Nearly 150 people were killed in Kenya in a brutal attack on a university by a terrorist organization called al-Shabab. Reports claim that the militants specifically singled out Christian students.

Al-Shabab and other extremist groups, who claim to be working for Islam, fail to recognize the very meaning of being a Muslim. Not only is this act of barbarity a complete departure from the Islamic teachings, it is against the very nature of humans to be so violent and barbaric. Such lack of empathy suggests extreme abnormalities in the minds of those who willingly carry out these atrocities. To refer to these people as "religious" would be a mistake. To call them psychopaths would be appropriate. In fact, the Islamic scripture, the Quran, refers to such people as "diseased" (chapter 2: verse 10).


In the last couple of months, extremist groups in the Middle East, Pakistan and even Africa have increasingly targeted Christian populations in the name of Islam. As a Muslim, I can tell you that nothing is further from the teachings of Islam than taking innocent lives. The Quran says killing one person is like killing the entire mankind (5:32). In this verse, the Quran does not address a single faith or race. In fact, if you study the rhetoric, the verse clearly suggests that all life is sacred — regardless of faith, ethnicity or race.

As Muslims, Islam commands us to show love and respect to people of all faiths — including Christians. Jesus is mentioned by name in the Quran five times more often than the Prophet Muhammad. In fact, there is an entire chapter in the Quran named after Jesus' mother, Mary.

Islam supports religious harmony, yet extremist groups are bent on misleading the world into thinking that Muslims cannot coexist peacefully with other faiths. I would not expect an extremist to be open-minded, but if only they tried to study the life of Prophet Muhammad, they would know that he showed utmost respect for all religions. Once, as a Jewish funeral procession was passing by, the Prophet stood up in respect. His companions inquired the reason for his action, to which the Prophet simply replied: "Was he not a human? Respect for all humans is obligatory." Notice here that the Prophet did not say respect is mandatory for all "Muslims." In fact, he said "all" people deserve respect.

The teachings of the Quran and the actions of the Prophet Muhammad are in direct contradiction to the actions of al-Shabab or ISIS. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that extremists are driven by a motive to serve their own agendas, rather than Islam. Recently, a former ISIS hostage, Didier Francois, said all his conversations with his captors revolved around politics — not religion. "It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran," Mr. Francois told CNN in an interview.

The Quran refers to extremists in the following words: "And when it is said to them, 'Do not cause corruption on the Earth,' they say, 'We are but reformers,'" (2:11). Today, ISIS, al-Shabab and other insurgent groups claim to be "reforming" Islam when in fact they are only corrupting its sacred teachings. The Quran also goes on to say that corrupt souls cannot recognize the truth because on their eyes is a "veil" and on their hearts is a "seal," (2:07). Truly, the world in modern times has not known such ignorance as being displayed by extremist groups like ISIS or al-Shabab. These are people who have eyes that cannot see, who have hearts that cannot feel. To call them human would be a disgrace to the human race; to call them monsters would be more fitting.

Today, Muslim communities all over the world are battling a double edged sword: extremism in the broader world and sectarian violence within Islam. We must learn to put our differences aside so we can combat the growing cancer of extremism. My voice alone cannot make a difference. This is why I urge Muslim communities around the world to speak up against these atrocities and to show the world through cohesive action that coexistence is possible.

Huma Munir is a writer for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women Association. Her email is humamunir1989@gmail.com.