Because of the global crisis facing Islam and Muslims, concerned people — including muftis, preachers, academics and politicians — flocked from around the world to Al-Azhar in Egypt’s capital Cairo. They all agree extremism is a growing risk and must be confronted.
At the 27th international conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the best and most direct speech was by Saudi Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Tawfiq Al-Sudairi. He condemned those “who abused the tolerant teachings of religion,” and demanded unity “of efforts politically, ideologically, militarily and religiously to address the deviant ideology.”
There is a consensus against terrorism. No one can claim there is no terrorism without extremism behind it. Terrorism cannot be born in a moderate environment. Terrorists who come out of liberal or tolerant societies are always victims of extremist thinking surrounding them in virtual environments such as chatrooms and social networks. Tens of thousands have joined terrorist groups, all of them graduates of extremist rhetoric.
Terrorists, despite their danger to the world, are actually less threatening than extremists. The harm caused by extremism is greatest in Muslim communities. What extremists and radicals do exceeds acts by organizations such as Daesh and Al-Nusra Front, which are considered minorities in the realm of extremists.
Terrorism is the final threshold in the hierarchy of extremism. Terrorism cannot be eliminated without fighting extremism. This fact should not be neglected by those interested in it. But when we talk about extremism and radicalism, we should not confuse them with individual aspects of extremism among some Muslims. It is the right of conservatives to exercise values and rituals they deem appropriate; this exists in all religions.
It becomes extremism when radicals try to impose it on everyone. The most dangerous kind of extremism is dynamic and organized. This type has expanded worldwide to poor and advanced countries, including students, women and foreigners. It has taken advantage of war, famine and injustice against Muslims to spread calls of hatred and plant the seed of extremism, with the aim of remaining there for a long time and becoming a local culture.
If you can imagine this, you will realize how extremism and terrorism have emerged, and that the fight against extremism is a higher priority than that against terrorism. What Al-Sudairi said in Cairo captured the essence of the crisis, and should be implemented with concerted efforts.