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How Islam can fight back against Boko Haram

By Marwan Al Husayni, Special to CNN
updated 1:09 PM EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
Women in Abuja, Nigeria, hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, May 14, one month after nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The abductions have attracted national and international outrage. Women in Abuja, Nigeria, hold a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, May 14, one month after nearly 300 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The abductions have attracted national and international outrage.
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Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
Nigerians protest over kidnapped schoolgirls
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In Islam, traumatizing children is considered an act of evil, writes Marwan Al Husayni
  • Al Husayni: The problem with Boko Haram and their likes is that they go against all human norms
  • These groups subscribe to a distorted image of God and of themselves, he writes
  • The real meaning of power in Islam is mercy and love, he says

Editor's note: Marwan Al Husayni is a Jordanian writer and inter-values activist. For more than 20 years, he has addressed various interconnected-issues related to media, arts, literature, human development and interfaith. The views expressed in this commentary are solely the author's.

Jordan (CNN) -- When religion is used, or misused, as a violent tool against the innocent, then it is the user not the tool that is the source of violence. The mere idea of traumatizing a human soul violates all values on Earth. Whether based on religious texts or human interpretations, no value in the history of mankind justifies any brutal act against any of God's creation.

Abducting school girls in Nigeria by the so-called "Boko Haram" is an act of torture and terrorism against innocent souls. In Islam, as in other religions, traumatizing children is considered an act of evil. It does not differ from "Wa'ed" (Burying girls alive) which is "Haram" (Forbidden) in the Quran: "And when the girl [who was] buried alive is asked, for what sin she was killed?" (Quran, 81:8 and 81:9).

Marwan Al Husayni
Marwan Al Husayni

The problem with Boko Haram and their likes is that they go against all human norms. They want to impose their image of the "Wrathful God" on the other images of "Human God" which is a natural development of the interaction between humanity and the sacred. This "Human God" does not fit their frame of authority. The mentality by which they run their lives and approaches toward their surroundings is a mentality of a superior God. This entails a different and old interpretation of God.

In Quran, each Sura (Except one) starts with Basmalah. Any action by humans should start by "Basmalah." Starting our deeds by "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful" is a recognition of the basic human attitudes towards everything in life. Grace and Mercy are the building blocks of life on Earth.

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The actions of Boko Haram are against Grace and Mercy. In a deeper level of understanding these actions, one must say that these groups subscribe to a distorted image of God and of themselves. "Domination," "totalitarianism," "the monopoly of truth" and "God's representatives on earth" are all expired concepts which belong to an old era of interactivity between Heaven and Earth. Going back to such era emphasizes that those who subscribe to these concepts are working to activate the images they need to serve their interests.

In Islam, worshipping God is connected to peace, whether peace of mind or body. The Quran says: "Let them worship the Lord of this House (The Kaaba), who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear." (Quran, 106:3 and 106:4)

For me, as a Muslim who belongs to a rich culture of Arab, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions, terrorizing human souls is an act against God. Abusing the image and the meaning of a merciful "Allah" is against Islam, especially when it is used by those who claim that they are related to Islam, one way or another. I am always shocked when simple and basic religious and human principles are given wrong interpretations in order to get some gains of power. The real meaning of power in Islam is mercy and love.

In the Hadith, Prophet Mohammed Says: "All things of a Muslim are inviolable (Haram) for his brother-in-faith: his blood, his property and his honor." It is very strange in our 21st century, that a mental activity (reading books) can be considered Haram (Forbidden) while traumatizing and terrorizing children and people is not.

The challenge for Muslims though, is how to really convince the world that Islam is a loving, peaceful religion; Muslims should revisit the collective identity they are communicating to others. A first step towards this end is to convey these meanings through active expressions of identity. Mere words are not enough. Actions are a must if we want the world to really understand the essence of Islam.

I am not saying that Muslims are the only people to blame for this global misunderstanding. But it is their duty to deliver the real message of Islam to world contexts using proper and practical tools. It is also the duty of non-Muslims to understand the overall situation before rushing to judge.

Perhaps what helps in this regard is a self-recognition by Muslim authorities that there is an identity crisis that must be addressed. Revisiting the basic approaches towards modern life, by actions not words, constitutes a fundamental step towards achieving this goal.

READ: Fear and school: How Boko Haram cripples children's future

READ: Witness to terror: Nigeria's missing schoolgirls

READ: Opinion: Negotiation, not force, way to #BringBackOurGirls

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