Leaders in the Islamic faith together with religious scholars from the Eastern Africa region have condemned the misconceptions that often associate violent extremist ideologies with Islam.
They argue that on the contrary, website like this Islamic values advocate for peaceful coexistence and oppose violence against innocent lives upon which terrorism is founded.
These arguments were made at Lake Victoria Serena Resort during the opening of a two day regional conference aimed at finding solutions to the trend of violent extremism which has destabilized several parts of Africa.
Organized by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and International Interfaith Peace Corps (IIPC), try the engagement was attended by Uganda’s Second Deputy Prime Minister Kirunda Kivejinja, the Mufti of Uganda, Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje and several islamic scholars and leaders.
Violent extremism can broadly be understood as beliefs and actions of people who support or use ideologically motivated violence in order to achieve radical ideological, religious or political views.
In his remarks, the Mufti said that terrorism shouldn’t be taken out of context and reduced to physical Islamic features like a beard and attire.
“As Muslims, we must face up to our responsibility to clarify and advocate a faith based, righteous and moral position when terrorism activities are perpetrated in the name of Islam,” Sheikh Mubajje said.
He said “Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against human innocent lives” and that “there’s no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism.”
Citing the teachings in the Islamic holy book ‘Qur’an’, he regarded acts of terror and individual association with such acts as forbidden by the Islamic religion. Muslims, he said, have the responsibility to safeguard lives of all civilians and ensure their wellbeing.
According to the Mufti, it is imperative for humanity to engage in peaceful interfaith dialogue since the world has become more interdependent and interconnected.
Similarly, Sheikh Mohammed Nur Abdullah the Chairman of the Ibn Sireen Institute appealed for dignity and value or human life both of which he said are fundamental pillars of Sharia Law.
“Justice is the foundation of religion. Nobody is allowed to take a life without a just cause or without following the justice system,” Sheikh Abdullah said.
“We need to dialogue with the young people who have been misled (radicalized). They should be trained to be open-minded and to coexist with people with divergent beliefs.”
In African countries like Nigeria, Somalia, Mali and Libya that have witnessed numerous terror attacks, insurgents have justified their actions with Islamic religious beliefs. Some of these terror groups claim that whoever doesn’t identify with such beliefs deserves to die.
However, Sheikh Abdullah opposed this school of thought, noting that Islamism promotes tolerance and that individuals possess a right to choose their beliefs.
Hon. Kirunda Kivejinja, who officially opened the conference, blamed violent extremism on masqueraders who hide under the guise of religion to perpetrate atrocities. He urged intellectuals to continue upholding their role of challenging such elements on the truths.
On her part, Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda stressed the need to empower communities and youths in fighting violent extremism which she said is a barrier to development.
“Uganda has a significant portion of young people. For them to be a deciding for development, we must closely look at their conditions, risks and what can be done to improve their way of life,” Malango told journalists on the sidelines of the forum.