Last Friday, at least seven United Nations workers were killed (including two who were beheaded) and several more were injured after officials said a protest in Afghanistan against a Florida pastor’s burning of the Quran turned violent.

On Saturday, the deadly attacks extended to Kandahar. Nine have been killed and several were also injured.

The violent reactions of the Muslims on the streets, which have resulted in the killing of many innocents, are a result of the perception that Islam has been insulted. This has occurred on several other occasions such as the publishing of cartoons of prophet Mohamed by a Danish newspaper, the comments of one of the participants in a beauty queen competition about prophet Mohamed in Nigeria November 21, 2002, and rumors that US military persons have insulted the Quran.

Preventing Islamist violent reaction in the future cannot simply occur by preventing people from insulting Islam. This approach can be un-Constitutional and is practically impossible.

The barbaric reaction to the Quran burning demonstrates the existence of several factors that may have contributed to such unjustifiable and unacceptable atrocities.

These factors include:

  1. Tolerating – in several parts of the Muslim world the use of violence, when it empowers religious values, gives justification and prepares some Muslims psychologically to use violence or resort to its use to express their religious views and opinions.
  2. Undervaluing the life of Non-Muslims- traditional mainstream Sharia Law books teach that the monetary compensation for killing a Non-Muslim is half of that of a Muslim. This is an important root cause for disrespecting human life and justifying attacking and killing Non-Muslims.
  3. Failure to use Islamic Education to empower certain Quranic values that can prevent such violent reaction. These include “Not punishing someone for the mistakes of others” (Quran 35:18) and “respecting human life” (Quran 5:32).
  4. Individual Thinking- There is a failure of the educational systems and Media to encourage individual thinking instead of the mob or “Umma” mentality. The latter way of thinking suppresses individual thinking in favor of the thinking of the group around him. This makes that person more vulnerable to participate in such violent acts.
  5. Failure of legal systems to make the Mullahs who incite hatred and violence responsible for the outcome of their teaching. The violent response against the UN personnel occurred after Friday prayer. It is vital to know what has been said exactly in the ceremony that could have led to such brutal demonstrations.
  6. Failure of the Islamic scholars to denounce the terrorists (NOT terrorism) in strong words that are powerful enough to deter Muslims from participating in acts of violence. Using expressions to describe these acts as being “Un-Islamic”, or “No religion will justify such acts” are too weak to deter Muslims who are driven by religious zeal to participate in such violent acts.

Prevention of similar barbaric responses in the future MUST be holistic and multidimensional.
Suggested steps to prevent similar violent reaction in the future include:

  1. Islamic Religious scholars MUST issue a Fatwa, calling those Muslims who contributed to the violent attacks that result in killing “Apostates,” if they do not repent. Unfortunately, such expressions are needed to decrease participation of Muslims in such violent acts in the future.
  2. Islamic teaching MUST give more emphasis on the Quranic values that can prevent generalization and show respect for Human life. For example; the Quran clearly states that it is unacceptable to punish a person for the actions of another one (Quran 35:18) and that “killing an innocent human soul is equal to killing all humanity” (Quran 5:32). The above values–if taught properly–could have prevented the attack on and the killing of the innocent UN personnel who have no relation, at all, to the act of burning the Quran.
  3. Encouraging individual thinking instead of Mob or ‘Umma‘ mentality in the Muslim world can be achieved via proper educational tactics. These tactics must modify the thinking process of individuals and can be assisted by certain Quranic verses that establish the meaning that each individual will be judged based upon his personal deeds and actions (Quran 19:95: “And everyone will come to the Lord singly on the day of judgment”).
  4. Negative reinforcement psychological tactics MUST be used to decrease the possibility of similar barbaric attacks in the future. These tactics include clarifying to radical Muslims that such an attack on the UN is likely to create more hatred to Islam and thus can cause more Qurans to be burned–rather than the other way around. The Muslim scholars need to explain this to the Muslim world and put the sin of burning Qurans–that may happen in the future–on the shoulders of Muslims who conduct these violent acts.

Feeling the individual responsibility for burning more Qurans as a result of the violent acts is an important deterrent factor that can prevent religiously motivated Muslims from participating in similar violent atrocities. The Quranic verse (Quran 6:108: “Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance”) can be used as a model to teach Muslims that merely insulting others–let alone killing them–is a major sin, as these acts can bring more insults to the religion.

Finally, winning the war against Radical Islam cannot only occur at the military front. Furthermore, it is practically impossible to stop criticism of Islam. The prevention of future–and probably more devastating–atrocities by violent Muslims requires the proper use of ideological, educational and psychological tactics.