The recent attack and murder of Ismailis in Indonesia is a sad testament to the state of the Muslim community. Stories of persecution of minorities in the Muslim world are all too common (see this link, and this, and this, for instance). Often this persecution stems from religious intolerance, and the judgment that religious minorities (whether they be Shi’a in Sunni lands, Sunnis in Shi’a lands, Ahmedis, Ismailis, or other Islamic splinter groups) are not “true Muslims,” or that they have left the faith altogether. This judgment stands contrary to the Islamic teaching that only God knows what is in a person’s heart, and that faith is between the believer and God, not a matter about which believers should judge one another.
Even if one believes that someone else is mistaken or blasphemous, that they have left the fold of Islam, or never entered it to begin with, it is not our job to police faith. “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” the Qur’an tells us in its second chapter. This includes not only Sunnis and Shi’ites, Ismailis and Ahmedis, but extends to Jews and Christians, to Hindus, and Buddhists and Bahais.
When such persecution descends into violence or, worse, murder, it violates teachings that ask us to want for our brothers what we want for ourselves (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim), and is patently against the verses that tell us that killing an innocent person is like killing all of humankind, and saving a person from murder is as saving all of humankind (surah, Maidah, verse 32).
The organization I co-founded, Muslims for Progressive Values, has stood out against the persecution of minorities, and at times been criticized heavily for those views from people who argue that Muslims must safeguard their faith. I believe instead, that these people need to expand their understanding of God, of faith, and what it means to be a believer. God calls him/herself Merciful, Compassionate, Responsive, Listening, all-Encompassing. It’s foolish to think that excludes people simply because they don’t follow the rituals of a particular faith, or because they approach God in their own heart-felt manner.