This question is often thrown at Muslims, directly or indirectly, during discussions on religion or world affairs due to the fact that false stereotypes and misinformation about Islam and Muslims are disseminated in the media.
"Islamic extremism" is being repeated incessantly by journalists, writers and politicians in an attempt to define things from their own particular perspective. The word "extremist" implies that someone stands far away from the accepted central norm, meaning that he is immoderate - a label that obviously gives expression to negative feelings.
Extremism is something blameworthy in Islam, as it means deviation from the moderation of Islamic teachings or from the correct method of applying them. Although the extremist might present his arguments from an Islamic point of view or be motivated by religious feelings, it remains an unacceptable position according to the Qur'an and guidance of Prophet Muhammad. Consequently, it has been condemned by all reliable Muslim scholars.
Extremism is bred by oppression. The most fertile environment for its proliferation is one where people are persecuted, repressed and denied their natural human rights, making them fearful, angry and emotionally unstable. In spite of this, Muslims are prohibited from allowing emotion to govern their behavior or acting on their own understanding of religious texts. Rather, they are under strict obligation to take their guidance from qualified scholars regarding the interpretation of those texts and their application to critical contemporary situations.
A great deal of attention has been given in Western media recently to the "threat of Islamic fundamentalism." The term "fundamentalist" reflects an intent to stigmatize those Muslims who adhere to the basic fundamental principles of Islam and pattern their lives accordingly. While a practicing Jew is called "orthodox" and a practicing Christian, Hindu or Buddhist "devout," a practicing Muslim is often referred to as a "fundamentalist."
So what, exactly, is a fundamentalist? It is someone who strictly adheres to the fundamental principles of his religion or his profession. For example, to be a good doctor one must know and practice the fundamentals of medicine. To be a good mathematician, one must know and practice the fundamentals of mathematics. Similarly, to be a good Muslim, one must know and practice the fundamentals of Islam.
The fundamentals of Islam include all noble qualities such as honesty, sincerity, chastity, generosity and compassion. And they include the moderation which God has enjoined. A true Muslim is pleased to be a fundamentalist because he knows that the fundamentals of Islam are beneficial to the human race as a whole. If one analyzes the teachings of Islam with an open mind, he cannot escape the fact that they are full of benefits both for individuals and their societies.
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