Middle East

Islamic State: Mid-East press urges Islamic discourse reform

The Koran

A call to renew Islam's religious discourse has been gaining momentum in Middle Eastern press in the wake of the brutal killing of a captured Jordanian pilot by Islamic State (IS) militants.

Amid the condemnations, commentators are discussing new ways to fight IS ideologically, two days after the jihadist group circulated a 20-minute graphic video showing Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burnt alive.

'Misunderstanding Islam'

"Do not say Islam is innocent of such thoughts [burning people alive]. Islam has not been innocent since the lunatics and psychopaths started interpreting sayings according to their own mentality," Hidah Hizam of Algeria's pro-government Al-Fadjr writes.

He adds that the Koran and religion in general need to be freed from the ideas of "the lunatic" Ibn Taymiyah, whose writings are used by al-Qaeda to justify its acts.

"The incident reveals psychological disorder and a misunderstanding of Islam and requires quick action to renew religious discourse," Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper says in a front-page editorial.

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Image caption "Abdullah vows to fight terrorism in its den", says UAE's Al-Khalij newspaper; Egyptian Al-Ahram's front page editorial says: "Awaiting the reformers (of the faith)"

It says Islamic literature and fatwas or judgements written over many centuries should be "purified of ideas which might have been acceptable in the olden days, but contradict the essence of Islam".

"We are running out of time and there is no escape from this difficult task," it concludes.

'Stop brainwashing'

Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi began the call for a new religious approach to purify Islamic literature from ideas not inherent in the Muslim holy book - the Koran - and the Sunnah, the prophet's sayings and actions.

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Image caption Egyptian President Sisi's call for a new religious approach has been gaining support

The same call is echoed in an editorial in the UAE's pro-government Al-Bayan, headlined: "Ebola of thinking".

"Military and intelligence wars are inevitable, but this is not enough. Renewing religious discourse and dotting the i's and crossing the t's are required to stop the brainwashing going on with the participation of official and non-official institutions," the paper says.

Hasan Ali Karam in Kuwait's centrist Al-Watan daily calls on scholars and the media to "stand up to the exaggerations and deviations which were introduced to religion by extremists who seek power".

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Image caption Jordan's Arab nationalist Al-Arab al-Yawm calls for an end to a "dark era"

Although Jordanian papers give much space to King Abdullah's remarks that pilot Al-Kasasbeh's blood was not spilt in vain, Arab nationalist Al-Arab al-Yawm paper calls for "an end to the epoch of ignorance [darkness]".

The paper says there is no room for compromises and that everyone must reject "these mercenaries who penetrated our [Arab] societies under religious banners that have nothing to do with true Islam."

"Our first battle is with those who hijacked Islam and misinterpreted it," writer Yahya Shuqayr says in the daily.

Many regional papers quote Egypt's Al-Azhar, the highest worldwide Sunni authority, as saying that the opinions IS depends on to justify burning people alive were introduced long ago by "liars", adding that the prophet prohibited even the "burning of ants".

Clarification of stance

Commentators are discussing what other steps can be taken, with some urging groups to clarify where they stand on Islamic State.

Salih al-Qallab in Jordan's Al-Ra'y daily says that the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan needs to declare where it stands, rather than taking "evasive positions and using unacceptable justifications to defend those monsters".

Jordan's private Al-Dustur urges "exposing all those who support terrorist groups without hesitation".

Muafaq Mahadin of Jordan's Al-Arab al-Yawm daily goes further, calling for a ban on all groups and political parties which "feed into darkness and Takfiri [extremist Sunni] thoughts".

UAE's pro-government Al-Khalij says terrorism needs to be tackled on all fronts, with no group singled out for special treatment. "Everybody has to give up policies that differentiate between terrorist groups because of certain interests or calculations."

Like Al-Bayan, it compares extremism to a disease, and says: "Narrow self-interest is behind the spread of such an epidemic."

Jamal Kamil in Iranian Arabic-language daily Al-Wifaq calls on people who justify IS actions by saying that they defend Sunni believers to reconsider their position, considering that most victims in Syria, Iraq and the Middle East are Sunni rather than Shia.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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