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Islam and Terrorism
Islam and Terrorism, is there a link between the two? Most Muslims will emphatically deny any link while other Muslims plant bombs, kill hostages on tape, blow themselves up in the process of getting at their intended victims and donate money to the activists even though they themselves are not active in the field. All this in the name of Islam. Many of these money donors are among those who deny any link between Islam and Terrorism. So, what is the connection between Islam and Terrorism, if any?
This document addresses the attitudes of many (not all) Muslims towards Islamic inspired terrorism. Many Muslims will vociferously protest that acts of terror are not in keeping with the true teachings of Islam and cannot therefore be called Islamic inspired. The fact is that the perpetrators of these acts of terror claim to act in the name of Islam. Therefore, these perpetrators claim Islamic inspiration for their acts of terror. Before any Muslims try to convince any non-Muslim that Islam and Terrorism are in no way related, they should try to convince these fellow Muslims of it.
This document looks at the history of Islam and tries to throw some light on why many, if not most (some of you will remember the dancing in the street in Palestine after the World Trade Centre tragedies) Muslims feel they are justified to commit acts of terror against non Muslims.
This document does NOT go into the question of whether Muhammad really received revelations from God or whether he misled his people for some or other reason. In fact, there are many who claim that there is no God at all. You all know this. Follow the link leading to The meaning of Life. for some light on the subject. You have to make up your own mind.
The Muhammad ConnectionMuhammad claimed to have had revelations from Allah for about twenty years up until the time he died in around 632 AD. Allah is the name Muslims use for the God they pray to. Some Christians and Jews claim that Allah the Muslims pray to is not the same as Yahweh the Jews and Christians pray to - I do NOT address this issue.
First, Muhammad tried to convert the people in his own town, Mecca, and his own tribe, the Quraysh. Although he made some converts, progress was slow and resistance to his message was common. Mecca was a centre for polytheistic pilgrimage and the inhabitants apparently led a hedonistic lifestyle to which their pantheon of gods had no objection. Then there was the money they made from the pilgrims...If Muhammad's preaching was widely accepted and and applied it would definitely have upset the status quo. So, surprise, surprise, Muhammad encountered some resistance. This resistance apparently led to physical violence, although there is no mention of wholesale slaughter of Muhammad's followers.
Mecca was also a centre for trade. Muhammad met some traders/pilgrims from Yathrib, the city today called Medina, in the north. They told him about a feud between some tribes. This feud had dragged on for some time and all the participants were becoming weary of it. Muhammad saw these visitors to Mecca on their yearly pilgrimages. Things must have been slow in those times, or maybe these visitors were cautious by nature. After a year he made some converts among them who took the word back to Medina. Two years after first meeting Muhammad and chewing the fat around the fire with him on their visits, they decided he was the man to mediate between the tribes. It turned out that they were right. The hostilities were eventually resolved through Muhammad's mediation. They invited Muhammad to go to Yathrib then, Medina now. What with the local hostilities and the invitation, Muhammad decided the time was ripe to leave Meccca. In 622, the start of the Muslim calendar, Muhammad left Mecca with 70 followers for Medina.
As said before, Muhammad resolved the hostilities up north between the feuding tribes. Not surprisingly, many of them became converts. However, even in Medina there was some resistance to Muhammad's message. Even today it appears to me people want to be left alone to do their own thing and not be responsible to some God. Denying the existence of a God seems the easiest way out. Nevertheless, Muhammad's band of followers grew. Some of these followers had been in the feuding game for years and were therefore old hands at fighting.
Muhammad's followers engaged in the time-honoured activity of raiding caravans for whatever they could score off them. If these caravans belonged to those rascally Mecca traders, so much the better. Most of these raiders were still recruited from the original Mecca faithful. Muhammad's followers grew stronger and stronger. After two years of successful raiding Muhammad judged the time ripe to go after the big prize, the yearly Meccan caravan to Syria. At a place called Badr Muhammad's followers scored a decisive victory.
Converts now came thick and fast. After all, there was booty to be had. The Bedouins from the desert, who always were game for a bit of caravan raiding, now flocked to Muhammad.
Medina/Yathrib had a community of Jews. Muhammad seems to have expected them to embrace his strictly monotheistic religion. Maybe he saw them as a challenge to his missionary powers. Fact is, Muhammad expended some time and energy to convert them. All to no avail. Eventually Muhammad became disgusted with these Jews. The Muslims, who up to that time faced Jerusalem in prayer, started facing towards Mecca when praying. There is some talk of some of the Jews colluding with Muhammad's old enemies from Mecca. It is unclear how widespread this collusion was. Be that as it may, in the end Muhammad's followers massacred the Jews of Medina. So, bad blood between Jews and Muslims come from a long way off. Interestingly, I see here a pattern in Muhammad's psychological make-up in that he can tolerate, and even treat very generously, an enemy when there is a chance that that enemy will see things Muhammad's way in the future. And most of them did see things Muhammad's way rather than the alternative. He treated the inhabitants of Taif, one of the last remaining strongholds against Islam in Arabia, so well that his treatment of them convinced them to become Muslims. On another occasion he had his men walk so that the captives could ride on their animals. Not surprisingly, his enemies chose to surrender rather than fight to the bitter end as they knew they were going to be treated well.
Heaven help one though if one makes it clear that one will never ever see things Muhammad's way. There is a list of people in whose death Muhammad had a hand. Many of them were inocuous and ultimately harmless to Muhammad's cause, but they refused to see the light.
An interesting aside. One co-worker in Saudi Arabia told me that when Jesus comes at the end of time the first thing he (Jesus) will do is kill all the Jews. Jesus is also regarded as one of their prophets by the Muslims. Note that, as a medical specialist, Ali Al Qhatani, the co-worker, is one of the higher ranking members in society. Feelings in Saudi Arabia against Jews are as strong as they can possibly be
Another co-worker from years before the above incident is an Israeli. Also and ENT surgeon, he felt that one couldn't trust an Arab and that peace with them was impossible. Good luck to the peace makers.
Things now were going so well for Muhammad that in 630 he took on the Meccans. Muhammad now had an army of 10,000 men. Resistance was little more than token resistance. Like MacArthur many years later, Muhammad was back.
In two years Muhammad's missionary army conquered most of Arabia. They did not have the Koran in the one hand as the Koran was written down only about twenty years after Muhammad's death. They had only the sword, or whatever their weapon of choice was to make the heathens see the light. And see the light the heathens did.
After Muhammad's death in about 632 his successors completed his work of conversion and conquered all of Arabia. They even went outside the confines of their country, conquering the holy land and occupying Jerusalem (which gave rise to the crusades) and going as far as Southern Spain into Europe.
When the Koran was written down paradise was offered for our conquering heroes, whether they fell in battle or were victorious."Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward" Sura 4:74
Notice that Christians too have died for their religion, but there is a huge difference: Christianity is not spread by the sword. Contrast the differences between the birth of Islam and its spread in the first century of its existence to the birth of Christianity and its spread in the beginning as found in the book of Acts of the Apostles in the Bible. Whoever died for Christianity were most likely victims of persecution, not the persecutors.
OK, what does all this mean?
It should be clear to all that Islam was spread by the sword right from the beginning. No other major religion has warfare as a way of spreading the faith embedded and accepted as part of the religion. This is a fact like a cow. There is no getting past it.
There is more
The Koran is about the size of the New Testament. Muslims regard it as the word of Allah, written down word for word as spoken by Allah to Muhammad. They try to find guidance for every aspect of life from the Koran.
Unfortunately, the Koran does not contain directions for every aspect of life. This is not a sacreligious statement made by a non-believer, although I am not a Muslim. All intelligent Muslims know this and have known it for more than a thousand years. As an example, Sura 4:39 states that whoever kills a believer on purpose will be banished to hell by Allah. But it says nothing about what the authorities should do to him. Muslim scholars have been scratching their heads for 1400 years about this and similar quandaries. Personally, I would have hanged the bugger and got it over with. Nowadays I know that in Saudi Arabia he has his head chopped off.
Be that as it may, Muslims recognised that they need light on certain subjects not illuminated in the Koran.
This is where the sharia (the way) comes in. Muslims regarded Muhammad and his immediate followers as the righteous who could do no wrong, much like Catholics regard the pope. They therefore determined to find out all they could about these people and how they handled situations. However these righteous men acted in a certain situation would then become the way to handle this kind of situation.
As an example: some time after the death of Muhammad some desert tribes decided the strict Muslim rules limited their leisure time pursuits. They wanted to opt out and go back to the desert equivalent of cigarettes and whiskey and wild, wild women. To bring them back to the fold a bitter war was waged against them. As this was done by a righteous caliph it was taken to mean that any believer who strayed from the fold needed his head chopped off. This is accepted by many, but not all Muslims. It was practised in Afghanistan under Osama and has also been practised inconsistently in places like Saudi.
One Muslim scholar, Al Shafi, had a strong influence over the Islamic way of thinking. His contention was that Muhammad was of almost, if not totally, equal importance with Allah. The upshot of this was an army of investigators that was sent to all corners of the Muslim controlled world to gather whatever Muhammad may have said and done 200 years before. This work was completed about 300 years after Muhammad's death. This legal code is what is known as the sharia.
Of importance here is that the result of all this work, which became the Sharia, confirmed the accepted Muslim obligation as stated in the Koran (Sura 42:11 "You should strive for the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives." Strive here has the same linguistic root as jihad
Note that since its completion more than 1000 years ago no changes have been permitted to the sharia.
What about jihad?
There is no doubt that the word jihad originally referred to warfare, and warfare conducted for holy purposes, at that. However, for unclear reasons later Muslim rulers (who were not always regarded as good Muslims by the populace) changed the meaning of the word to mean strive for a good cause/strive against one's own baser nature. I can think of a number of very valid reasons against being continuously at war. Be that as it may, the original meaning of the word was waging war. Some Muslims still take it to mean that, and even told me so. Some don't know that being at war was the original meaning of the word. No prizes for guessing correctly what Osama and the boys think it means.
Yeah, but how seriously do they take all this stuff?
The answer is, in short, that Muslims take their religion far more seriously than Christians do, to the shame of Christians.
In Saudi Arabia the faithful are called to prayer five times a day. The amplified Allah akbar (God is great) is heard in the most unlikely places. Many of these prayer calls fall within business hours. All shops close up and everybody goes to the closest mosque. Mutawas (religious policemen) roam the streets rounding up any of the faithful negligent in their Islamic duties. Women, who don't share in these prayers, find an out of the way place to sit down during prayer. I've never seen it, but I've heard that some mutawas aim light blows with something like a riding crop to where the ankles of these women should be (they're totally covered up in, Henry Ford would have lauded their choice of color, black abeyas) to get them to hurry along. Arab women tend to amble along aimlessly. I've heard it said that a local can discern between an Arabic women and a western women, both covered up the same way, from the way they walk.
In the hospital wards, where I worked, they had arrows against the ceiling pointing towards Mecca so the patients would know which way to face during prayer time.
During prayer time the faithful touch there foreheads against the floor, some clearly forcefully. They would have a chronic bruise on the forehead telling of their religious fervour. These bruises enhanced their social standing. One nurse told me that he had actually caught one of the faithful in the act of rubbing his forehead with a small block of wood to get the bruise. One of my colleagues always had this bruise. However, he was very ambitious to advance in Arabic life (not paradise, but the here and now) and I had grave doubts about his religious fervour. Many of his acts were carefully considered to enhance his status, like the time he disappeared for about a month to pick scabs out of a prince's nose.
So, all in all, compared to Christians, Muslims take their religion very seriously and try to practise its precepts.
Relevant non-religious factors
We're now leaving religion. I worked in Saudi Arabia for about a year and a half. Obviously, during that time I talked to them and saw the great number of notices on the bulletin boards, I'm talking about the ones in English aimed at the expatriate workers, telling about the atrocities visited by the Israelies upon defenceless, totally innocent, blameless, morally upright, tastefully dressed, harmless, desiring only the good of mankind as a whole, Palestinians going about their legitimate daily business.
Their no 1 gripe against us
The thing that fouls every breath most Arabs take is the fact that a small country with a tiny population (Israel with about 4 million people) can with contemptuous ease keep at least 80 million (and here I'm very conservative) middle eastern Muslims at bay. If Israel were a big country with 200 million people, that would have been acceptable.
Reasons have to be found for this. The common one is that the USA supports Israel with sophisticated weapons. And it is these sophisticated weapons that make the difference, or so the story goes. Don't point it out to the Arabs that no US soldiers fight alongside Israel - they don't like that and they already know that.
Saddam and the fellows put up a very poor show against the kafirs (the word is Arabic and means non-believer) during desert storm. He could at least have given them a good run for their money. It appears the kafirs could have come with a only fraction of the resources they came with and still have licked Saddam's boys hands down.
Osama and the elite Muslim Commandos were also not much more than a push-over in Afghanistan. Muslim pride took a solid beating there. Luckily Osama gave those arrogant kafirs the slip. He did salvage a little bit of Muslim pride in scurrying away like a cockroach.
Arabs know that the west's sympathies lie with Israel. We perceive the Israelies as being more like us than the Arabs are.
Many of the middle and higher class Arabs have visited the west. Oil money is not shared equitably in the middle east. They see what the west is like, then they come back to the middle east. For those of you who do not know, places like Saudi Arabia are extremely backward. I expected the heat, I expected American cars (I didn't know they would be so battered, though), but I did not expect all the fluorescent lights (not so many, and everywhere), the backwardness, dirtiness and the atrocious driving. Oh, the driving. Words cannot do justice to their driving. They learn what westerners think of Arabs and other Muslims, both from their overseas visits and from foreign workers caught in an unguarded moment. Let's be honest about it - Muslims are not held in high regard, especially by people who had first hand experience with them, and especially on their home turf, the middle east. The exceptions would be very few and very far between.
Close to 100% of foreign workers leave the middle east with negative feelings about the local populace. These feelings in some cases are very strong. The reason for this is the poor treatment the foreign workers get at the hands of those in power. It is a case of the shoe being on the other foot while a foreign worker is at the mercy of an Arab modir. This shows their true feelings towards those from other countries, especially the west. To be honest, the Saudis often treat Egyptians and other Muslims just as badly.
Truth in the middle east
English speakers arrogantly presume that other cultures have the same values they have. This is not so. The differences can be marked, not only in values. As an example, did you know that toilet paper is not used in a great many countries in the world? Instead there may be a hose pipe hanging from the toilet wall...
The truth is not a factual immutable entity for many cultures, most Islamic countries included. Rather, his social status in the Muslim world is an indicator of how truthful a person is. If one of one of the many princes' friends says 2+2=5, you can bet your bottom dollar that the answer is five. Now if a westerner says that 2+2=4, well we know they are all decadent non-believers, so we don't take any notice of that.
If Dr Al Hashmi cuts three common bile ducts in six months (two on two consecutive days) let nobody say anyhing against cutting common bile ducts. Let the infidel foreign general surgeon say this type of accident happens to a general surgeon once in a life-time. But let him say it quietly and only to his fellow infidels. After all, Dr Al Hashmi is the Medical Director. It must have been the will of Allah.
How tolerant are the Muslims of other religions?
Saudi Arabia is the Muslim holy land. No other kind of religion is allowed in Saudi Arabia. You won't find any missionaries or churches of any kind, except mosques, a great many mosques.
Mecca is the number one holy city of the Muslims. You won't be allowed into it if you are not a Muslim. It has gates which are constantly guarded. You must show your identification book to be allowed in. The colour of the book for non-muslims is brown. If I remember correctly the Muslims had a green Igama. If you are a non-muslim there is a road for you that skirts Mecca. I have frequently traveled this road. To put things into perspective, Arabs are allowed inside Jerusalem.
Non Muslim foreign workers must not openly practice their religion. The authorities seem pleased that one practices one's religion covertly. I suspect that they will rather have one practice one's religion covertly and so implicitly acknowledge their authority than not practice it at all.
Many of you may remember the missionaries who were comdemned to death in Afghanistan. In the end they didn't die. I think Osama made a career move out of Afghanistan (if he had not moved his career would have ended) and that may have had something to do with the fact that these missionaries are still alive. They were allowed in on the strict understanding that they could deliver humanitarian aid, but no preaching, please.
There are a great many Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. I've come across father and son having spent their working lives there. These Filipinos are mostly Catholics. Often both husband and wife work there. The Catholics have some underground representation in Saudi. One of my friends is a staunch Catholic. He baptised the Filipino babies born there in secret. The baptism is in secret, not the birth neither the promise the mother makes during delivery that this is the last one. One of my friends was told years ago (we were still young then) while sewing up an episiotomy (the incision made in first time mothers to prevent ugly jagged tears during delivery) "Sew it all up, Doctor. Not only the cut."
Sorry for the digression, a weakness of mine. In any case, my friend was summoned to the underground Catholic representative and told to lay off the baptisms for a while as somebody had talked. Baptisms were resumed again after things had quietened down. This illustrates the tolerance for other religions.
All the above on religious tolerance comes from the present. It shows that Muslims tolerate other religions if they, the Muslims, are a minority with limited power in a country. But put the power in their hands and allow them to become numerically superior... Let me hasten to point out that power and numerical superiority are the same thing in a democratic country. He who has understanding, let him understand.
What can we do?
Even Islam can't operate without money. Close to 100% of their money has a single source: oil. Find a replacement for oil today and there will be no or very little Islamic terrorism tomorrow. I know that is easier said than done, but is not as unfeasable as it appears at first glance. Keep in mind that the distillation products of oil are burned (mostly in engines) to produce energy, in most cases, for locomotion. Find a source of energy storing roughly the same amount of energy as these fuels and as accessable as the energy in these fuels is, and at the same price, and we will have something which will replace oil.
Oil is a strong financial power in the west, too. Will western oil powers tolerate a certain amount of Islamic terrorism as long as the money keeps coming? As oil power in the west is not monolithic there may be more than one answer to that one. An alternative to oil is the big answer. Do this before Islamic terrorism diversifies its economic support base.
Keep a close eye on Saudi Arabia. From what I've seen there, my guess is that more than 80% of the population will at least be very sympathetic to Osama and the boys. Poor organisation and gross incompetence will also allow those who are more than just sympathetic a free hand to actively support the latter day prophets of terrorism. The royal family can go only so far against popular opinion without alienating the general population. A devout Muslim told me here in Australia that he would be glad if the Saudi King died because the latter was totally in the US's pocket. This from a post-graduate student from the Indian sub-continent studying at an Australian university. Islamic fundamentalism has more support world-wide under the general Muslim population than is generally realised.
Will Osama find a place to stay in Saudi Arabia? You can bet your last cent there will be many more than willing to put him up there. Let me point out that Idi Amin found a sanctuary in Saudi, in Jeddah, with official blessing. Osama may find official blessing harder to come by, but official blessing is not an essential commodity.
Otherwise, if the above upsets tender western sensibilties, in the meantime there are still the politically correct ways of doing things: talk and mutual understanding and all that hogwash. Well, at least some politicians get to travel and stay in nice hotels while doing all that. And who knows, maybe they can score with some young, eager, underlings. Let nobody say diplomacy is without its uses.
If you feel any of the above is factually incorrect, please e-mail me.