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A Tale of Two Jihads: The Need to Develop a Counter Narrative to the Propaganda of Al Qaeda and ISIS

It is extremely important for both Muslims and other communities in the world to understand the essential difference between Islam and ‘Islamism’. While, Islam is a 14000 year old religion, Islamism is a modern political movement, which seeks to reinterpret the teachings of Quran and Hadeeth for the purpose of building a collectivist political antithesis of contemporary Western polity and societal values.

The blurring of this distinction is the root cause for the present confusion regarding the approach of Islam and Muslims both in the Western world and even among Muslims, who today derive most of their knowledge of Islam from an ill-informed media and dubious Islamist sources of propaganda.

It is in this state of confusion and ignorance that the malicious, half baked and reactionary narratives of terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and the ISIS are thriving and misleading impressionable minds about Islam and the need for a clearly uncalled for jihad.

It is important to note here that even the so-called moderate Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood in the Arab world, do not represent Islam. These parties, even when not using violence, stand for an ideology that is illiberal to its core—for instance, its refusal to recognize gender equality. In the same way that communism once claimed to speak for the working class, Islamism claims to represent Muslims. By equating radical Islamist movements with the religion of Islam, Western governments support a distorted picture of Islam and become a victim of the extremist narrative.

Western right wing movements, on the other hand, often target Islam while thinking they are attacking Islamism. Banning the building of minarets, as Switzerland did, is a case in point. The problem is not a mosque; the problem is a mosque used to promote violence, jihadism, and illiberal Islamism.

Perhaps, we have to draw a distinction between the religion of Islam and the modern reactionary political movements that are fighting in its name to promote their own devious ideological agenda in the fight against the West and humanity at large. There is clearly a need for presenting the correct narrative of Islam which does not make Jihad a cardinal duty of Muslims, as many of the modern Islamists would have us believe and does not call for the need to create an Islamic State or Caliphate as a goal of the global Muslim community. Islam is essentially a religion, whose primary concern is spiritual, and cannot be turned into a utopian political system like Communism or Nazism.

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