After 153 civilians were killed in Paris November 13, 2015, the core question is:
“What to do?”
It is a question that confronts the Western World in a serious way again and again..
So what can we all do against the threat of terror in the name of Islam and Allah?
- Our world has changed drastically in the last 20 years through globalization. With it have come many new opportunities, but these opportunities don’t come without risks and unrest.
Although we band together, we do not know each other well, or other religions well.
What world will we build? Will we choose for our children to live together in harmony? What will we leave as a legacy to our children?
Do we take our responsibility as leaders seriously enough? Do we understand what it means to live together in harmony, in tolerance, in peaceful co-existence? Or will we sit in desperate passivity and allow the world to crumble around us?
Don’t we desperately need a grand strategy, a fundamental understanding, a common soul that works through our shared humanity to establish a code of tolerance?
Without a unified front and powerful tools, we cannot confront the misguided goals of IS and al-Qaida. We must have the courage to rise up. We need a fresh, active strategy:
- That unifies the hard and soft factors of peace-making
- Includes power and diplomacy
- Combines weaponry, police, state security, military,
- But equally introduces dialogue, reconciliation and the will to promote tolerance on all sides
To begin, let us explore the soft factors, including my Codes of Tolerance.
- The worldwide concern about the far-reaching terrorist campaign “ in the name of Allah“ is not enough. We need actions.
Similarly, acknowledging that these violent acts do not represent the entire body of Islamic believers and its religion is not enough. Violence in the name of the Prophet contradicts what is written in the Qur’an.
But radical actors always argue that they defend the Prophet as representatives of the true religion, fighting for its victory. They cherry-pick some harsh words from the Qur’an which praise the fight against the unbelievers and see themselves as an elite fighting for Islam.
They are few in the West, but IS, al Qaida or Boko Haram make up thousands of misguided Muslims who fight what they view as “unbelievers”, killing Christians and Muslims alike, in the name of Muhammad and a mistaken fanatical ideology.
Therefore, it is the problem of Islam. It is the fight for its interpretation, the soul of the Holy Qur’an and the ownership of the religion. This violent detour from the original tenets of Islam has now become a problem for the entire body of the Muslim people.
Her Royal Highness Rania, The Queen of Jordan, put the finger into the wound on November 18, 2014 in Abu Dhabi: “The attacks of radical Islamists are an attack on the values of Islam. But the moderate Muslims are equally to blame: It is said that our silence speaks volumes.”
Egyptian President al-Sisi rightfully determined at the Al Azhar University on New Year’s Day 2015: “It cannot be that the Islamic world is perceived as a haven of danger, of killing and destruction by the rest of the world. We need a religious revolution in Islam”, he declared.
I had the honor to meet the 17 year old Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala in December 2014 in Oslo. I asked her if she had any suggestions about how to promote tolerance in today’s world. She impressed me deeply in how clearly she defended the true Islam, including the right of girls to education.
Malala speaks openly about risking her own, and the other girls’ lives, while many others remained silent. Is it not embarrassing and a shame that a young Muslim girl is braver than thousands of Imams, generals, princes and politicians?
There are some Muslim heroes like Lassana Bathily. This 24 year old Muslim was an employee in the Kosher supermarket in Paris, and he risked his life in January 2015 to hide several Jewish hostages in a walk-in freezer to spare their lives from the Muslim killer.
The thundering silence in the Muslim world must end. The have to fight for the true peaceful Islam and speak out against the extremists. Nobody should blame the West or Israel, but defend the Prophet out of their own interest and responsibility.
Only those who stand up and fight for the true Islam can win. He who is silent is lost. He leaves the Holy Book to murderers. The roads to murder are always paved with the silence of the majorities. He who is silent carries the guilt of others. But Islam is all about a joint responsibility.
I miss the fierce Islamic courage and noble bravery that the Prophet demands of his followers. I call this bourgeois silent cowardice and convenience. Both are very dangerous. From some high-ranking representatives of the Muslims I also hear the argument: ”If we distance ourselves from the killers or the IS, we’re part of their their propaganda. We have nothing to do with them. We do not have to defend ourselves.”
This unsettling justification is wrong and highly dangerous. We Germans know why.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the German citizens lost step-by-step the power to define what a good German should do or not do – what the German values and the German culture are. From Schiller to Hitler, from Beethoven to Auschwitz, in only a few years. From noble contributions to the world, to its near annihilation. In the end, Germany lost it all and lay in ashes.
The very few, yet steadily increasing number of radical Nazis defined what was German and what was not. Just like today where the silent majority of Muslims is about to lose moral control about the values of Islam. Today in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Tomorrow? What will it bring?
The majority of the bourgeoisie stayed silent and remained passive for too long… Until it was too late. After that anyone who opened his mouth or resisted, was promptly delivered to the concentration camps or killed , like under the IS now.
Is this cowardice to be repeated in the Arab world now? Must history repeat itself?
The Islamic world must reflect on, and reclaim the roots of faith and fight for the true Quran and the peaceful wisdom of the prophet openly and actively.
The green banner of true Islam must overcome the black banner of the IS-terrorist and other extremists. Frank, courageous, everywhere. This is the new Jihad of faith.
Worldwide, probably less than half a per cent of people who are prone to violence, misuse their religion as a mandate to confrontation towards believers of different faith.
However, if one puts that number into action, this tiny minority becomes very loud and dangerous. They own the streets, they have the media’s attention. The broader 99% majority of Muslims stay silent, look away, and do not protest openly. This leaves the few radicals too much space, and therefore authority, to interpret Islam.
This silent majority does not understand the mechanisms of the seizure of power by resolute totalitarian leaders, born out of the violent few at the beginning of their crusade.
Official statements by the Arab World so far have been too short, superficial and lukewarm. They will not succeed in stopping the wave of ideological violence and misinterpretation.
One has to dig much deeper. They have to take to the streets and to the media. They have to fight for the true Islam. We need an uprising of decent Muslims and their spiritual and political leaders in all Muslim countries against extremism and violence.
All true Muslims are called together in the face of this crisis of the perception of Islam. They are called to defend their God, the Holy Book and their Prophet Muhammad, against the violence and sins of the IS and their deadly tools
It is not a choice, it is a Muslim duty. This is the path to actively protect the true religion, to enlighten misguided youths, to contain the radicals and hinder the growth of distrust against Islam.
Islamic extremism is principally a danger to Muslims. Most terrorists kill Muslims in Muslim countries. The global media coverage about the terror in Paris in January 2015 for example somewhat overshadowed, that simultaneously 63 people in Iraq, 26 in Syria and 18 in Aghanistan were killed by extremists.
I thus also demand active reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites, just like the Lutheran Church reached agreement with the Catholic Church after centuries of bitter warfare between faiths.
We in the West must contain xenophobia, Islamophobia, and Neo-Nazis. In Paris, 1,5 million Christians, Muslims and Jews took to the streets. In Dresden, 35.000 people demonstrated against xenophobia. nd the Muslims rose on Tuesday at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, supported by the German President and Chancellor, against violence in the name of Islam. They sought to demonstrate for respect and for the peaceful Muslims in Germany.
More of that is needed. Let us not stand still. Let this continue with numerous deeds worldwide. Our fight for tolerance is everyone’s fight.
We can only save the world from hate and terror if we contain the different radicals together.
- We must educate for a deeper tolerance and respect of other religions, ethnic minorities and races globally. We need a Jihad for tolerance, in the Christian and in the Muslim world.
We have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in grassroots projects, in the Muslim world and in the West. A global action plan is needed to promote the human codes of tolerance and respect, and to contain the radicals.
We all do too little.
We have to maintain good human interaction as if it were a prized garden. If we don’t tend to our yard, the weeds will choke out the flowers. Promoting the soft factors of peace and tolerance is like seeding plants: they need daily watering and care.
We need a credible policy of the values for the UN Charter to establish an honest global constitution without political rhetoric. We need a living soul, not just checkbooks or weapons.
This will include the steady promotion of the codes of tolerance towards minorities, the poor and the disenfranchised religions and races. This includes the Holy Land, Israel and Palestine, as well, where a reconciliation policy is needed. We must benchmark work on this crucial issue against the successful reconciliation of Germany, France and Poland.
A prosperous Palestinian State is needed. One with values, secure borders and human rights to break free from hate and the promotion of violence. My independent World Security Network has published detailed proposals on our website for many years- read here.
Specific details of how to reach globally more respect and tolerance towards other religions and ethnic minorities are described in my most current book Codes of Tolerance.
- My book, Codes of Tolerance depicts a the real picture of the true peace-loving Islam with many facets, and hence, a positive message to all: Islam is peaceful in its roots and is tolerant of Christians and Jews.
The book explores 10 Golden Rules of tolerance in Islam:
- The dominance of goodness and mercy of God in the first sura and all suras of the Qur’an.
- The Muslim welcome address “Peace be with you”.
- The Prophet’s aim of hilm, a new society of harmony and respect.
- Punishment on judgment day and not on earth.
- The state role model through reconciliation after the conquest of Mecca 630 to 632. The Prophet did not enforce a totalitarian theocracy, but left the political system as it was, forcing nobody to convert to Islam and pardoning his enemies as well.
- There are many references to the ancient sacred text of the Jews and the Christians, who share 14 prophets with the Muslims.
- At least 27 verses in the Qu’ran call on Muslims to practice tolerance and patience with Christians and Jews, as other believers of the same God and children of Abraham.
- The clear restriction on the use of force in Jihad, only to be used in self-defence as outlined in the Quaran. There it is also stipulated that this is permitted when the attacker poses an immediate danger. Violence should never be practiced against innocent civilians.
- The Prophet, and later the first two caliphs, signed 14 tolerance contracts with Christian communities for eternity, protecting the free exercise of religion.There is a strong tradition of tolerance towards the Christians. This is documented by the close alliances of the first 100 Muslims Mohammad sent from hostile Mecca in exile, to the Christian Kingdom of Negus in Abyssinia between 615 and 622, as well as in the Golden Age of Islam in the 9th century.
- The obligation to comply with all rules of the UN Charter by Sura 17.34 as applicable law in Islamic countries. This is a new tolerance pact with the Christians.
The radical Muslims misunderstand or ignore these messages of tolerance and the model of Prophet Muhammad. They cherry-pick only six sentences of the 6,236 sentences of the Qu’ran, and ignore 99.99 per cent. Thus they put Islam upside down.
Opposite to the propaganda of extremists, the true message of the Qu’ran and the Prophet are of mercy, the virtue of serenity, harmony (hilm) and peace (salam).
The position of women in Islam casts Islam in a light of mistrust and disdain in Western countries.
I have therefore highlighted the relationship between the Prophet and women in the chapter: “Muhammad: ’I am the best to women. “
Central to its comprehension is the description of Khadidjah bint Khuwaylid (ca. 555-620), the first wife of the Prophet. She was an emancipated and very successful businesswoman in Mecca, and she employed the younger Muhammad and asked for marriage via a mediator.
Only one global religion was funded by a woman: Islam. Not a man, but a woman was “the first Muslim.” A woman was the most important counsellor and supporter of the Prophet. She supported him when he had massive doubts about continuing to promote Islam. She should be the role model for all Muslim women, because God chose an emancipated businesswoman on purpose.
The extremists have not heard of her importance and her style, but they should.
Khadidjah is the opposite of Muslim teaching today, as is propagated by the IS and Boko Haram which restrict and abuse women. They neither go to school nor are they emancipated “in the name of the Prophet.”
The Prophet encouraged the emancipation of women in the tribal society of the 7th century. This was a groundbreaking societal right for the female citizen. The rules of the Quar’an protected women with not less than six significant rights: Inheritance, personal property, consent to marriage, and prohibiting the killing of female offspring.
The Qu’ran never said: do not give them more rights. It does not limit women rights, but guides towards emancipation.The Prophet fostered the emancipation of women. The tribal communities of the 7th century did not allow for more.
Hence, an important part of the Codes of Tolerance is the propagation of women in the Islamic world. I appeal to every responsible citizen to become personally involved in the development of this common global village. The codes of tolerance are our common ground, a global ethos we share.
The Codes of Tolerance include 60 rules and paths towards a world policy of human kindness, combined with 79 best practices for the most important groups: parents, religious leaders, the media, politicians, sports players and cultural leaders.
We can successfully follow the path of tolerance. The world can silence its detractors and nurture its leaders within the spectrum of love for all children of all faiths.
Peace and hilm through tolerance towards other religions, minorities and races is attainable.
- An active and fortified tolerance policy is not naïve. It is not the dream of do-gooders. It is absolutely essential. Our world needs a positive vision. A hawk alone cannot bring peace.
Only 0.01 percent of our security budgets are spent on reconciliation projects, but 99.99 percent is used for internal security and defense. We need a readjustment and an active tolerance policy, which is financed with a least one percent of all expenditures for security.
We also need zero tolerance towards the intolerant. We must actively oppose the poison of hate. In Europe as well as in the Muslim world.
In future, only states and rebel actors should receive support, if they abide by the global order rooted in the UN-Charter, following its resolutions and implementing them. This is true for any kind of support – currently as in Syria, Egypt, Gaza, Libya or Pakistan.
He who refuses must be isolated. No funding for extremists any more. Let us not leave our world to the haters and the evil. We cannot wait – we have to start now. Local, creative, active.
We all can start with our small piece of the puzzle, as the first stones in the mosaic of seven billion people.
Together, as Europeans and as Arabs, we can create a new harmonious world of togetherness, with more respect and love of humanity in our global village. Our children are our greatest commodity, and their future is their right to inherit a state of peace and security.