An 'Islamic Caliphate', a 'Caliph' - terms that are now in headlines across the globe, mostly thanks to one extremist group, The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

As ISIL captures territory declaring their caliphate, minorities have fled and journalists have been beheaded.

Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, has called on Muslims to take up arms, and thousands of fighters from around the world have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the self-declared caliphate.

They are distorting the whole message. So we have to respond to this by saying ... what you are doing, killing innocent people, implementing so-called 'Sharia' or the so-called 'Islamic State', this is against everything that is coming from Islam.

Tariq Ramadan, Islamic scholar

The group's actions are causing a backlash among Muslims who see ISIL - also known as Daesh - in contrast to their religion and past caliphates famed for tolerance.

More than 120 Muslim scholars have released a letter where they call ISIL un-Islamic and argue that the group is incorrectly using scripture to support its cause.

“They [ISIL] are distorting the whole message. So we have to respond to this by saying ... what you are doing, killing innocent people, implementing so-called 'Sharia' or the so-called 'Islamic State', this is against everything that is coming from Islam," says Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar.

"It is not a caliphate," Ramadan says about ISIL. "It is just people playing with politics referring to religious sources. And this is why [as] Muslim scholars, Muslim intellectuals, we have to be quite clear about this. We have to speak the truth and be quite clear about the fact that if they are not representing what are the Islamic principles, many of the dictators today are not representing Islam either.

"They have nothing to do with [Islamic] principles because our principles are clear: that the one who is leading should be chosen by people who are followers or citizens. So many countries who are dealing with the West are not as bad as Daesh (ISIL) today, but they are bad," he adds.

Ramadan concedes that those who speak for the mainstream understanding of Islam face a challenge for the hearts and minds of Muslims.

“The main problems of Muslims are coming from the Muslims; from Muslim-majority countries," he says. "And then when we start to be critical and say we are going to speak out against all the dictators, then some of the scholars who responded to Daesh today and are speaking about the so-called Islamic State, saying this is wrong in Islam, they are the same scholars that are supporting dictators."

This week on Talk to Al Jazeera, Tariq Ramadan speaks to Sami Zeidan about the threat of ISIL, why Islamic scholars are failing the Muslim world, and the role played by global powers and regional dictators.

Source: Al Jazeera