04/12/2007, 00.00
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Salafist Islam spawns Islamic terrorism

by Samir Khalil Samir, sj
At the very roots of the violence is an ideological interpretation of the Koran, rather than mere reactions to Western aggressions. The time has come for Muslims to react to this blind and childish style of religion. The first in a series of lessons on Islamism.

Beirut (AsiaNews) – The bloody attacks on Algiers, along with Morocco’s’ suicide bombers once again show that Islamic fundamentalist violence is born of violence within Islam itself.  This is contrary to what some Western observers would have us believe, that it is a reaction to “western aggressions”.  The root cause lies within a certain current in Muslim thought.  

Islamic terrorism is caused by Islamism that is a certain mode of reading the Koran and Sunnah, which has become widespread in Muslim schools and Universities, such as Cairo’s Al-Azhar.  Islamic terrorism – particularly in the Sunni world – is caused by Salafism, in short a blind attachment to the tradition of the Ancients, to who preceded us (Salaf), a literal and rigid reading, without life and without soul. 

Terrorism is nota n Islamic disease: it is merely the manifestation of a far more deeply rooted illness, of a certain way to interpret life and the Islamic religion.  As a result, terrorism cannot be fought by force alone, but must be countered with a culture that promotes a more open interpretation of the Koran.

Ideological and Islamic terrorism

Islamic terrorism is neither gratuitous nor brutal violence, it is a religious ideology.  It is seen as a sacred duty, the concrete application of divine will, as clearly expressed in certain excerpts of the Koran and in some of the practices and sayings of Islam’s Prophet.

Terrorists and Islamists consider the majority of Muslims who do not agree with this point of view to be hypocrites  (munâfiqûn), as God himself defines them in the Koran, thus they are not worthy of to be called Muslims. 

And the Muslim states?  They are not Islamic, but a caricature of Islam: their hypocrisy is far greater, because they founded their constitutions on western standards (which is for the most part true) merely adding Muslim elements.  In doing so they have “deceived” their people.  They are worse still than the Western States and governments who at least do not deceive Muslims! 

These are the type of Islamists we see every day on the streets of Muslim countries.  The Algerian Salafists, the Afghan Taliban make up a small part of this giant spider’s web, which spawns terror far beyond the Middle East:  in Pakistan, Somalia, Northern Nigeria, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia ... and tomorrow in Europe.  My intention is not to alarm.  I only wish to underline that the web spreads by its very nature where it finds fertile ground.

The relationship between Islamism and Salafism

It is essential that the intrinsic link between Islamism and Salafism is understood, as well as the difference which separates them.   

Salafist thought is rooted in the Koran and the Sunnah, in other words it finds its justification and elaborates its thoughts and way of life within these texts.   Salafist thought was not borne of this century, but goes far back to the early years of Islam.  This tradition is one of the most interpretative of the Koran and Sunnah.

The Islamist current basis itself on the Salafist interpretation of Islam and it radicalizes it, turning it into a concrete application, through intense propaganda and presenting it as authentic Islam.  It renders Salafism extreme, by prescribing precise rules applied to the actions of daily living.   

For example it regulates eating and fasting habits, they way to dress and pray according to a series of  purification rituals; it indicates how Muslims should relate with others (according to whether they are men or women, Muslim or non Muslim etc..), in the choice of profession and how to exercise it, in the use of money and how to invest it, in sex (how, when and with who it can be done) as with marriage: in short an unending list of every day gestures.  Islamism penetrates everything and leaves little space to human freedom or personal choice.   

 Fatwa and puerile terrorism

A characteristic consequence of this concept of Islam is the widespread social phenomenon of the fatwa. In this picture, the Muslim believer feels ignored by his religion, incapable of discerning right from wrong, of choosing between “Islamic good” and evil.  He is afraid of becoming a bad Muslim such as those who surround him, all because the Islamists have nurtured the idea within the believer that he is the only true Muslim.   Thus, for any given reason the believer turns to the ulema, asking for a fatwa.

In Egypt this phenomenon has arrived at an extreme: hundreds of thousands of fatwa’s are issued each year, often for nothing.  Fatwa’s can be requested via specialized telephones, or by direct request to the Mufti’s, or even by internet, television and radio.  This results in reducing the faith  and the faithful to a childish, puerile state; making the Muslim believer totally dependent and robbing him of the ability to take on an adult responsibility for his religious or spiritual life.

Islamist thought forms people who have renounced their right to think or make personal judgements, to blindly follow teachings of those who indoctrinate them.  It reduces the believer to the state of a docile follower, incapable of critical thought.  In the end this docile follower can easily become a terrorist: he only needs to be convinced that what he is about to do is a religious duty, which pleases God and will save the Islamic community (ummah).

It is important not to confuse or identify Islam with Islamism, but is also necessary that we push Muslims to reject Islamism as an alteration of authentic Islam and to fight against this spreading tendency.  Western society must defend Muslims from Islamism.  For this reason, giving even minimal credence to the demands of the Islamists is a regression which only serves to open new terrorist fronts. 



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