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Qatari Writer: Religious Extremism Existed ‘Throughout Islamic History’

TEL AVIV – Fanaticism has accompanied Arab societies throughout Islamic history and is not a new phenomenon, but today the media, the left and Islamic preachers are blaming its rise on wild conspiracy theories, a Qatari law professor said.

In a column for UAE daily Al-Ittihad translated Tuesday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), former dean of Islamic law at Qatar University Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari outlined the history of Islamic religious extremism and slammed elements of Arab society that blame radicalism on external factors such as the West, the Palestinian problem, or unemployment and poverty.

“Religious extremism is not, as many believe, a new phenomenon or the result of current events. It has accompanied Arab societies throughout Islamic history,” Ansari writes, noting however, that at first it was limited to individuals and not groups and organizations.

“I oppose the politicization of religious extremism, or justifying it on the grounds of political oppression, suppression of liberties, and the spread of tyranny,” Ansari continues.

Ansari attacked Arab media, intellectuals and preachers as well as left-wingers and Islamists who “justify religious extremism by calling it a response to oppressive international policy” and who insist on “depicting the world as plotting against Muslims.”

“In my opinion, all these explanations and excuses serve one purpose: politically exploiting terrorism for the benefit of various groups’ partisan agendas (pan-Arabist, leftist, and Islamist), by means of winning over public opinion, stirring it up, and inciting it against the regimes,” he writes.

Extremism and fanaticism, he continued, stem from “internal causes and elements that are rooted in a misguided, unilateral, and closed-minded education that does not foster critical thinking and is not open to humanistic cultures,” he says.

The key to tacking religious extremism, Ansari maintains, is to overhaul the education system.

“One of the most important things in this context is to remove extremists and hate preachers from the educational environment,” Ansari writes.

Ansari also suggests that sermons promoting hate speech and radicalism be criminalized. In addition, Arab societies should abolish “fatwas that accuse others of apostasy, that incite, and that question the beliefs of others.”

He ends with describing extremism as “the symptom of a disease” that must be purged from the root.

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