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Moderate Muslims have long been opposed to terrorist groups like ISIS and Hamas

Moderate Muslims have long been opposed to terrorist groups like ISIS and Hamas
Bahrain’s Crown Prince attends the IISS Manama Dialogue, becoming the first Arab leader to publicly condemn Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel on October 07. Image: Reuters.

During a keynote address at the opening of the three-day IISS Manama Security Conference on November 17, Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa became the first Arab leader to publicly denounce Hamas’ terrorist attacks on October 07, saying that he ‘unequivocally’ condemns the group’s ‘barbaric’ and ‘horrific’ actions.

Although such a condemnation has been commonplace throughout the western world, Al-Khalifa’s remarks represent a major turning point in the Arab world despite many Arab nations and Muslims alike long opposed to Hamas as they were with ISIS.

As outlined by Lamya Kaddor, a German MP with Syrian roots to the Financial Times, Muslims around the world are ‘really afraid… of being lumped together with Hamas supporters’ as further details around the atrocities of October 07 continue to emerge.

There are widespread calls for more Muslim leaders to, as with the Crown Prince of Bahrain, voice their disapproval of Hamas’ actions, as it is clear that the actions taken by radical terrorist groups such as Hamas do not represent all Muslims.

In Britain, over a dozen clerics recently signed a statement denouncing the events of October 07 which saw the targeted killings of over 1,000 innocent Israelis. Signatories include Shayk Ibrahim Mogra, former assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain and Shaykh Dr Musharraf Hussain, a prominent Nottingham-based imam and scholar.

On the other side of the Atlantic in the US, the co-founder of the Muslim American Leadership Alliance, Zainab Khan (who grew up in Afghanistan) explained in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece how when ISIS were at their peak of power she felt ‘compelled’ to counter messages spread by the group in the name of Islam.

Following Hamas’ terrorist attack, Khan notes how her organisation expressed ‘solidarity with our Jewish and Israeli friends’ but that much of the engagement it received saw messages of solidarity with Palestinians instead of Jews.

Discussing this further, Khan calls on fellow Muslims to ‘bear the cost of remaining silent’ and instead work to build peace, rhetoric welcomed by many.

Khan’s comments and wider Muslim condemnations of Hamas’ actions are supported by recent polling conducted in July 2023, three months prior to Hamas’ terrorist attack.

Polling data conducted by the Washington Institute in July shows that 50 percent of Gazans agreed with a proposal calling for Hamas to stop wishing for Israel’s destruction and instead accept a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. Furthermore, 70 percent of Gazans surveyed said they would prefer to live under the authority of the Palestinian Authority (PA) rather than Hamas, a view maintained since the first polling conducted in 2014.

In 2015, a massive 88 percent of Gazans surveyed said they would prefer for the PA to take over authority in Gaza from Hamas, demonstrating that those living in Gaza under Hamas’ rule have long wished for the group’s extremist ideology to cease so that they could live better lives.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, similar numbers can be seen.

The same polling conducted by the Washington Institute shows that in the United Arab Emirates, just 17 percent of citizens expressed a positive view (August 2023) of Hamas, with just 10 percent of Saudi citizens viewing the group positively.

Such favourability rankings of Hamas align almost perfectly with opinions of ISIS during their reign of terror several years ago.

Pew Research data from 2017 shows that Jordanians had a 94 percent unfavourable opinion of ISIS in 2015, with 84 percent of those in the Palestinian territories viewing the terrorist group negatively.

With such unfavourable opinions of radical Islam globally and a clear correlation between Muslim opinions of terror groups like Hamas and ISIS, wider public condemnations by Muslims matching those outlined above should become more commonplace. Without such remarks, a dangerous vacuum lurks whereby radical ideologies in the name of Islam are allowed to prevail when in fact they go precisely against the religion.

As the situation in Gaza continues developing, Muslims around the world will be keen not to be grouped with radical Islam and groups like Hamas. It remains clear that extremist Islamist ideologies called for by such groups do not align with a majority of Muslims who in fact simply want peace.

The events of October 07 were brutal, horrific and ultimately something unrepresentative of how Muslims really feel.

With key Muslim figures around the world now being clear in their public condemnations of Hamas’ actions, it is vital that more convert their private condemnations of Hamas to public statements. Not only is this the obvious right move from a humanitarian perspective, but it also ensures that moderate Muslims are not grouped together and subsequently targeted alongside a minority expressing radical views.

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