Many in the West have come to associate the word “Muslim” with extremism and radicalization. Despite the fact that terror organizations such as the Islamic State have killed more Muslims than those of any other religion, the people who follow Islam bear the brunt of every crime these militants commit.
In the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks and the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Muslims are being demonized all over the world, and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has asked them to take it upon themselves to fix the negative perception of their religion.
“It is our greatest duty today to correct the image of Islam in world public opinion,” Rouhani told a conference on Islamic unity on Sunday. “Under the current volatile situation in the region [the Middle East] and the world of Islam, we all should feel a huge duty on our shoulder.”
The 29th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran brought together 400 scholars from 70 countries, which was definitely the perfect platform for the president to spread the message.
He urged Muslim countries to unite and strive to correct Islam’s global image, which has been tarnished by the violence committed by the Islamic State. He also told the attendees that Islamic principles opposed violence and the extremism of Islamic State as it stemmed from “narrow-mindedness and a lack of moderation.”
“Did we ever think that, instead of enemies, an albeit small group from within the Islamic world using the language of Islam, would present it as the religion of killing, violence, whips, extortion and injustice?” the Islamic leader said. “Violence starts exactly where people quit mental equilibrium and moderate dialogue.”
Although Rouhani is considered relatively moderate in the country that calls itself an authority in the Islamic world and often blames the “enemies” of the religion for its problems, his comments came as a surprise.
Along with criticizing Muslim countries for “being silent in the face of all the killing and bloodshed” in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the Iranian president also made veiled references to Saudi Arabia and its allies who bought weapons from the United States and used them against “fellow Muslims.”
“How many bombs and missiles have you purchased from America this year?” Rouhani asked. “If you had distributed the money for those bombs and missiles among poor Muslims, nobody would be going to bed hungry.”
While Iran opposes the Saudi-led aerial bombardment campaign targeting Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, it supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The country provides Assad soldiers and military expertise in the fight against the rebels and jihadists, including the Islamic State group.
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