Published On: Tue, Sep 30th, 2014

Imam: “Islam is not here to kill or terrorize the people”

P1020788 (1024x768)WILLEMSTAD – Curaçao Chronicle sat down in a one on one conversation with the Imam of the Muslim community in Curaçao to talk about the problems currently facing the people in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq. The Imam himself is from Syria and has been living in Curaçao since 2002 serving his people on the island as the worship leader at the Mosque in Otrabanda.

When asked if the ISIS fighters are acting in accordance with the Islamic religion, he said that unfortunately this group is Muslim. “They are from the Arabic world. We even have some that come from Europe. They converted to Islam and went to Syria to become part of ISIS,” the Imam said. “We have one problem though. So many people when they hear about Jihad, they think it's about fighting and killing enemies. It's actually a sacred word.”

“Islam is founded on 5 pillars. Jihad is not mentioned at all as one of those pillars. You have the Shahadah, which is declaring that there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God's messenger. The Salat, which is the ritual prayer five times a day, the Zakat, which is giving 2.5% of one's savings to the poor and needy. You have the Sawm, which is the fasting and self-control during the holy month of Ramadan and the Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if one is able.”

According to the Imam, these are the five pillars of Islam. There is no Jihad in there. Islam as a religion means to worship God. It is to answer the question why did God send his messengers. The answer is to worship God. “The sacred word here is mercy. We believe that God, or Allah as we call him, has 99 holy names. Compassionate, kind, merciful and so on. These are the kind of things we believe in.”

“We don't believe that Islam came to kill or terrorize the people. We have a verse in the Koran, which states: Don't force anyone to change religion.”

The Imam stated emphatically that ISIS has a political program in the region. “Their mentality is to make a state for political leaders. They want to be at the head of the government. There is no verse in the Koran to defend what they are doing, which is to kill people. They explain or interpret the words of God wrongly. They want to mislead the people. Imagine that even the Muslims are confused. If we don't read the Koran, then we don't know that what they are saying or doing is wrong.”

ISIS originates from Al-Qaeda. There was no one from ISIS in Syria, where it started. The people from Syria started a revolution for democracy. The Imam told Curaçao Chronicle that the Al Assad regime in Syria started killing people. “You can even say, make sure you write this down, that which ISIS is doing, is only one percent of what the Al Assad regime did or is doing to the people. He even launched chemical weapons on his own people. It's a war, a disaster. If this regime stays in Syria, we will see more fanatics joining ISIS. We will see more terrorism. All because of the Al Assad regime. We have to get rid of that regime.”

According to the Imam, there were about five to ten thousand people who came to Syria to help in the fight against the regime. If that regime is thwarted, then these people will go back home and the Syrians will have a democracy.

The Imam believes that ISIS is doing something very dangerous, especially according to the Islamic religion. “They are killing in the name of God. We don't see anything in history or in the Koran that supports that. God doesn't want us to do that. This understanding of Islam is wrong and very extremist.”

The word Jihad in the Koran means to defend oneself. Now, you have the offensive Jihad and the defensive Jihad. “We are against the offensive Jihad, which is what the ISIS is doing. They are attacking people. The ISIS misinterprets the Jihad. They also force others to embrace the Islam otherwise they would be killed. “In the Koran you have the defensive Jihad, you protect yourself if you are being attacked.”

“I want to tell you that the neighbor of our prophet Muhammad was a Jew. In Medina these people lived together, there were many Jews in Saudi Arabia. That's how it should be. We should live peacefully together. One day, when his neighbor was sick, the prophet went to visit him. He's a man and should be respected for that. If someone dies, doesn't matter what religion, you have to respect the soul. There were relations between the Muslims and the Jews.”

The Imam stated that the people are more hostile now. They are more savage or barbaric. They don't have a ray of hope. They have no future. “They call me now from Syria asking me what they should do. They tell me that the Al Assad regime is launching rockets and killing them. So they are only thinking about blood shedding. Go and kill the people! They are hostile about Europe and America because they are not helping them. They are helping Al Assad. Till now, he gets weapons from Russia and Iran. And the Syrian people get only food. They could have gotten rid of this regime from the first year. We will suffer more in Syria. There will be more hunger. Everyone will suffer. International Amnesty said that this is the worst disaster of the 21st Century.”

“We, as Muslims, disagree completely with the ISIS group. Their mentality is based on terrorism. Based on rejecting and killing others. You have to be with me or I will kill you. They also kill Muslims.

People are afraid of ISIS, because they are killing more Muslims.”

According to the Imam, the ISIS started in Iraq. The Iraqi regime left everything, even weapons, missiles, tanks, cannons, in the areas where ISIS is now. ISIS took all that and went to Syria. They killed the free Syrian army in Raqqa and took over. They even left two or three refineries in Iraq for the ISIS to take over. Apparently, even the Al Assad government bought oil from them.

“I was told from my people in Syria, that the ISIS has plenty of fighters because they offer them 1000 dollars per month as a salary. If you take away that money from them, then no one will join their group.”

The Imam believes that it is difficult to get rid of ISIS in a year or two. “Right now you don't hear about Al-Qaeda. In four years you won't hear about ISIS, but there will be other groups.”

“I have a question for you. Do you think this group is serving Islam? Some people are supporting them to disturb Islam. They are not giving Islam anything. Day by day they are destroying Islam. So, this is not Islam.”

In the Muslim community in Curacao there are some people in favor of the Al Assad regime. They don't really discuss politics, but the Imam says that he always prays for the will of God. In 2012 a group of Syrian people demonstrated in Fort Amsterdam and presented a letter to the then Prime Minister of Curaçao, Gerrit Schotte. “Schotte, of course, couldn't do much for the group, but he promised that he will deliver the letter to the U.N.”

As a last message before the interview ended, the Imam said: “If they can come listen to my voice. I ask the world to help the Syrian people or the people in the region to better their mentality. Change their mindset. To create a new future for them. If they have hope they will stop. If you create a prosperous future they will stop.”

By Aldrich Hermelijn

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