A growing chorus of top Muslim leaders and Arab pundits around the world are strongly condemning the “cancerous” actions of extremist Islamic State militants, saying the ruthless group’s horrific campaign of murder in Iraq does serious harm to all Islam.
In the past, Muslim leaders have faced criticism from inside and outside the religion for being slow to condemn terrorism in the name of Islam. An editorial in the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi last month called on moderate Muslims to denounce the actions of the group formerly known as ISIS, which has killed thousands and left an estimated 1.5 million people displaced in northern Iraq.
“All we have to do to understand the high price that Muslims pay on all levels [for such actions] is to see how Westerners snatch up [such reports on] ISIS’s conquests, invasions and despicable actions, and share them on social media in order to tarnish the image of Islam,” the July 24 editorial read. “We haven’t heard one single voice in the camp of moderate Islam condemning taking women prisoner or expropriating peaceful citizens’ property and money for ISI in Mosul, or any who distanced themselves from the shocking fatwas that seem to be carefully formulated for [maximum] service to the enemy.”
The actions of the extreme militants threatens “not only Christians or Iraq,” but serves as a warning about the potential elimination of the region’s ethnic and religious minorities, the editorial continued.
“Therefore, an Arab position that attempts to downplay the dangers of the cancerous spread of terrorist organizations in the region … in order to serve the political agendas will actually be an accessory to the crimes against humanity, and will morally legitimize criminals who have lost any vestige of their humanity,” it read.
S’ad Al-Din Ibrahim, an Egyptian sociologist and human rights activist, likened the group to “neo-Nazis” who terrorized Christians, Iraq’s “smallest and weakest" community.
“[IS leader] Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi gave them two days to [either] embrace Islam, leave without any of their property, or be killed and wiped out,” Ibrahim wrote in the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm. “Had Islam’s greatest enemies wanted to harm its [reputation] amongst all of mankind, they would not have succeeded like this savage, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, has succeeded.”
Columnist Ahmad Al-Sarraf took a more sarcastic approach against the militant group in his take in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, calling on all Christians in the region to flee immediately so Muslims can “turn to killing” each other.
“Get out of our hair! Go, all of you! We hate you and do not want to see you among us,” Al-Sarraf wrote. “We are tired of progress, civilization, openness, tolerance, love, brotherhood, coexistence and leniency … Leave, we have nothing in common. Go!”
On Friday, the European Union sought to build a unified front against the militants. Several EU nations pledged additional humanitarian aid and raised the possibility of directly arming Kurdish fighters battling Sunni insurgents.
"First of all we need to make sure that we alleviate humanitarian suffering," Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans told reporters following an emergency meeting of the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers in Brussels. "Secondly, I believe we need to make sure that IS is not in a position to overrun the Kurds or to take a stronger hold on Iraq."
An estimated 1,700 radicalized Muslims from France, Britain and Germany are believed to have joined the ongoing fighting. In May, a French Islamist who had fought in Syria was believed to have killed four people at Brussels Jewish Museum.
"These are crises ... that are of concern to our European neighborhood, to our security and stability," said Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini.
Earlier this week, Egypt's top religious authority also condemned Islamic State, characterizing it as a corrupt organization severely damaging Islam.
"An extremist and bloody group such as this poses a danger to Islam and Muslims, tarnishing its image as well as shedding blood and spreading corruption,” Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam said, according to state news agency MENA.
The grand mufti's view represents the opinion of Al Azhar, one of the world's oldest seats of Muslim learning, which influences the opinions of Muslims worldwide, Al Arabiya reports.
The largest Muslim civil rights organization in the United States has also rebuked the militants and repudiated those who encourage Americans and others to join extremist groups.
"American Muslims view the actions of ISIS as un-Islamic and morally repugnant," the Council on American-Islamic Relations said in a statement earlier this month. "No religion condones the murder of civilians, the beheading of religious scholars or the desecration of houses of worship. We condemn the actions of ISIS and reject its assertion that all Muslims are required to pay allegiance to its leader."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.