Islamic Fundamentalism The Harsh Reality Religion Essay

Terrorism is a tactic, a function, and a method whose driving force is an ideological and political goal. Without such a driving force, terrorism would dry up and fail. In the 1960s and 1970s, terrorism was based on nationalist, secular views and in many cases was chauvinistic. For reasons that we will not discuss here, it started to decline in the second half of the 1970s. Despite the fact that reactionary religious movements existed throughout the twentieth century, they were never in a position to engage in terrorist activities until recently.

2. The roots of Islamic fundamentalism go back to the first centuries of Islam. But Islamic fundamentalism in its current context, theory, and power emerged after Ruhollah Khomeini came to power in Iran in 1979. The Khomeini regime transformed the idea of creating a global Islamic rule from an unachievable ideal to an achievable goal by many fundamentalist groups, and it also gave these groups global backing. [1]

3. In a historical example, in the second half of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, more than a few Marxist parties existed in Europe. But the October revolution victory of Russia’s Bolsheviks, who were much younger than many other European parties, made that movement a global one. Until the demise of the Soviet Union, even those Marxist parties that had ideological differences with Moscow used to get their credibility from it. Khomeini institutionalized the “export of revolution” and creation of a global Islamic rule, not only as an ideal but as a specific

goal and program within various parts of his constitution. The foreword of the regime’s constitution reads, in part, “Given the context of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, which was a movement for the victory of all the oppressed over the oppressors, it provides the ground for continuation of the revolution inside and outside the country, specifically in spreading international links to other Islamic and people’s movements, tries to pave the way for the creation of unique global ummah so the continuation of the struggle for the salvation of deprived and suffering nations can be settled.” Another part of the foreword, under the headline “Ideological Army,” reads, “The Army of the Islamic Republic and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. . . carry not only the duty of protecting the borders but also ideological duty, i.e., Jihad for God and struggle to spread the rule of God’s law in the world.”

4. The biggest threat facing the world today is Islamic terrorism, more so because the objective of the radical Islamists of converting the world into Islam is unattainable. As a result, unlike political and economic terrorism, of which India and the western world is largely a victim, there are no clear long term measures to deal with religious terrorism. This can only be fought by building intelligence, and therefore, the world must be prepared for a long struggle and must not give up. Islamic terrorism is now rampant in Middle East, Africa , South Asia, USA and Europe. Maps of areas affected by terrorism since the new millenium is att as appendix A, it gives us a fair idea of the vast reach of this growing menace and how it encompasses the world.

5. Terrorism is becoming more widespread in two ways. First, the number of casualties is increasing with targets becoming increasingly indiscriminate and lethality of terror tactics intensifying. Second, it is becoming more homegrown with less logistic support from abroad, thereby setting in a process of self-radicalization. [2]

6. Al Qaeda is increasingly attacking economic targets in order to crumble the global economic infrastructure. The idea is to shake the faith of the people in western economic systems. Terrorism is emerging as an equal-opportunity movement whereby it is recruiting women and younger people. It is therefore becoming more decentralized. It is becoming more costly, leading to higher investments not only in terms of dollars (macro-economic cost of security post 9/11 is US$1 trillion) but also in terms of protection of civil liberties.

7. There has been a trend towards anonymous terrorism mainly for three reasons: one, because of the fear of government’s response, second, in order to amplify fear and mystery surrounding the group; and third, because publicity is fading as an objective of terrorist strikes. Recruitment of more technologically proficient people and professionally well settled people into terror networks. This has substantially reduced the need for training camps, virtual training through the internet is now sufficient

8. These and other terrorist attacks contribute, not unreasonably, to the Western perception that all Muslims are anti-American terrorists. Terrorist attacks receive enormous media attention, and most non muslims base their views of Muslims on the stories they hear on the news. To be sure, most Westerners are unaware of Muslim customs and ideologies, except for what they learn from the media. It is important to acknowledge that not all Muslims are fundamentalists, and not all fundamentalists are terrorists. However, fundamentalism, by its very nature, carries the threat of extremism, and extremism can easily morph into violence. Islamic fundamentalists can therefore pose a terrorist threat to their enemies. Unfortunately, many Middle Easterners perceive America as an enemy. Knowing the principles of Islam is the first step toward understanding how Islamic fundamentalism can lead to terrorism. [3]

9. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and is second only to Christianity in number of adherents. Muslims live in all parts of the world, but the majority of Muslims are concentrated in the Middle East and Asia. Islam has two meanings: Peace, and submission to Allah (God). Muslims believe that Islam is the only true religion and that it was revealed by the prophet Muhammad in Arabia in the seventh century. Pious Muslims adhere to the five pillars of Islam: acknowledging that there is no true god except God and that Muhammad is the prophet of God; praying five times a day toward Mecca; giving alms to the poor; fasting during the month of Ramadan (the ninth month of the lunar year); and for those who are financially and physically able, making an annual pilgrimage to Mecca. Islam also requires belief in six articles of faith, which are belief in God, belief in the messengers and prophets of God, belief in the Revelations and the Koran (the Islamic holy book), belief in angels, belief in Judgment Day, and belief in the ultimate power of God or God’s decree. Other precepts of Islam are concerned with matters such as diet, clothing, personal hygiene, business ethics, responsibilities toward parents, spouses, and children, marriage, divorce, inheritance, civil and criminal law, fighting in defense of Islam, relations with non-Muslims, and much more. [4]

10. All Muslims believe in the six articles of faith and adhere to the five pillars of Islam, but they differ in how they interpret the Koran and the shari’a (Islamic law). There are two major divisions within Islam, the modernists and the revivalists. It can be argued that modernists believe in the inerrancy of the Koran, but they interpret its strictures in a modern context. Modernists accept secular governments, religious diversity, and the emancipation of women. Most Muslim modernists condemn terrorism and advocate individual relationships with God. On the other hand, revivalists favor a literal interpretation of the Koran and a return to traditional Islamic ideas. These Muslims are extremely pious and closely follow the teachings of the Koran and Muhammad. They regularly attend mosques, and many promote a theocratic government and enforcement of the shari’a. Revivalists are frequently referred to as Islamists or Islamic fundamentalists. [5]

11. Religious fundamentalists believe in the absolute inerrancy of their sacred texts and religious leaders. Their beliefs do not automatically translate into terrorism, but the passion and conviction that are inherent in fundamentalism teeter on the edge of extremism. Extremism or radicalism in any belief system often leads to violence because its adherents dogmatically adhere to their beliefs and consider conflicting beliefs threatening. For example, America has witnessed several acts of terrorism in the name of Christian fundamentalism, such as the bombings of abortion clinics and shootings of abortion providers. Islamic extremists manifest the same conviction and self-assurance as Christian extremists. [6]

12. Much Islamic extremism stems from a sense of displacement and alienation from the modern world. Among the many reasons for this perception is the steady decline of Islamic civilization since the Middle Ages. During Europe’s Dark Ages, Islam flourished, recording many cultural, political, literary, educational, and artistic achievements. However, Islam has declined in strength and influence since the end of the Crusades around 1500. Today, many Muslim countries suffer in extremely impoverished, unstable, and war-torn conditions. For example, Afghanistan today has the highest infant, child, and maternal mortality rates, and the lowest literacy and life expectancy rates in the world. Afghanistan’s per capita income is estimated at about $200 for a nation of 23 million. By contrast, the per capita income in America is approximately $24,000. Many Islamic extremists blame these conditions on Western imperialism and culture. [7]

13. Western presence in the Middle East planted the seeds for Islamic fundamentalism in that region during Europe’s colonial period. Beginning around the end of the eighteenth century, major European powers invaded and colonized nearly all North African and Middle Eastern countries. Europe pursued military and economic dominance over the region until the close of World War II, when a series of coups and revolutions brought nationalist governments to power in the region. Muslims resented Europe’s oppressive colonial power and the contempt that Westerners had for Middle Eastern civilization. [8]

14. In the second half of the twentieth century, Arab Muslims unsuccessfully attempted to create solidarity among the Arab nations (Pan- Arabism). When this strategy failed, many people turned to a burgeoning movement in fundamentalism. The movement gained power after the establishment of the state of Israel on Palestinian land in 1948, which many Muslims refer to as the “catastrophe.” The Cold War period from 1949 to 1989 fueled anti-Western sentiment, as Muslims saw Westerners, especially Americans, fund regimes that protected their own interests. The United States, for example, supported regimes that protected its oil supply and opposed communism. In addition, many Muslims resent the continued presence of Americans on Saudi Arabian lands after the Gulf War ended. According to terrorist Osama bin Laden, “The call to wage war against America was made because America has spear-headed the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of thousands of its troops to the land of the two Holy Mosques over and above its meddling in its affairs and its politics, and its support of the oppressive, corrupt and tyrannical regime that is in control.” [9]

15. Along with the physical presence of the United States in the Middle East, many Muslims resent American culture. Many Islamic fundamentalists argue that their culture has been subsumed by American culture, which, as a result of technology, spread rapidly throughout the world during the second half of the twentieth century. Islamic fundamentalists see Westerners as unholy and decadent, especially the Western media. They despise American immodesty and secularism, and some Islamic fundamentalist regimes, like the Taliban in Afghanistan (which was toppled by American troops during the U.S. war against terrorism), banned televisions, radios, and music to restrict non-Muslim influence in their nations. Radical Muslims contend that the spread of Western culture into the Middle East contributes to its poverty and social problems. [10]

16. According to radical Muslims, things have gone wrong in Islamic countries because they have strayed from the basic principles and traditional practices of Islam. Moreover, Western presence and influence contributed to Muslims’ deviance from the righteous path. Therefore, Islamic extremists argue that Muslims must expel Westerners from Muslim homelands, reject Western politics and customs, and return to a literal interpretation of the Koran and Muhammad’s teachings. [11]

17. Furthermore, since Islamic fundamentalists maintain that Islam is the one true religion, extremists advocate overthrowing powerful secular governments and replacing them with a single Islamic authority. According to Bassam Tibi, one of the world’s foremost specialists on Islamic fundamentalism, “The goal of Islamic fundamentalists is to abolish the Western, secular world order and replace it with a new Islamist divine order- The goal of Islamists is a new imperial, absolutist Islamic world power.” Islamic fundamentalists maintain that one of their duties as Muslims is to defend Islam from its enemies. Islamic extremists contend that Western powers— especially the United States, whom many fundamentalists characterize as the “Great Satan”—are enemies of Islam. According to Burmeister, mullahs have declared that any action taken on behalf of Islam is acceptable to God. By this rationale, Islamic extremists justify their acts of terrorism toward Westerners. Most extremists regard terrorist action toward the West as retribution for the atrocities that Western military committed in the Middle East. According to bin Laden, “The terrorism we practice is of the commendable kind for it is directed at the tyrants and the aggressors and the enemies of Allah. . . . Terrorizing those and punishing them are necessary measures to straighten things and to make them right. Tyrants and oppressors who subject the Arab nation to aggression ought to be punished. . . . America heads the list of aggressors against Muslims.” [12]

18. It is frequently said that Islam teaches two primary types of jihad.  The first, best known, and allegedly lesser form of jihad, is the outward struggle, or the drive to actively spread and enforce the will of Allah through the propagation and spread of Islam, and Shari’ah Law, using armed force and violence whenever necessary. It is also said that the object of jihad is not necessarily the direct conversion of individuals to Islam, but rather the gaining of political and social control over the collective affairs of societies and governments, in order to run them in accordance with the principles of Islam.  It is expected that individual conversions will occur naturally as a by-product of this process, as control of the power structures passes into the hands of the Muslim community.

19.  A second, and far greater form of “jihad”, say many moderate, reformist Muslims, is the internal “self” struggle, or the soul’s struggle with evil.   Increasingly drowned out or threatened by their more vociferous and militant ideological kin, Islamic moderates are said to believe that while “jihad” might on rare occasion refer to an active war or struggle against an oppressive regime or ruler, such a war may only be properly waged against that regime, and not against innocent people.

20. Radical militant Islamic fundamentalists on the other hand, assert that jihad is an actual war of conquest, entirely without limits or constraints, and that all nations, and all peoples, who are not followers and adherents of Islam – or as in more extreme cases, of specific radical interpretations of fundamentalist Islamic tradition – are inherently enemies of Islam itself, and must therefore be either conquered, converted, enslaved, or destroyed.  Plurality and peaceful co-existance is NOT an option.

21. In practice, “jihad” in almost every instance is an outwardly-directed religiously and ideologically-driven conflict or struggle for a goal – armed, violent, political, activist, legalistic, terroristic, or otherwise – which has as it’s purpose pretty much anything that an Islamic religio-political leader wishes to declare, as long as the end result in some way supports or advances the promulgation of the Islamic ideology, and goal of domination.

22. The pious leader then may call upon all Muslims to unquestioningly support and participate in his cause as a measure and unqualified expression of their Islamic faith.     In spite of occasional references in the Qur’an that may nominally call for tolerance toward non-Muslims, earlier verses are often nullified by verses which occur later, a principle known as abrogation, or the Law of Abrogation, which was established by none other than Muhammad himself.

23. The most famous verse on jihad is  the Verse of the Sword, Al-Tawbah 9:5.  This verse alone abrogates over one hundred and twenty preceeding verses, or most of the few other existing Qur’anic verses calling for any sort of tolerance, forgiveness, and peace toward non-believers. [13]

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