Shadi Hamid writes in The Washington Post: “The impulse to separate Islam from the sins and crimes of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is understandable, and it often includes statements such as ISIS has ‘nothing to do with Islam’ or that ISIS is merely ‘using Islam’ as a pretext. The sentiment is usually well-intentioned. We live in an age of growing anti-Muslim bigotry, where mainstream politicians now feel licensed to say things that might have once been unimaginable…
“There is a role for Islamic apologetics – if defending Islam rather than analyzing it is your objective. I am a Muslim myself, and it’s impossible for me to believe that a just God could ever sanction the behavior of groups like ISIS. But if the goal is to understand ISIS, then I, and other analysts who happen to be Muslim, would be better served by cordoning off our personal assumptions and preferences. What Islam should be and what Islam is actually understood to be by Muslims (including extremist Muslims) are very different things.
“For scholars of Islamist movements and Islam’s role in politics, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, there should be one overarching objective: to understand and to explain, rather than to make judgments about which interpretations of Islam are correct, or who is or isn’t a ‘true’ Muslim… The analytical approach I’m proposing comes with its own risks. Underscoring the power of religion in general, and Islam in particular, may provide fodder for bigots who might latch on to our statements and misuse them for their own ends.
“In the end, though, it’s not my job to make Islam look good, or to argue that Islam ‘is a religion of peace,’ when the reality is more complicated. We have to be faithful to our findings and conclusions, even if – or perhaps particularly when – they make us most uncomfortable.”
Shadi Hamid is a senior fellow at the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Middle East Policy. He is author of Temptations of Power: Islamists & Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2014).
You will find Hamid’s entire article here: Does ISIS really have nothing to do with Islam?