Islamic scholars: America's natural allies
Since the tragic events of 9/11, millions of words have been written attempting to understand and explain the causes of Muslim terrorism and the extremist ideologies that underpin it. Many have suggested that terrorism is simply a reaction to social injustice, whereas others have argued that terrorism is the natural result of certain ideological conditions.
The truth lies somewhere in between. An examination of Muslim extremism from the early period of Islam till now shows that it manifests almost exclusively in environments that are unstable: whether due to political, social, or economic factors. Extremist thoughts appear in reaction to the belief -- whether in reality or perception -- that something is wrong.
However, it would be intellectually dishonest to explain away the terrorism of Muslims as being merely a reactionary impulse to social and political injustices. Not everyone born into an environment of civil unrest or socioeconomic disadvantage becomes a terrorist.
Rather, the fundamental force that propels a Muslim toward extremism and terrorism is ignorance and misguidance. While most Islamic terrorism is a reaction to environmental conditions, it is also always accompanied by an ignorance of the Islamic religion and a detachment from the its scholars.
The war on terror is therefore a war on ignorance and misguidance, as much as it is a military war against the terrorists themselves. While the United States has assembled its natural allies, such as Australia and Britain, in prosecuting its military campaigns against its perceived enemies, it has failed to recognize its natural allies in the intellectual struggle against terrorism.
If the cause is ideological, then it stands to reason that those most well-equipped to address the root causes of terrorism and extremism are the Islamic scholars themselves and the charitable organizations that support them. Rather than engaging with the scholars of the Islamic world, the U.S. has fallen prey to the misconception that fundamentalism equates with extremism; that fundamentalism is the ideological basis for the type of terrorism we witnessed on 9/11.
The reality is that long before U.S. President George W. Bush declared war on terror, Saudi Arabian scholars had been waging their own war against terrorism and extremism; refuting and debunking the ideas that underpin contemporary extremist and terrorist movements.
Former Saudi Arabian Grand Mufti Sheikh Ibn Baz, who died in 1999, was of the opinion that hijacking airplanes was "an extremely great crime" and that it was obligatory on governments and scholars alike "to exert themselves as much as possible in ending this evil." Ibn Baz also condemned the Jamaa'atul-Jihaad, a terrorist group, saying "they are to be cut off from, and the people are to be warned against their evil. Since they are a fitnah (tribulation) and are harmful to the Muslims, and they are the brothers of Satan."
Last April 21, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz, the present grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that suicide bombings "have no basis in the Shariah" and that hijacking planes and frightening passengers are also against Islam's holy law. Six days after the World Trade Center towers were destroyed, he described the terrorist acts as "nothing but oppression and tyranny," adding the hope that "Muslim scholars should explain . . . that the religion of Islam does not endorse such acts."
These denunciations of terror and extremism are not examples of sophistry as part of some well-engineered PR campaign; they were denunciations in Arabic, issued to a mostly-Arabic audience and based purely on scriptural evidences. These denunciations were not communicated to the Muslim world via CNN or Fox, but via the Islamic charities such as al-Haramain Foundation.
However, rather than engaging these scholars and the Islamic charities that disseminate their message, some in the West have included them in an overly broad and ill-defined war on terrorism. Such a misguided approach guarantees that while the U.S. may score some military or legal victories in the short term, it will ultimately lose the war. In some of the more totalitarian Muslim societies, where terrorism and extremism finds its most fertile ground, there is an inherent distrust of the government. The scholars and charitable institutions are the most trusted and revered entities in the society. By waging an undeclared war against them, the U.S. is guaranteeing that this war, regardless of the legitimacy of the cause, will be perceived by the Muslims as a war against Islam; a thinly veiled attempt to impose a foreign interpretation of Islam upon the world's one billion Muslims.
The U.S. government must therefore adopt a more nuanced approach to the Muslim world that recognizes the distinction between fundamentalism and extremism. It must also recognize that battles for self-determination in places such as Chechnya are not equivalent to wanton attacks on innocents such as 9/11; that those who argue for justice for the Palestinians do not by necessity argue for the destruction of the Western world; and that charities whose work in war-torn environments forces them into contact with the warring parties do not necessarily subscribe to their ideals and objectives.
As the U.S. Congress has sought advice from a range of special interest groups in its recent hearings on Saudi Arabia, it should remember that the enemy of its enemy is not always its friend; likewise, as the U.S. pursues its quixotic war against Islamic fundamentalism, it should remember that sometimes your assumed enemy is really your friend.
Amir Butler is executive director of the Australian Muslim Public Affairs Committee (AMPAC). He can be contacted at [email protected]
Topics: Conflicts And War, Terrorism, Ulama
I don't think that the 9-11 attacks were so much intended as an act of revenge against America as they were intended to act as an "incentive" for Americans to call for the withdrawal of America's armed forces from the Arabian Peninsula. I have the impression that America's armed forces are considered (by certain Arabians) to be preventing organic change from taking place within Arabia. I think this was additionally the reason behind the attack against the USS Cole, in the waters off Yemen. I think it would also explain why all of the 9-11 hijackers were from the Arabian Peninsula - rather than (in the end) at least some of them being from Palestine, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Kashmir, Indonesia, Malaysia or some other "hotbed" of Muslim extremism.
Admittedly, most Americans might suppose that Arabia is already a very "Islamically fundamentalist" sort of place. I myself certainly use to think so. Many Arabians however have regrettably become very materialistic - at least in the decades since Arabia became the world's largest exporter of oil. I was very surprised when one of my Wahabi buddies informed me many Arabians, including most of his family, told him that Allah should be mentioned only while at the mosque. (Does that perhaps sound vaguely familiar?)
I just wanted to say that the US government, by training bin Laden and the Mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan in 1979, was not because they didn't want to look racist, it was because the US used them to fight off the Soviets invading Afghanistan - see, the Soviet Union and the USA were at a Cold War, so this was part of the cold war between the USA and the Soviets. Then the US dumped them to die without any support all of a sudden. This is Osama's grudge if any.
Another example for you to look into, are these men who received flight training and somehow accomplished the greatest attack on the highest security Air-traffic system in the world, not to mention the huge US bases below. Where's the evidence, you have the right ot know; but it's all kept under wraps b/c of "security concerns". haha....it's just a huge lie. it's really not about the neo-conservatives trying not to be racist, but rather it is that they will do anything in their power in order to benefit themselves, and those keep them powerful (Saudi gov.), and leave the rest of the worlds ass hanging out. Bush said...either you're with us, or against us....so if you are different from whatthat means u go to Guantanamo or hands of a tyranny of theirchoice, overse
However I do not feel the Muslim world should NOT be apologetic, why should they ? The animals who rammed those planes into the WTC were American trained and funded. Seems clear to me, Americans have zero interest in facing the reality that their government has always been involved in such dirty business. PNAC anyone ?
Now with the rape and occupation of Iraq, nobody cares.
like these people(neocons etc.) who starts wars really want to listen what our leading scholars have to say(despite all the extremism in muslim societies).....
Israel's arrogance beside American right wing Christian neo-conservative Armageddom wishers days are numbered. It won't last forever...don't tihkn you can blow off three quarters of hte world population by your neo-imperialistic measures forever. Intelligence is not your monopoly either....hence, the American government gives birth to Al-Qaeda via the Mujahideen in Afghanistan back in 1979. ENuFF SAiD.
Wow, we need more of these "thinkers" and Islam will flourish. Yea Right.
American "Straussians" are behind the "war on terrorism" which is infact a war on rest of the world. This is to manuifacture enemies in order to keep their patriotism/nationalism. Terrorists should understand that American average people are not behind muslims sufferings. There is no point in killing civilians. It is in fact this bunch of "philosopher kings" in American government who are masterminds behind their state terrorism all over the world.
The real objectives are to stop the Chinease/ Russian influence in Asia, expand Israel's domination, control the natural resources, halt the nuclearisation of the world, and to check any opposing voices such as Iran and North Korea.
The author seems to have taken the US agenda at the face value without appreciating the real motives for the so called war on terrorism.
The world needs to wake up to the fact that the Europeans (including expatriates in the US) have gone back to their empire building and global domination ways, by occupaying and enslaving the masses. Spreading terror and carnage on distant shores.