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Unveiling the heart of extremism

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OPINION by Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post last week, Dr Ebrahim Moosa wrote about his friend, Rashid Moosagee, who studied theology with him in India and returned to South Africa with him. In the face of an evil and unjust apartheid system his friend asserted the absolute separation of religion and politics. This friend astounded those who knew his apathy then, when he emigrated with his family to Raqqa, Syria, to seek the God’s Law in the ISIS caliphate and the absolute Islamic leadership of Baghdadi in the final war against non-Islam. For analyzing this episode, Ebrahim Moosa is receiving death threats from ISIS and its sympathisers.

Ebrahim Moosa’s piece in the Washington Post last week was one of the most powerful pieces on extremism that I have read. He touched a raw nerve.

He unveiled the heart of extremism by removing it from the elusiveness of theory and locating it in a person. He proceeded to unravel its core components: that within extremism which is alluring to Muslims; and that which is so vulnerable in the psyche of a global community emasculated by occupiers and dictators and confused by incoherent leadership. Refreshingly, we could grasp extremism in the ordinariness of that Moosagee family. Refreshingly, we saw beyond the image and caricature of the extremist as the wild-eyed, bomb-strapped and bloodcurdling terrorist, even though this is at the core of extremism.

This is what extremism hates: to be unmasked of the image and the caricature, and exposed for the feebleness at its heart. The image exudes power to the emasculated and certainty to the confused, while the caricature installs fear in the enemy and mobilises counter extremism. But it is the exposure of feebleness that often enrages extremist. The feebleness resorts in the very contradiction of its adherents: indecision and cowardice in the face of real injustice, as in South Africa, and bravado when enslaving Yazidis, raping women, beheading journalists, bombing Shias, targeting Sufis, persecuting Christians and destroying artifacts. Extremism detests that its theology is shown to be shallow and its belief harnessed to justify its lusts.

That Ebrahim Moosa and his family are yet again subjected to the extremist threats of violence and death is a travesty. But he has done something remarkable: he has enraged and provoked them. So often the extremes do this to us. That someone called Abu Huraira al Hindi tweets death threats from Syria, speaks to the fear of the extremists. They fear that the recoil from the Muslim middle ground will end the equivocation of this middle ground. They have relied on the strands of familiarity within their projection of Islam to strike a chord in this middle ground: the familiarity of wars against Crusaders; of tolerance for slavery; of a clear divide between Islam and non-Islam; of the humiliation of Palestinians; and the yearning for a life of conformity with the shariah. These constitute the grounds for equivocation among Muslims and this is the equivocation we must defuse.

Ebrahim Moosa started this process and needs support. His family must be secured so that his scholarship can continue. His voice must be amplified, not muted. We must emulate his courage and find our own ordinarily ways to defeat extremism and to confirm the correctness of the middle path of Islam.

Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool is based in Washington in the US and is the founder of the World For All Foundation. 

Read Ebrahim Moosa’s article:

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