Following the 17 August  Barcelona terror attack claimed by ISIS, PM Malcolm Turnbull condemned this atrocity as ‘Islamist terrorism.’ Similarly, he warned on 2 June of the “global threat of Islamist terrorism”.

An ‘Islamist’ follows ‘Islamism’ – a term that appeared in the 1970s in the Maghreb used by Muslims who believed Islam as a holistic religion incorporates political elements (Roy 1985).

In a Muslim majority country, where Muslims practice their religion, they may prefer governance based on Islam rather than retaining purely secular colonial laws. An Islamist would try to adhere to Islam in his/her practices.


This is not the case with the so-called ‘Islamic State’ of Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi (ISIS), which strongly deviates from Islam and cannot be called ‘Islamic’. Islam is a religion of mercy (rahmah), compassion and justice (adl).

It is also a religion of moderation (wasatiyyah). God states “Thus We made of you a community justly balanced that you might be witnesses over the people.” (Qur’an 2:143)

Eminent scholar Mohammed Hashim Kamali in his “Middle Path of Moderation in Islam” awarded “Best Book in the World 2016”, stresses that avoiding extremism is the Islamic way: “Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir wrote that the Muslim ummah’s status as witnesses is conditional on their commitment to moderation and truth – [and] testimony of extremists who transgress the limits of moderation is inadmissible.”

‘Islamist extremism’ then is an oxymoron since Islam cannot be extreme.

ISIS owes its origin to US forces in Iraq who imprisoned and tortured Sunni militants together with Saddam’s secular fighters. The Americans could hardly have been unaware of providing a highly-charged crucible in Bucca Camp that would later generate an aggressive anti-Western guerrilla force.

Islam emphasises that innocent non-combatants should not be harmed. Prophet Muhammad (s) ordered Muslims during warfare: “Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food.” (Bukhari 4/52, 257).

ISIS atrocities show complete disregard of Islam – decapitation of journalists and aid workers, and killing innocent tourists, children and Coptic Christians, and civilians in Barcelona, London, Manchester, Stockholm, Berlin, and Nice. Probably a greater number of Muslim innocents have been killed by ISIS.

In November 2014, 200 Muslim scholars from 50 countries joined an open letter to condemn ‘fighters and followers’ of ‘Islamic State’ denouncing them as un-Islamic with a comprehensive scholarly refutation, which included, “It is forbidden to kill emissaries; hence forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers”, “It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat Christians [e.g. Yazidis]”, and “It is forbidden to torture”.

ISIS knew the powerful effect of declaring a ‘holy jihad’ and ‘caliphate’ would ensure masses of followers. This is a lesson for Muslims to test the truth of the call and program and to reject militants who deviate from moderation that is Islam.

Clearly, ISIS is a deviant extremist group that must be defeated. ISIS is neither ‘Islamic’ nor ‘Islamist’.

The Murdoch media and certain ‘policy institutes’ who insinuate ‘Islamism’ is synonymous with terrorism, are part of a misguided Islamophobic campaign. Former President Obama in a speech to the UN in 2014 disconnected ISIS from Islam. I would respectfully request if PM Turnbull could also not link ‘Islamist’ and terrorism.

Muslims should be able in Muslim countries, if they wish, to adopt laws based on the Qur’an (Islamism) just as Christians until the last century adhered closely to the Ten Commandments in their national laws.

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