat my previous condemnations about terrorism or violence in any form; they did not provide any benefit other than showing where we stand. But it is our responsibility to explain to the world that this is not Islam. Thus, for this issue we chose a very significant article on Abu Hanifa, one of the greatest scholars of Islamic history, whose teachings laid the foundations of the school of jurisprudence - named after him - with the largest following among Muslims. His outstanding contribution to Islamic legal scholarship was not only theoretical; he was the epitome of an independent scholar who did not accept any official positions for the fear of being abused and finding himself trapped by the wrong decisions and actions of political leaders. His definition of religion recognized the changing times and conditions, and local cultures and social dynamics, so that all people would still be considered a part of the community and their integrity would be maintained. His approach does not allow for easy excommunication or marginalization of those within a community. "Standing against Radicalism: the Example of Abu Hanifa" is a useful article that provides, through the portrait of a great jurist, that extremism can only be prevented by true scholarship.

Another piece we share with our readers that shows Islam's true spirit is "The Grand Mosque of Paris." It's a review of an illustrated book of the same title which tells the story of heroic actions taken during World War Two. Fleeing from Nazis, European Jews were seeking a safe haven. Paris was one of those havens until it was invaded in 1940. After the invasion, one of the secret shelters where Jews hid themselves was The Grand Mosque, where Muslims provided them with food and housing, and in many cases helped them escape Paris by using Muslim identifications. True Islam teaches, as in this example, to help the persecuted, give a helping hand to the downtrodden, shoulder the burdens of others, and be at the side of the victimized and innocent.

Who then are these monsters who torture people, kill school children, and commit suicide attacks? What kind of jihad is this in which perpetrators claim to be Muslims and yet Muslims are the greatest victims of their violence by far?

One piece of good news is that submissions to our essay contest - about conversing with one's 100 year old self - reached a record breaking figure with more than seven hundred articles, letters, and memoirs submitted. Each submission is contemplative, and at times filled with wisdom and joy, and at others heartbreaking. The writers were from 49 countries, and we thank everyone who devoted their time and participated in the contest. Winners will be announced by January 30.