‘A disturbed craze for religion’

Egyptian scholar debunks misplaced interpretation of Islam and Quran by terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIL.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and other members of the royal family attended the inaugural Ramadan lecture in Abu Dhabi on Monday. Rashed Al Mansoori / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi
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ABU DHABI // Extremist movements have no scientific or religious argument to back their violent ideologies, said Dr Usama Sayyid Al Azhari, an adviser to Egypt’s president.

The Egyptian religious scholar made the claim in a talk entitled “Misconceptions of Extremist Movements”, the first in the annual Ramadan Lecture Series at Al Bateen Palace on Monday “Extremist movements have no curriculum to base their teachings on. I’ve studied all of the movements of the past 80 years and realised that they don’t have any scientific or religious teachings that can back up their violent ideologies,” Dr Al Azhari said.

“They’ve got a disturbed craze for religion and nothing else.”

Dr Al Azhari said that most of the extremist groups, including Al Qaeda, ISIL and Boko Haram, have similar patterns of thinking that people can learn from so as to prevent new groups from emerging. The pattern has been the same for the past 80 years or so, he said. One of the tactics those groups use is to shatter the idea of a home nation.

“Nations are a collective narrative of a group of people’s history and culture. Unfortunately, those groups try to limit the concept of a nation to nothing but a handful of sand,” he said.

This was like saying the Quran “is nothing but a group of pages, not a way of life, with rules and laws for all of humanity”, Dr Al Azhari said. “We are facing one dark philosophy with a grim vision that’s using inaccurate Quranic translations to alienate and expiate everyone from the tolerant teachings of Islam.”

Dr Al Azhari also highlighted the importance of using new frontiers such as social media to fight the wrongly perceived message of Islam. “God has given scholars the sacred duty to raise awareness. We are the qualified people who can spread that message properly, unlike those groups who are talking in the name of religion,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of this knowledge is trapped in books and is not easily accessible to those who need it the most. Social media is bombarded with messages of evil that need us to refute them.”

Ahmed Al Ahbabi, 31, commended the first lecture of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Majlis and its message of refuting extremist thinking.

“It was refreshing to hear someone speak of all the incoherent and violent things that unfortunately people are associating with our religion,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate and sad. We need more people to speak against that.”

Mohammed Al Zarooni, 30, is looking forward to attending all eight lectures of the majlis.

“These lectures are very informative and they always host prominent speakers from different parts of the world,” said Mr Al Zarooni.

The lecture was attended by members of the royal family including Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, National Security Adviser, Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation, and Sheikh Suroor bin Mohammed as well as the UAE President’s guests scholars, sheikhs, ministers, ambassadors and members of the media.