Non-Muslims ask several questions to Muslims related to Islam and the problems in the Muslim world. The assumption they make while interpreting such issues in Muslim dominated countries is that Islamic teachings encourage brutalities and barbarism and are responsible for every wrong thing happening in these countries. Most of the time, such questions are asked to vilify Islam and to paint Muslims as cruel and evildoers. Still, sometimes modest people, who are open to learn, ask to expand their knowledge because they can’t see people being killed unjustly.
So, why Muslims kill Muslims? It is a valid question. I agree that Muslims are killing Muslims, and no Muslim should deny this. But hold one, what are the reasons behind? Is it happening because of Islamic teachings, or is it happening because of something else? Let’s unfold this intriguing problem based on an academic research perspective and associated scholarships.
Before untangling this issue, let me tell you something interesting, just for the sake of knowledge. If you read the book ‘Dying to Win’ by Robert Pape, he analysed all of the cases of suicide bombing from 1980-2005, 315 cases internationally. Guess who would be the toppers on this list? Who would have committed the most suicide bombing attacks? What would first strike to your mind when you listen to the word ‘suicide bombing’? Of course, Muslim faces having a long beard with a skull cap would get punched in your mind. Isn’t it? But did you research if this is the truth or just Islamophobia?
The data confirms that there is a weak correlation between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism or any one of the world’s religions. The leading perpetrators of suicide attacks have been the Tamil Tigers, a Marxist-Leninist cohort who are vehemently opposed to religion. This group perpetrated 76 of the 315 incidents, way more suicide attacks than Hamas. When did you last time watch on the television ‘Tamil Tigers blow themselves up?’
Why you or others are not aware of such incidents? No, it is not your fault, don’t panic. You are not aware because you are not being made aware. Stanley J Baran’s theory argues that the media may not tell us what to think, but the media tells us what to think about. According to Noam Chomsky’s scholarship, if we look at state terrorism, USA is the world leader—the one who is the leader of tyranny and brutalities from its inception.
Now come to your question: Why Muslims are killing Muslims?
My understanding and research based on authentic scholars in the field suggests that most of these unfortunate events resulting in the Muslim world are because Muslims don’t internalise Islam, meaning that they are not materialising Islam within themselves, despite born in Muslim families. Most of the Muslims are enslaved to their desires and carry cultural baggage. For example, casteism in Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi Muslims, which is directly stemmed from the influence of the dominant culture in the region, against the very primary teaching of Islam.
Now you might ask: why are we not stopping Muslims killing Muslims?
You and I can do a limited thing, we need to be honest. We should understand our limitations. But it doesn’t mean we are not trying to stop such insanity. What I believe that we can do, as Muslims, we can educate people. I agree that Muslims also need to be blamed for several problems.
According to Qur’an: God doesn’t change the condition of the people until they change conditions for themselves (13:11). It applies to the entire humanity, not exclusive to Muslims. Islam is meant for everyone, not exclusively for Muslims, as people perceive. Muslims need to go back to their Islamic roots. They need this reformation.
I wish I could stop the oppression of non-Muslims by Muslim government/people in other Muslim countries. What least I can do from my end is to educate Muslims of that country and emphasise to adhere to the Islamic teachings. That is what we do on different social media platforms.
At the same time, I think, as many researchers pointed out, that West is also responsible for the intricacies we observe in Muslim countries. Just analyse the colonial history from the 17th to 20th century where the majority of Muslims were not in the Ottoman/Muslim Empire but the British Empire till the early 20th century.
Now if you examine a little further and look at the world map and ask yourself why Muslims are killing each other. Look at Syria, one of the most religiously diverse countries in the Muslim world. What is happening in Syria today has already happened in Lebanon. In 19 70’s to 80’s, Lebanon went through a war for ten years. Why?
When the colonial rulers sketched the lines and declared that this part is going to be Syria, and that part is going to be Lebanon. They intentionally put opposing factions in the same country so that they would have to dispute. It resulted in conflicts, which raised the question: who would control the local power dynamics? And that continued to happen in both Lebanon and Syria. As a result, we find most conflicts in those geographic regions. And something similar happened to Iraq, you should research.
Long story short, it is not the Islamic teachings which encourage Muslims to kill innocent Muslims or others. There are segments of course in Islamic teachings, which talk about violence. But it is being said in the context of war. You need to understand the context behind it before inferring anything from your finite cognitive power.
Thus, any problem should be studied in a three-dimensional perspective by including historical, social-economical, and disturbance in local power dynamics. It would be an injustice to conclude anything based on shallow understanding of a specific subject.
Prophet Mohammad (s) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.” His companions were confused, and they asked, “It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet (s) replied, “By preventing him from oppressing others.” (Hadith: Sahih al-Bukhari)