By Matthew Syed
Who are the real Muslims? Who are the bona fide, authentic, true-to-the-core followers of the Islamic faith? Now, that might seem like an easy question. Surely, the people who are Muslims are those who say, when asked: “I am a Muslim.”
But there is a problem with this approach. As you may have noticed, Sunnis, many of them, tell us that they are the real Muslims and that the Shias are impostors. The Shias tell us the exact opposite. The Sufis have a quite different perspective: they reckon that both the Sunni and Shia brigades have it wrong, and that they have it right.
Some Muslims are pretty ecumenical. There are moderate Muslim groups in the UK who say that Islam is a broad church. They say they don’t really have a problem with Sunni or Shia. But guess what? They don’t extend this embrace to Islamic State (Isis). They describe its approach as “a perversion of Islam”.
Barack Obama and Tony Blair have it in for Isis, too. Blair said that Isis possesses “an ideology that distorts and warps Islam’s true message” while Obama went even further, saying: “[Isis] is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of [its] victims have been Muslim . . . [it] is a terrorist organisation, pure and simple.”
But what is their evidence for this? Members of Isis say that they are real Muslims. They say that they are inspired by the Koran. They say that they are killing and maiming people because that is what Allah wants them to do. They talk about their love of God and the glories of martyrdom. I reckon that, if we are going to take other Muslims at their word, we should take members of Isis at their word, too.
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