In an earlier post I wrote that “although Obama and other Western leaders must keep their countries safe from terrorism, and join with Muslim leaders in defeating ISIS, in the end it is up to Muslims to destroy this virulent branch that is now attacking the trunk from which it grows.” I’ll have more to say about this soon, but for now I’ll note that one practical reason why is credibility. Muslims who are with ISIS or are nonplused will — all else being equal — take more seriously arguments from their fellow Muslims, particularly those who are devout.
It is encouraging, then, that on September 24 a distinguished international group of Muslim leaders published an open letter to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State, and to the Islamic State’s “fighters and followers.” The letter is an impressive document, covering proper rules of exegesis of the Quran and Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) and engaging in a great deal of its own exegesis that counters the textual interpretations of ISIS. This is all to the good — for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. That said, Ayman S. Ibrahim puts some probing questions to the document, including its ambiguity regarding Muslim violence against non-Muslims and its attitude toward restoration of the caliphate per se. This kind of probing is important, and one hopes that the signatories of the letter will consider them and issue some kind of postscript.