Sunday, September 25, 2011

Can We Call It Islamic Terrorism?

A debate is taking place across the political, academic, and religious spectrum about whether acts of terrorism committed by Muslims should be called Islamic Terrorism. I've recently attended conferences where I've heard alleged experts state that it should not be. If terrorism committed by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka is not called Hindu Terrorism, they argue, and if the terrorism of Norwegian Anders Breivik is not Christian Terrorism, why are acts of terror committed by Muslims called Islamic Terrorism?

It is a good question deserving a thoughtful answer which was given, in my opinion, by Rashid and Middle East Forum director Magdi Khalil in this recent Arabic program. Rashid noted that terrorism could be described as religious terrorism if it fulfilled the following four criteria:

1. The individuals carrying out the operation were devoted to their religion.
2. These individuals used religious texts to justify their operation.
3. The individuals carried out their operation to achieve religious objectives.
4. Religious leaders supported the operation and praised those who carried it out.

Rashid and Magdi then applied these four criteria to the perpetrators of 9/11, the Oklahoma Bombing, and the Norwegian Massacre. In his final testament, suicide pilot Muhammad Atta mentioned three times in four short pages that he would soon be meeting the virgins of paradise promised him by his prophet Muhammad. In his justification for 9/11, Osama bin Ladin did not inform his fellow Muslims it was intended to punish an imperialistic, political enemy. He did say that it was a blow against the rayyis al-kuffar, a religious expression meaning the leader of the infidels. The writings of bin Ladin, as well as Ayman al-Zawahiri and other al-Qaeda Sharia or religious leaders are filled with references to the Koran, the Hadith, and early Islamic history to justify their strategy. The 1500 page manifesto of Anders Breivik, in contrast, does not mention the teachings of Jesus or the Bible a single time. His only reference to Christianity is a generic one in which he envisions a Christian Europe being changed to a Muslim one. And Timothy McVeigh, rather than fantasizing about virgins in paradise, acknowledged that if there was a hell he would probably be going there.

What were the objectives of McVeigh and Breivik, as compared to Muslim terrorists? Again, the first two had nothing to do with achieving the goals of Christianity. McVeigh was angry at his government, and Breivik was fearful for his culture. Muslim terrorists, on the other hand, state again and again that their goal is to establish Deen Allah, the religion of God, throughout the earth as Islam was practiced by Muhammad and his early followers.

It was in the response of Muslim religious Shaykhs to the death of Osama bin Ladin that the contrast is most clear. Rashid played a montage of Arabic-speaking Imams across the Middle East eulogizing the death. Without exception they attacked and blamed the United States but praised bin Ladin. He was a sincere Muslim, they reminded their viewers, and it is our responsibility to pray Salat al-Ghaib, the prayers for departed souls asking God to receive them into Fardous or Paradise. We might have had our differences with him, they added, but these differences were only minor points of disagreement. What I find interesting is that the "minor points of disagreement" were the practice of al-Qaeda of declaring Muslim governments Takfir or infidel. It would understandably be difficult for an Egyptian, Moroccan, or Saudi Shaykh who only holds his position with the blessing of his government to join Ayman al-Zawahiri in condemning that government as apostate.

I've noted before that the difference between the public stated positions of Muslims in the West and their counterparts in the Arab World is striking. I've also noted that most Western non-Muslim academics and politicians, very few of whom know Arabic, have as their sources English-speaking Muslims who tell them what they want them to believe. Even those non-Muslim experts who claim to know Arabic, in my opinion, don't really know it well enough to listen to the Osama bin Ladin eulogies played by Rashid and really know what is going on.

Magdi Khalil then divided Islamic history into five stages. The first, he said, was the Islamic conquest of the 7th and 8th centuries, followed by the Crusades in which Europe attempted to regain the territory it had lost to Islam. The third stage was the Ottoman Empire in which Islam again tried to reconquer Europe and famously reached "the Gates of Vienna" in 1683, followed by the European imperialism and colonization of the next two centuries. The last forty years, said Magdi, have seen the beginning of the fifth stage, the revival of political Islam which again strives to reign throughout the world.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the show was when Khalid called in from Jordan. "Hello Rashid," said Khalid. "I was a terrorist. I left Jordan to go to Iraq in 2003. I had been a university student and a moderate Muslim but left university to devote myself to Islam. I first went to Syria, where all the incoming Mujahideen and Jihadists stayed together. We were given food and everything we needed until it was time to depart to Iraq. We travelled to Abu Kamal, which is a town on the Syrian-Iraqi border, and entered with no difficulty because we had been given passports and all the necessary travel documents. We first went to Al Qaim, then to Ramadi, and finally arrived in Baghdad where we were divided up into different groups. There were young Jihadists from all parts of the Arab World including Tunisia, Syria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. You name the country, they were there. We were all young extremists who had come for Jihad. We were not interested in politics, but based our beliefs upon the Asoul, the original texts of Islam. If the texts supported fighting and killing, we were prepared to fight and kill."

"But some Muslims argue," interrupted Rashid, "That you misinterpreted the texts of Islam."
"That is incorrect," replied Khalid, "We followed the exegesis of Ibn Taymiyah. He said that when Muslims were living in a state of weakness they should follow the peaceful suras of the Koran that were written in Mecca, but when they became powerful they should follow the suras of Medina."

"Why did you change your mind about Jihad?" asked Rashid.
"The reason I left Iraq and returned to Jordan was not for religious reasons or because I thought I had misinterpreted Islam," replied Khalid. "I returned because my family needed me. But after my return I began to ask myself why I was being told to hate and fight Christians and Jews. I discovered that the reasons were religious, not political."

When Rashid asked Khalid where he was now in his spiritual journey, Khalid replied he no longer believed in Muhammad but was beginning to investigate the teaching of Jesus.

I find stories like this very encouraging. When I say my goal is to convince Muslims that Muhammad was just a man and the Koran is just a book, I am often informed it will never happen. The experience of Khalid tells me that it can happen, although just one person at a time. I believe that is much more intellectually honest than trying to convince Khalid he merely misinterpreted the peaceful message of Muhammad and the Koran. And yes, I do believe it should be called Islamic terrorism.


Anonymous said...

Minor quibble: "The Gates of Vienna" was 1683, not 1783.

Quotable Quotes: said...

Thanks Anonymous. I've made the correction.

Anonymous said...

Imagine not calling out the Nazis? If our fore fathers did not name the terror that threatened them, we would all be speaking German!
So yes... we can call it Islamic Terrorism. It's what the quran calls it.

Anonymous said...

Not just 1683, but 9/11/1683. Think that's a coincidence?

Anonymous said...

I believe that if we could get Muslims to read the Gospels and compare that to the violence and contradictions of the Quran (and no witnessed miracles), the Muslims would leave in droves. If they left in droves, there would not be enough radicals to kill them for apostacy. The Truth is, "It's an EVIL religion/ideology. Mark Gabriel, former Imam at Eqypt's Al Azhar University did this and wrote a book, "Jesus and Muhammad".

Anonymous said...

The acts committed by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka is not motivated by religion. They're not reading Hindu scared texts and using that to justify what they are doing. They're also not screaming the names of Hindu Gods before slaughtering people or blowing themselves up. And the Norwegian Anders Breivik are not screaming the Christian God's name when they kill innocent people.
But Muslims are justifying their actions by the verses in the quran and saying allah akbar before blowing themselves up. Even Osama Bin Laden said,"We should fully understand our religion. Fighting is a part of our religion and our Sharia. Those who love God and his Prophet and this religion cannot deny that. Whoever denies even a minor tenet of our religion commits the gravest sin in Islam."

aemish said...

Well, you know what they say... one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I dunno. These are the days I find it wiser to avoid getting wrapped up in inane polarized lingo. I mean, didn't we just [for the last decade(s)] just do that?

Anonymous said...

Calling a spade a spade is wrong now?
So you will sit down and watch evil at work unless it effects you?
Is it wrong to label a murderer a murderer?
Is it wrong to name the good good and the bad bad?
If asking for peace and justice for all based on common ground is wrong, then what is right?
Believe what you will, let me believe what i want, but let common sense and good will prevail. That's why secular law and democracy is a must in the global village. That is not what the islamist want. What do you want?

aemish said...

No offense, but I find your perception a tad.. obtuse. You can call a spade whatever you want in the world of you. You just haven't any cosmic right to command anyone else to. Moreover, your imperialist ideals of democracy and secularism in the so-called global village seem naive considering, well, for starters we're neglecting our own backyard to our own foolish detriment, and secondly, these are not things we can simply swoop down and BESTOW upon a people against their will -- not to mention at the point of a deadly weapon. These are things our neighbors in this global village, just as every other western country proves in its own history book, these are things they have to fight for themselves. And ya know what? A lot of the time they're just not in the market for it. Can you blame them? Have you ever looked at the American example sans an industrial strength pair of beer goggles? I can just see a bunch of brown people in some land far, far away sitting around the only laptop available for the next nine towns and witness cultural ambassador Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' video. lol.. ppsh

Cyril Lucar said...


You might enjoy a book by Bill Maher, *When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden*. It's a humorous take on some deadly serious issues and he gets into some of the things you raised. Bill sees Islamic terrorism pretty clearly, but he also sees some of the more complex issues, including our ignorance of our own contributions to what's broken in the world. One gem, "They hate us because we don't know why they hate us."

aemish said...

Thanks, Cyril :o)

Ordering on Amazon now. Been a while since I read a funny book!

Anonymous said...

@ aemish

Dear Sir,
From your response I presume you are a resident of a western democracy with all the freedoms that brings. Where one man is worth the same as the next.. At least in the eyes of the law.

I come from a part of this world where we live day in and day out wit a 1 sided legal and financial system rigged to promote/sustain a specific people. Where the liberties and freedoms of a civil society are sorely lacking. Calling 'a spade a spade' is a dangerous undertaking where i come from. Where me being a little more detailed might bring jail time and/or whipping.
I think I have a slightly better understanding of having thoughts and ideas that i do not care for shoved down my throat.
I admit the risks and fear for the safety of loved ones might be a little hard for anyone from the enlightened West to understand. But I do hope you take a minute to read books by Wafa Sultan as well as Bill Maher. She is a bit fiery for my tastes, but her points are more relevant to you if you want to avoid living the life a lot of us are living.
Sorry for the lack of details and generalizations... Safety first.

aemish said...

A thousand apologies for not replying sooner, I neglected to check back to this blog as I believed I had selected to be notified of responses but was not. Wups!

I dunno.. I kind of just don't care about your "whipping" system. I rather view it as I do a battered wife. You either want to hang around waiting for your next whipping or you don't.

You know, it wasn't until I saw Hillary Swank's representation of American Alice Paul's apologist plight for womens' voting rights that I went out, registered, and subsequently voted.

If ya'll can't find your own heros maybe it's time to become one your own self.

aemish said...

For the interested, the referenced movie was entitled 'Iron Jawed Angels' and it detailed the suffragist movement, including the torture Alice Paul endured as an illegal political prisoner within the American states approximately a century ago.

Best luck to all who endeavor to achieve the same inalienable self-evident human birth rights.

Or, in other words, grow a pair already. Tick tock.. xxoo

Anonymous said...

sorry for the late reply, have been away from a safe access point from which to reply.
i don't care for whipping much either, but the law of the land is such. for a non to make a statement against the so called prophet is a crime. whether u like it or not. ask satv. i understand it's hard for u to understand, but punishment for ur personal thoughts and beliefs are a norm where i come from. once u accept that as a truth, rather than ur personal, safe experience, i think u'll understand the worry we have for our loved ones and why we choose to remain silent rather than risk their safety. and the courage it takes to speak up inspite of that.

aemish said...

Maybe you are right. From where I'm sitting courage is when one does what is right whether there are consequences or not. *shrug*

aemish said...

I saw TLC's new show, 'Muslim In America' last night and couldn't help but think of the author of this blog.. I wonder too if he missed Howard Zinn's History Channel presentation, 'The People Speak' before he too soonly departed us desperate earthlings...

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