Religious communities and ISIL

Prof. Mumtazer Turkone
Prof. Mumtazer Turkone


Date posted: November 4, 2014

The sole antidote to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are religious communities which traditionally establish very strong social balance.

Anyone who knows religious communities and can pass objective judgments about them will agree with this assertion. Violence, as symbolized by ISIL, is a result of the increased disintegration of traditional religious communities that maintain social peace, as well as of the traumas of modern society. ISIL is said to have some 25,000 militants from 80 countries. Any study of the social environment in which these militants grow up will reveal that they fail to obtain communal support and services. Profound hatred merges into a superficial Islam, which consists of memorizing a handful of verses or hadiths, to produce the savagery known as ISIL. Religious communities teach us to suppress or tolerate hatred, helping us divert the destructive energy of anger to solidarity and cooperation.

ISIL’s Salafi ideology relies on a very simple perception of religion: the literal interpretation of the Holy Qur’an and Prophet’s words. These literal interpretations can hardly solve the complex problems of contemporary societies. For organizations that turn religion into a war slogan like ISIL, nothing more is really needed. They only want to use religion as a motivator for killing and dying. ISIL’s terrifying fighting capabilities come from this motivation. Suicidal youths, who lead solitary lives in Western cities that fail to give meaning to their lives, become suicide bombers for ISIL by way of religious motivation.

The Salafi mentality is not the only movement that relies on the literal interpretation of religion. State-endorsed Islam or official Islam, also has to rely on this formal understanding of Islam in order to survive. The conception of religion, as represented by the Religious Affairs Directorate, shares exactly such a mentality. However, religious communities seek to find a common ground and common language, arriving at reconciliation instead of conflicting with each other. Such a question may still be formulated: Does ISIL’s propaganda fall within the range of authority of the Religious Affairs Directorate? The answer is obvious: more easily compared to religious communities.

As is the case with all religions and countries around the world, religious communities go beyond prayer and religious discourse in an attempt to solve social needs effectively through cooperation and solidarity. They derive their real strength not from the esoteric interpretation of religion, but from their performances in the social sphere. Religious communities compete with each other in terms of their social services and this competition raises the bar on social solidarity and therefore, plays a constructive role. As a result, not only the religious conception, but also the civil society sphere can become more pluralistic. For instance, the education sector constitutes a major area of social responsibility. The rise of the Hizmet movement is indisputably the result of its success in the education sector. Parents know that if they send their children to a school run by the Hizmet movement, they will receive the best academic training. Moreover, they can be assured that their kids will refrain from drug use, gangs and shady political organizations like ISIL.

While the Religious Affairs Directorate fails to raise any remarkable objection to ISIL’s Salafi interpretation of Islam, Cübbeli Ahmet Hoca, a civil religious leader, has been conducting an effective debate with ISIL. The criticisms he voices about ISIL can hardly be answered by the theoreticians of ISIL.

Thus, traditional religious communities constitute the only alternative and antidote to ISIL. ISIL’s relentless hostility against mystical interpretations and traditions is proof. Religious communities, as the only civil power in society that have perfected the art of satisfying society’s spiritual and material needs, represent the only basis for society to resist terrorist tendencies.

Source: Today's Zaman , November 3, 2014


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