The militant activities of the Islamic State (IS) and its counterparts have contributed to the rise of moderate Islam in the Islamic world. The fact is that it is Muslims, of all sects, who have suffered the most at the hands of these groups.
A 2012 US National Counterterrorism Center report revealed: “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97% of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.”
The violence has created among Muslims a general feeling of solidarity with the non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East and Westerners who fell prey to these groups.
The recent killing of a number of journalists at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in Paris is no exception. Through their target selection, extremists were betting on the attack winning them wider social support from Muslims, as the target was a sensitive and controversial subject among Muslims.
Despite the many Islamic objections to the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, the result was the opposite: The Muslim world largely responded by denouncing the terrorist act, not the cartoons.
Egypt’s Al-Azhar fully condemned the terrorist incident, while Iraqi clerics and authorities criticized the attack and Shiite cleric Sayyed Hussein al-Sadr condemned the behavior of militant groups that made the Prophet Muhammad appear as a “butcher.”
Tehran’s substitute Friday prayer leader Ahmad Khatami condemned the attack, saying, “We fully condemn this terrorist act and announce that Islam does not allow the killing of innocent people.” This position is a radical change in the policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose founder’s fatwa calling for the death of novelist Salman Rushdie had set a precedent for fatwas against those insulting Islamic sanctities.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a statement fully denouncing the terrorist act and asserting, “Iraq stands at the forefront of countries supporting France and all the states affected by terrorism.” Popular demonstrations in the streets of Baghdad have made many Iraqis’ position on the murders clear.
This outpouring of sentiment has concerned militant groups in the Muslim world as they incur heavy losses in their social bases. In efforts to control the damage, they have arranged protests and condemned the positions of moderate religious institutions for forsaking Islamic principles and sanctities.