One Young World
One Young World

Fellow Muslims, don’t be silenced by the extremists

By Sumaya Hendricks

The pursuit of being a devout Muslim who strives to embody the values, personality and mission of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is inextricably interconnected with practising fairness, justice, kindness, peace and other moral superlatives. As Muslims in the 21st century, who are blessed with enormous potential and opportunity, it is our responsibility not only to guard ourselves from the temptations which society presents (and not be deluded into thinking that this makes us “pious Muslims”) but also strive towards the betterment of society through active participation. There are many spheres in which we as Muslims can and must bring about positive change — the list is endless.

While engaging with this notion of transforming society, I asked myself “are we as Muslims associated with social progress and the clichéd ‘making the world a better place’ ”? Are we merely associated with what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) looked like and not how he acted? Are we seen as a blessing on earth or a curse and evolving threat?

As a young Muslim trying to carve out an identity for myself and contribute to the broader Muslim identity, I find myself stifled and burdened by the distorted image of our faith. This image, communicated through the media, imposes a characterisation of Islam on its followers. Debate about the deliberate persecution and victimisation of Muslims by the ”West” via the media aside, what I speak of here is the misrepresentation of the faith by those who claim to truly follow it.

Prominent examples of such misrepresentations include al-Qaeda, al-Shabab, Boko Haram and other violent Islamic extremist groups in North Africa and the Middle East. As a Muslim I cringe and am ashamed that these groups shape and contribute to the global image of what it means to be a Muslim. I must emphasise this, I am a Muslim and violent Islamic extremist groups disgust me and do not represent me or the majority of my fellow Muslim sisters and brothers.

There are great Muslim scholars among us, exciting Muslim initiatives, a willingness and recognition that we as Muslims need to know and do more, a resurgence in Islamic intellectualism, people of all walks of life embracing Islam and so much more. There is a lot to be hopeful and proud of, but positive actions and voices are being crowded out by the extremist few who have prevented these positives from forming the nucleus of the Muslim identity.

I was raised in a home where I learnt that kindness and peace is fundamentally part of what it means to be Muslim. I was taught that as a Muslim, one needs to aim to touch humanity and the world at large, not destroy and spread anarchy, kill and harass, abuse and oppress. Not only do I feel misrepresented by violent extremist Muslim groups but am deeply disturbed that these people believe their actions to be righteous and in keeping with Islamic doctrine.

We need to counter such extremist activity through public condemnation so as to isolate these groups from being associated with mainstream Islam, but we also need to embark on a mission of educating, re-educating and reorienting how Islam is taught and understood so as to ensure the true message of Islam is reaching people. This process and battle against extremist forces is a continuous one and requires us to thoughtfully and skilfully plan ways to overcome it. We, especially young Muslims, cannot be silenced by the few.

Sumaya Hendricks is an honours student in economics at the University of the Witwatersrand.

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    • The Creator

      So, can we all assume that you are absolutely happy about violent extremist Muslim groups which happen to be currently allies of the West, like the ones in Syria, or the government of Saudi Arabia?

      Or is it just coincidence that the examples you choose happen to be the ones which the Western press like to demonise as opposed to the ones which they happen to like?

      Or have you just not thought your revulsion against violence through very clearly? How do you feel about Hizbollah, for instance?

    • Joe Soap

      Thanks Sumaya Hendricks. Very interesting. Unfortunately in the West many peoples minds have been made up by propaganda from the Western Military Industrial Media Complex.

      It is very hard to change a mind that has been made up, and unfortunately the Muslim extremist groups, no matter how small they are reinforce this anti-Muslim mindset in the West.

      So the millions of peace-loving Muslims around the world have a huge job ahead of them to overcome the Western mainstream view that Muslims equal extremism.

      But it is important that you speak out again and again.

    • Joe Soap

      @The Creator

      BBC News:

      “Hezbollah and its allies have won all the parliament seats for South Lebanon, where elections were held on Sunday.”

      Obviously one persons violent terrorist is another persons savior.

    • Lennon

      The Al Andalusian Caliphate is proof of what Muslims have achieved and could achieve again.

      After all, Muhammad did issue a directive about seeking knowledge and this was put to very good use in the Iberian Peninsula.

    • Stephen

      Interesting article. Might be better if we could focus on the spiritual, not the politcal aspect of faith.

      Unfortunately the problem with organised religion is that in-group morality drives it. Us vs. them. The 10 commandents did not include any other desert tribe, god himself decreed genocidal pursuit of the Caanaites, Hivites, etc. As did the Musilms when pursuing imperial conquest; infidels convert or the sword. Or Christians with their Inquisition and the Crusades. And so on.

      Today the most successful, healthy societies are the least religious, by any ranking. (For the US take a look at the bible belt states; they rank the lowest.)

      Why do we place value on the scribblings of stone-aged mammals? When will we move away from our fixation on the cave, the altar and the blood sacrifice? The end result is too many destitute, failed societies.

    • Dave Harris

      The insidious nature of Islamaphobia being peddled by western mainstream media is indeed disturbing and saddening. History has shown however, that the truth about Islam will eventually triumph.

    • Momma Cyndi

      I hope they heed your call.
      Your religion gave the world such inspiration that is embodied in young Malala and those Libyan people who all came out to say ‘Not in our name’ after the attacks on the diplomatic compound. Our own Islamic community in SA have physically ejected a visiting ‘radical’ cleric from their mosque. I just wish the media didn’t always have to go with the ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ attitude.

    • Citizen Cane

      @Sumaya Hendricks …
      “Not only do I feel misrepresented by violent extremist Muslim groups but am deeply disturbed that these people believe their actions to be righteous and in keeping with Islamic doctrine.”

      ‘Silence is Consent.’ …At least you are voicing some disapproval against the atrocities that are perpetrated in the name of your religion.
      But you’re the exception. Most Muslims either defend it –or say nothing.

      Extremist Islamic practice and the abominations perpetrated on innocent victims(even to their own adherents) – including the brainwashing and insanity of terrorism and suicide bombers – is the greatest threat and scourge known in the world today.

      “One who condones evil is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it.”: -Martin Luther King Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968)

    • Bashir

      Don’t just look at the Muslim “extremists” only. Also stand up an point out the Christian West for their terrorism in the countries that they have in the past invaded and killed millions of innocent men, WOMEN, and CHILDREN. Be bold to speak against all terrorism.

    • Cliff Smith

      While one can empathize with Sumaya’s desire to be seen as the peace loving, tolerant believer she seems very much to be the sad truth is that the “holy books” that form the written foundation of the 3 leading monotheistic religions of the world clearly, and repeatedly advocate gratuitous bloodshed in the name of or by the explicit instruction of Yahweh/God/Allah. The God of the Jew/Christian sends men to kill defenseless babies without mercy (1 Samuel 15:3) and the Muslim faith was propagated far & wide by jihad (convert or die) at the very specific instruction of the prophet.

      So while we can all agree on the barbarity of al-Qaeda/al-Shabab/Boko Haram et al. even Sumaya has to admit that these groups are not behaving in a manner any different from early believers of all monotheistic religions as written down in these revered books.

      The way forward for our species is therefore self evident, these writings should be shown up for what they are, bronze age musings hopelessly outdated and often unspeakably offensive. Their claim to divine inspiration should be exposed for the fraud that they are and they should rather be used as a tool to teach the divisive and dangerous hold that religion plays in fomenting war and conflict in the world today.

    • Leon

      I am starting to doubt if there is a difference between so-called Muslim radicals and “normal” Muslims. The so-called peaceful Muslims are suspiciously silent about the actions of the radicals, and that to me means there is no fundamental difference in their outlook. If the peacefuls are really very different, we should see more action from their side to denounce the radicals and to take a strong public stand against the radicalism.

    • Vulcan

      Unfortunetly the very press you quoted in your article is the same you have used to condemn these groups, ask yourself the question do they really exist or is it the figment of the imagination of some high ranking USA operatives that have duped us into beleiving that only Muslims are violent?. Our own Country for example many have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy freedom today in South Africa.

      Violence is not a character of a Muslim to achieve any goal and is strongly condemned, some Ulema are for and againsts violence but if its done to protect ones family, possession and the Country and to fight oppression then ultimately success will only be known in the next world. Persecution by the media has been againts Muslims and Islam since the early days of Islam and nothing new and will continue for the truth is hard to accept. Islam/Muslims is the easiet label you can use to justify the persecution of this religion and the people that follow it.

      In the world a people that follow the religion are called fundamentalist and many other names but only becasue they follow the religion to the best of their ability, but if its another religious group no one calls them Fundamentalist only Muslim and Islam are to be blamed. Justice is this world might not be meted out but on the final Day no person will be able to hide but wil lhave to answer for their actions.

      Our only solution is to practice the religion as it shuld and the ALLMIGHTY will make it easy for all,

    • Rejoice Ngwenya

      I’m one of those ‘victims of Western stereotypes’ on Islam – as a religion / culture and Arabs as a people. Being totally ignorant of these things, all I see and hear of are suicide bombers, car bombs, assassinations etc mainly in ‘Islamic countries’, if there is such a term. I know there is a ‘lot’ of death and destruction in my neighbouring DRC, but every time I encounter news of the ‘Islamic countries’ – from Northern Nigeria, via the Middle East to South East Asia, its mostly about suicide bombers, car bombs, assassinations. Do I watch ‘too much’ CNN?

    • F Wilking

      # Sumaya
      Only Islam could enlighten me and I converted to Atheism. Free thinking is like new spectacles. You can see the wonderful, real world again and that’s Heaven. Should there be a paradise after death, I take is as a bonus.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Citizen Cane

      I am an atheist of note. I think all modern day religions are a crutch. I don’t, however, believe that the extremists are the norm for the Muslim religion. The fact that the media doesn’t portray the extremists as a minority, doesn’t mean that they are not a minority. Just spend 10 minutes of your life speaking to an SA Islamist and you will see just how far from their religion all this bloodshed actually is.

    • Xsanga

      Did god not inform you it is a sin to ignore poverty, apartheid still enslaves us mentally. Saudi is the capitalist mecca of the world with the wealth in the hands of a few, like the white SA economy. Religious Narcissist think they will enter heaven without fighting for the poor and aspiring to the white evils of apartheid dividends. Poverty and apartheid was not ordained by any god. Get up and do something about it and then preach your great religion

    • Hameeda

      Well Done on standing up for your religion. We all should learn from you.

      I think that we can’t generalise and say that ALL Muslims don’t voice their disapproval for such extremist values, because they are those who do, but do not have the platform to spread their beliefs and values and make their voices heard.

      A possible reason for silences could be due to the fact that there are many Muslims who have not processed their own beliefs and values regarding their religion, having been born into into and raised within a community with others dictating their values for them. Silences are not because of acceptance, but perhaps because of ignorance.

    • Charlotte

      @ Hameeda

      Why do ‘Muslims who voice their disapproval at such extremist values’ not ‘have a platform to make their voices heard”? What is stopping them? Why can’t they wrtie about it? Why don’t they form groups which express this disapprova, push for change and present a different front?

      I accept that intimidation plays a large role. I knew a very nice Muslim lady who confided to me that she did not want to wear a burka, but was too intimidated not to.

      As for: “Silences are not because of acceptance, but perhaps because of ignorance.” … you said it, dear, not me.

    • Hameeda


      Sometimes even though the tools are there, people do not have the courage to use them. Maybe you are underestimating the power of intimidation.

      I am not providing excuses for silences, but rather stating that you cannot assume that people are silent because they agree, sometimes people are silent because they do not know how to excercise their courage.

    • Said

      Allah The Most Kind Most Merciful , reminds us in the Quran His words :
      You are the best nation ever to be produced before mankind. You enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and believe in Allah. (Surah Al `Imran, 110) .

      O believers, fear Allah and say the right thing. Allah will make your conduct (affairs) whole and sound and will overlook your own errors. Whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, has indeed attained to a great success. (Quran 33:70-71)

      Doing good and having the right belief go hand in hand in Islam. In fact, doing good in practice is the proof of having the right belief in the heart. This is why the Quran speaks of true Muslims very often as “those who believe and do good deeds”. Both the Quran and the Prophet peace and blessing of Allah be upon him have told Muslims that the best among them is that person who shows the best behavior towards other people.

      # Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.” (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

    • Brian B

      Well done for having the courage to express your feelings.
      The radical violent views and actions of the extremists tend to be overlooked by the mainstream which amounts to tacit condone-nation.
      A culture with a rich and wise religious background would do well to use their immense wealth to uplift all of their brethren before breathing fire on the infidels.

    • Fazil

      One has to understand the radicalistaion of these groups that this blog refers to. Yes they are predominantly Muslim who emnate from geographical raesa that have been the subject of brutal imperial aggression for decades with no sign of letting up. These communities traditional as they are religious in character have been dehumanised to an animal like existence.
      Of course something was gonna have to give in the form of resistance. That they used Islam as a unifying factor is tactically supreme but may not be morally correct.

      Further, these groups never claimed to resist/fight in the name of this blogger as there life experiences differ radically. Akin to saying that Muslims in the Cape vote DA and are indicative of national Muslim views.

    • zaheera

      Very inspirational article – bold that you spoke about it openly. As a muslim sister, I also struggle with being labelled as an extremist because I wear traditional garb on Friday. People need to realise that islamic equates to peace!!!!!