As the holy month of Ramadan starts across the Muslim world, it is essential now more than ever to confront the threats against Islam, in particular those coming from individuals and groups claiming to represent the religion, and in order to show Islam for what it truly is, and its commitment to tolerance and forgiveness.
The reputation of Islam is being hijacked by extremist fringe elements, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, which is trying to carve out its own state, all the while committing human rights abuses and deliberately stirring sectarian tensions. They are often accused of attempting to return territory under their control to the Middle Ages, but this actually does a disservice to the religion back then, as at the time it was associated with an enlightenment in terms of science, medicine, design, poetry and philosophy, and largely with coexistence with other religions.
There are undoubtedly legitimate Sunni grievances with the Shiite political establishment in Baghdad, but they should be tackled at the roots without delay and with the pressure of the patrons of both parties in Iraq and elsewhere, and at the political level, not through land grabs and bloodshed.
And in the face of such attempts to divide the two sects, it is imperative that both Shiites and Sunnis work together to confront ISIS and other such groups. Most of the non-Muslim world is aware of the two branches, and tars all with the same brush: all of Islam’s reputation is at stake, so all must work together to cure the virus that is ISIS.
As hundreds of millions of Muslims gather around the world this month, in a spirit of community and charity, those in this part of the world, and especially in Lebanon, must demonstrate the true spirit of the religion.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 28, 2014, on page 7.