LONDON — A country in the throes of war, America has been battling an ever elusive enemy: radicalism. A force with many names and many masks, this threat appears to have compounded into the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, arguably the world’s fiercest and most immediate enemy.
Because of a self-professed affiliation with Islam, ISIS and other violent fundamentalist groups like it have left Muslims around the world to constantly defend themselves and justify their faith against the fury of fundamentalism. Often attacked and accused of harboring “genocidal” sentiments toward Christians and Jews, Muslims have suffered many humiliations because of the folly of a psychotic minority.
Yet one Islamic scholar has vowed not to allow his faith to be slandered or exploited to hateful ends. Dr. John Andrew Morrow, a Canadian-born cleric, researcher and author, is building a movement to oppose terror at its root and inspire an interfaith network strong enough to weather the storm of intolerance.
“Rather than argue theology with blood-thirsty savages, we thought instead to lead by example. In Islam we had a tradition that was cultivated for over a thousand years called futuwwa, or chivalry. Muslims used to compete with each other in nobility. As Imam Ali said: ‘Be a friend of the oppressed and an enemy of the oppressors,’” Morrow told MintPress News.
With America’s military superpower securing just a few victories against ISIS, Morrow and others sympathetic to his cause have decided to step in and offer a different approach to this war of faiths.
“ISIS is more than just a threat to world powers and world nations, ISIS is the very negation of civilization. It seeks to destroy to better subjugate. This group’s sole purpose has been to annihilate a region’s historical, religious, ethnic and social heritage to impose its dogma over the ruins of a people’s soul,” Rabbi Meir Hirsch from the Neturei Karta, a Jewish organization that denounces Zionism as antithetical to Judaism, told MintPress.
Tens of thousands of Yezidis fell under ISIS fire last year in Iraq, pinned by its militants in the most abject conditions. This centuries-old religious community, rooted in the ancient land of Mesopotamia, faces complete annihilation. Recalling the horror of ISIS’ brutal campaign against Iraq’s Yezidis, a report in the Huffington Post early this month reads:
“One year ago this week, the self-proclaimed Islamic State in the Levant — otherwise known as ISIS — perpetrated a genocide against the Yazidi in Sinjar. Tens of thousands of men, women and children fled to Mount Sinjar, where they were trapped for days. Hundreds were massacred by ISIS, and dozens of lives were taken by starvation and dehydration. A U.N. report noted other gross human rights abuses, forced conversions and the abduction of women and girls.”
An estimated 500,000 Yezidis now risk death under the rule of ISIS’ self-proclaimed leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The Yezidis are not unique in being marked for death by ISIS. The militant organization targets Christians, Alawites, Shiite Muslims and Sufis, as well. Even Sunni Muslims have been persecuted, although ISIS claims itself from this creed.
The Islam of ISIS is rooted in Wahhabism, a harsh interpretation of the Scriptures which advocates for the annihilation of all dissenting voices.
President Barack Obama held a lecture at American University on Aug. 5, where he discussed alternatives to war and military intervention in general, aiming to instead achieve peace through diplomacy. And though Obama was alluding to Iran and the recently inked Iran nuclear agreement, Morrow, American poet and metaphysician Charles Upton, and Detroit-based Bishop Francis Kalabat of the Eastern Rite uniate churches, among others, also recognize the wisdom in not giving in to military impulses to bring about peace.
They choose to look toward mutual support and religious solidarity to oppose the creeping advances of radicalism, opting to defeat terror ideology with religious inclusion and tolerance rather than bombs and threats. While such interfaith efforts have mainly revolved around a Christian-Muslim collaboration, Morrow is hoping Jewish organizations and other religious denominations will also answer his calls.
Dr. John Morrow and the Covenant Foundation
In October 2013, Dr. John Andrew Morrow published “The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad and the Christians of the World.” Meant as both a testament and a witness to Islam’s commitment to interfaith solidarity, Morrow’s book has resonated with both Muslims and Christians.
In denunciation of the dogma of Wahhabi-inspired radicals, Morrow’s book seeks to confirm and reaffirm the rulings of the true Islamic law, or Shariah, on the treatment of non-Muslims based on newly re-discovered documents that record the Prophet Muhammad’s actual words.
The book features a trove of historical documents, each highlighting Islam’s commitment to peace and interfaith harmony. “Born not in war but in respect,” Morrow told MintPress, “Islam was never meant as weapon of war against other nations and other faiths — only as guidance for those who wished to accept its truth.”
As word spread and as more gathered around Morrow’s work, all sensing the opportunity behind such a powerful and universal message of peace, the Covenants Initiative was born.
Inspired by Morrow and organized by Charles Upton, an American intellectual and author, a movement began to take form, centered in the belief that there’s a better way to fight terror than endless war.
Morrow described the outreach behind the book, as well as the response it’s enjoyed so far:
“‘The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World’ has been endorsed by leading Western academics as well as leading Sunni, Shiite and Sufi scholars. Our efforts have received the blessings of Al Habib Ali Al Jifri, the pope, and several Christian patriarchs. We have presented copies of the Covenants of the Prophet to all major Christian leaders in the Muslim world and abroad in an attempt to defend the dignity of the Prophet, improve Christian-Muslim relations, and, perhaps, save some human lives in the process.”
Beyond a simple intellectual exercise, Morrow wants to encourage others, regardless of their religious denomination within Islam, to come forth and honor the teachings of the Quran and the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad by standing for the oppressed.
“In short, we refuse to stand still while atrocities are being committed in the name of Allah, the Prophet, Islam, the Quran, the Sunnah, and the Shariah,” Morrow stressed. “To do this we need all hands on deck: Christians, Jews, Muslims … all.”
The Genocide Initiative
Intent on enacting Islam’s covenant with Christianity and all Abrahamic faiths, Dr. Morrow and Charles Upton reached out to clerics, researchers and men of the cloth, hoping to build a powerful network against religious extremism and intolerance.
Morrow’s book and website both contain The Covenants Initiative, a declaration Muslims can sign, acknowledging their acceptance of the treaties of Muhammad as legally binding for Muslims today. The initiative, which has already been signed by over 20,000 people from all walks of life, offers Muslims a way to stand in solidarity with peaceful Christians, who are also under attack by corrupt and misguided terrorists who falsely claim to act in the name of Islam in the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world.
In the light of reports that world powers have covertly financed terror to use as a weapon of mass destruction to promote a neo-colonialist agenda, Morrow’s efforts could help introduce new dynamics and dispel the misconception that ISIS and groups like it are pushing Islamic ambitions.
On July 29, Bishop Francis Kalabat suggested the launch of the “Genocide Initiative” in partnership with the Covenants Initiative — Muslims and Christians united against those who have declared war on God himself by defiling His Message.
Bishop Kalabat writes in a letter addressed to Morrow and Upton:
“I believe that the Muslim community has a great role to play in this initiative but I am not a great believer in demonstrations. The Pope himself has made many pleads to stop the atrocities committed by ISIS/ISIL/IS and I know that the USCCB continues to play a vital role.
I do have an initiative that can bring greater focus on a common act that we can all work towards, and that is getting to proclaim the acts of ISIS/ISIL/IS to be genocide, not just in the media, not just in the wordings of some of our politicians, but by the US Congress and by the United Nations. But entities have proclaimed their acts as “crimes against humanity” but never proclaimed them for what they truly are; genocide. This must be a coordinated effort that can be done on a local level with our elected leaders and the religious leaders playing a role. Greater awareness can then be brought to these persecuted Christians and maybe a greater response from the world leaders.
Let’s begin the Genocide Initiative and ask God’s blessings in doing so.”
Morrow answered the Catholic leader’s letter with a resounding yes.
Bishop Kalabat’s offer to call on world leaders to recognize ISIS’ crimes as genocide have far-reaching political ramifications. So much so that it could potentially change official narratives on terror and open new, unexpected avenues toward solving this modern plague.
Mainstream American and Western media and officials have long held onto one basic position on terror: Muslims and Islam are to blame for the atrocities committed in the name of the faith.
The fact that Muslims themselves have been and continue to be the primary victims and targets of ISIS and its brothers in arms — al-Qaida, the Taliban and Boko Haram — has been largely ignored by the media.
“Rather than fathom that Muslims are not the enemy, for Muslims neither speak nor recognize the radical language of ISIS, the Western establishment has chosen to criminalize Islam and label its people under suspected terrorists ad nauseam,” said Dr. Morrow.
“This is what we hope to change with the Genocide Initiative. We want to make that first step where the world would recognize and hear the cries of all of our martyrs, whether Christians, Shiites, Sunnis, Yezidis, Alawites … We cannot tolerate for men such as al-Baghdadi to speak the Quran and associate with Islam when everything his group stands for is a negation of the Islamic faith.”
The Genocide Initiative came just as America shifted, even if ever so slightly, its policy toward Iran, a potential critical partner against ISIS.
Iran has been Washington’s designated nemesis since the onset of the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the Iranian people came together to reject the despotic rule of the U.S.- installed dictator the Shah to reclaim their political self-determination.
Although the Iran nuclear agreement had been described as “tentative” it nevertheless stands witness to Tehran and Washington’s desire to forge a new path and establish new relationships, if not friendships.
Long before any deal was actually reached, Iran proved its worth in fighting ISIS in Iraq when it committed its military power to stop the advances of ISIS militias.
“Iran has entered the fight to retake a major Iraqi oil refinery from Islamic State militants, contributing small numbers of troops – some operating artillery and other heavy weapons – in support of advancing Iraqi ground forces,” the Guardian reported, citing a U.S. defense official, in May.
The Genocide Initiative could be yet another cornerstone to this rapprochement of nations, people and faiths against terror.
As Morrow pointed out, religious communities simply cannot afford to look on while Muslims and Christians alike are murdered and brutalized en masse, their sons and daughters enslaved and humiliated, their books defiled and their shrines broken, their faith mocked and their prophets insulted.
“It is time for all faiths to come together and say in one voice: ‘Not in our name!’”