How Many Muslims Are Extremists?
No more than in any other faith--and it's time to end the negative stereotype.
Q. Could you tell me what percentage of Muslims are fundamentalists or extremists?
Extremists are found among people of all ideologies. They do not represent the faiths, nor are they the model sample for judging people of faith. The question implies that extremism and fundamentalism are synonymous and that this extremism is a component of Islamic ideology. Both these assumptions are incorrect.
If by "fundamentalists" it is meant those who align themselves with the fundamentals of their faith, then every true believer is duty-bound to be a fundamentalist. If "fundamentalism" is equated with fanaticism or extremism, then Islam explicitly distances itself from those things. The holy Qur'an clearly states that Muslims are "those who are balanced, followers of the middle path" (Chapter 2, Verse 143); while the Prophet Muhammad stated, "destroyed are the extremists."
The first definition in Webster's dictionary for "fundamentalism" is "a movement in twentieth-century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching." How and why this term has been suffixed to Islam and Muslims, with distinct negative connotations, is as mysterious as it is diabolical. It is unfortunate that the Western media often reinforces the negative stereotyping of Islam with images of radicalism, terrorism, and militancy.
This negative portrayal is unjustified and certainly inaccurate. All people of faith are expected to live by the fundamental principles of their faith, but none has the right to be extremists.
Q. I have been reading the Qur'an, taking a copy with me wherever I go. Is this wrong? Is there a certain way I must handle the Qur'an?
As people of faith, we are obliged to respect all avenues of learning, and books certainly are a symbol of such learning. If due respect is to be accorded to books in general, how much more should we respect that which we consider to be the ultimate source of guidance?
The Qur'an is the documentation of the final "divine revelation, a source of guidance for all humanity" (Chapter 2, Verse 185). Though it is a book, ink on paper, it contains the sacred words of Allah, which gives it a degree of sanctity. It must therefore be treated with the utmost respect.