Islamic Fundamentalism, Islamism and Extremism – Introduction

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“The mere fact of adherence to Islam has profound political consequences.” – Daniel Pipes, In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power.

The topic  of Islamic fundamentalism, Islamism, and extremism is being widely studied, discussed, and researched in academia, in almost all the top secular Western universities, parliaments, media, and communities. Its prominence came in the wake of the Oklahoma bombings and the 9/11 incident. The rise of attacks on the West and Western tourists visiting Islamic countries and the rise of Al-Qaeda and ISIL has shown new battlefronts emerging and new generations entering into conflict because of ideologies developed from the Quran. Even within Islam, there is no consensus over these ideologies. There is no clarity and many Muslims are increasingly getting radicalized by preaching they hear from radicals invited to preach in their mosques. What makes Muslims become suicide bombers or join ISIS? What drives them and motivates them to kill people with whom they have no personal issues? What lies behind the hatred of the West in many in Islamic societies? Does an average Muslim support extremists?

 “There seems to be no immediate resolution to the debate among traditionalists, Islamists, and intellectual reformers on Islam and democracy.”   — Ali R. Abootalebi,  Islam, Islamists, and Democracy

The radical preacher calls for Jihad against the infidels, the Westerners, and their permissive societies. He claims that it is the duty of every Muslim to join this struggle against the West that supports Zionism, so that the new world order according to the Quran can be established. This establishment of the “new Islamic Order” is at the core of the radical Islam.

“The following may be regarded as the major components of Islamism: Umma, Khilafa, Sharia and Jihad – all of which have become excessively politicised. Umma (nation) translates for Islamists into an obsession with the “Muslim people” and its imagined suffering worldwide (the blessings are never counted, only the problems) that in turn becomes a firmly entrenched victimhood and perpetual sense of grievance. Conflicts involving Muslims with others are continually cited – Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Iraq – while ignoring savage internecine Muslim conflicts, such as the Iran-Iraq war or the current wars in Darfur and Syria, or the appalling persecution of Christians in many Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt, Iran and Pakistan. Khalifa (caliphate) for Islamists is the idea that they are duty bound to establish “Islamic states” – described by vague, theoretical, idealistic platitudes – that would then be united in a global, pan-Islamic state or “new caliphate”. Sharia (law) for Islamists is the idea that they are duty-bound to implement and enforce medieval Islamic jurisprudence in their modern “Islamic state”. Jihad (sacred struggle) for Islamists is an obsession with violence, whether of a military, paramilitary or terrorist nature. Their Jihad aims to protect and expand the Islamic state. Extremists even dream of conquering the whole world for Islamism by militarily defeating the US, Europe, Israel, India, China and Russia.”   —-  Dr. Usama Hasan, Viewpoint: What do radical Islamists actually believe in?

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The liberal or moderate Muslim does not believe in the establishment of a new order. He is liberal because he sees Islam as evolving and adapting according to the time and place of its location. Thus many liberal and moderate Muslims are Sufis. When I was in Ukraine as a PG student in the city of Dnipropetrovsk, I shared a hostel room with many Arab students. They lived like “liberal Westerners” with multiple girlfriends and some even converted their Ukrainian girlfriends to Islam. This having sex before marriage is punishable by stoning according to sharia law. But these are the liberal moderate progressive Muslims. All they need to believe is that “Allah is the only God and Mohammed is his prophet”.  A lot of other teachings are modifiable according to the place and times in which they live.

“If the majority of Muslims were not moderate, Islamists would have destroyed the Western world a long time ago. Despite its technological lead, its nuclear power, and all its armies, the Western world would never be able to face an Islamist world entirely convinced by the terrorist cause. One billion people supporting Al-Qaeda would reduce the rest of the world to ashes. Islam contains violent texts that need not be applicable today. Islam is a religion of moderation. I know because I studied theology for four years.” —- Mohamed Sifaoui: “I Consider Islamism to Be Fascism”, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2008, pp. 13-17

Historically, Islamic fundamentalism arose as a reaction to Sufism. Sufism evolved into praying to saints as intermediaries in shrines built for that particular saint.  Fundamentalists called for a return to the teachings of the Quran and the prophet and tradition of the first three generation of Muslims. The first three generation of Muslims were called ‘Salafs’, and these fundamentalists came to be called ‘Salafi’. ‘Salafism’ is the fundamentalist School of Islam. It calls for a return to the purest form of Islam as practiced by Prophet Mohammed and the first three generations. One of the Salafist school of Islam is called Wahhabism. Wahhabism made a political agreement with the Saud dynasty, the rulers of Saudi Arabia. The partnership still exists and forms the framework on which Islam in Saudi is lived out. The discovery of crude in Saudi Arabia and the subsequent wealth helped the spread of Salafist Islam in the form of Wahhabism to different parts of the world. Today Saudi Arabian sheiks allocate a substantial amount of petrodollars for the printing and distributing of Qurans and building mosques in different parts of the world. They also have various scholarships for foreign students to study their brand of Islam and politics, and thus fundamentalist thought has spread far and wide.  One glaring example of this is Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda. This marriage between fundamentalist Islam and political power gave rise to Islam as a political ideology called Islamism. Islamism in its effort to obtain political power and establish the new order, adopted extremism or terror tactics. This also was a reaction to Western incursion into Middle East politics, especially the establishment of Israel, by Western powers. The recent apparent success of ISIS is a good example of the rise of fundamentalist Islam as a political ideology, i.e Islamism. Not all fundamentalists are Islamists, but all Islamists are fundamentalists.

The idea is simple: Islam must have power in this world. It is the true religion–the religion of God–and its truth is manifest in its power. When Muslims believed, they were powerful. Their power has been lost in modern times because Islam has been abandoned by many Muslims, who have reverted to the condition that preceded God’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad. But if Muslims now return to the original Islam, they can preserve and even restore their power. That return, to be effective, must be comprehensive; Islam provides the one and only solution to all questions in this world, from public policy to private conduct. It is not merely a religion, in the Western sense of a system of belief in God. It possesses an immutable law, revealed by God, that deals with every aspect of life, and it is an ideology, a complete system of belief about the organization of the state and the world. This law and ideology can only be implemented through the establishment of a truly Islamic state, under the sovereignty of God. The empowerment of Islam, which is God’s plan for mankind, is a sacred end. It may be pursued by any means that can be rationalized in terms of Islam’s own code. At various times, these have included persuasion, guile, and force.”  — Martin Kramer, Fundamentalist Islam at Large: The Drive for Power, Middle East Quarterly

Some scholars have compared Islamism, the political ideological Islam, to fascism.

“Fascism, without evoking all its particularities, bears similarities to trends also present in Islamism. I am, of course, making a reference to their will to exterminate the Jews. On this point, the Islamists may go even further in their doctrine than the Nazis did, considering that the end of the world could only occur when there are no Jews left on earth.”   —  Mohamed Sifaoui: “I Consider Islamism to Be Fascism”, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2008, pp. 13-17

All these developments are nothing new. The Islam of Prophet Mohammed was Fundamentalist Islam. He was an Islamist who acquired political power. He advocated extreme measures against enemies and people of other faiths both idol-worshipers and people of the book. The first three generations who spread the Islamic faith by sword in all of Arabia and North Africa can also be termed fundamentalists. That was the original Islamic expression of political power and order. That is the ‘order’ the Islamists of today are seeking to bring back.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner took the YA world by storm in 2009, winning the New York State Charlotte Award, the Kentucky Bluegrass The_Maze_Runner_coverAward, the Oregon Reader’s Choice Award the New Hampshire Isinglass Teen Read Award, the Missouri Truman Readers Award, the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Award , the Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award, the Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award, the Georgia Peach Book Award , and the New Jersey Garden State Book Award. Dashner went on to write three more books in the series: The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and a prequel called The Kill Order.

As much as I enjoyed The Maze Runner, I grew increasingly uneasy as I read the remaining books. Please be aware there will be all kinds of spoilers as I offer some thoughts about the series.

A boy named Thomas wakes up in a village populated solely by other teenage boys. He doesn’t know who or where he is. He learns they all live in the middle of a maze that changes every day. Runners go out every morning attempting to map the maze, then return every night before mechanical monsters kill them (or at least make them wish they were dead). Somehow the maze is important, but no one knows why. [Read more...]

Honor Living: How the Moral Absolutes Elevate Human Life

Omni-Mandalay HotelOn the evening of January 1st, 2008, at approximately 7:30pm, a call came in to the Irving, TX, 911 emergency response line. A female voice came screaming onto the line, “Help me … my dad shot me and now I’m dying!”

The caller was 17-year-old Sarah Said. She and her sister Amina, 18, had been shot multiple times in a taxi cab which had been abandoned at the service entrance of the nearby Omni Mandalay hotel. Amina was incapacitated instantly, but Sarah had been able to make this one call before the ninth shot unloaded into her body silenced her voice for good. It is believed with good evidence that the girls’ father, Yaser Abdel Said, an Egyptian-born Muslim who was working as a taxi-driver at the time, is the perpetrator. The girls, both of whom had American boyfriends, had previously fled home with their mother and had been resisting his plans to “sell” them as wives to men of his choosing in Egypt. Said has not been seen since, and is wanted by the FBI. [Read more...]

Sufism – Assessment

sufi2 sufiThe main quest of Sufism is a mystical experience of God like that of Prophet Mohammed. Main line Muslims argue that the experience of Prophet Mohammed was a unique one. We as Christians think it’s a demonic experience that Prophet Mohammed had. That is exactly what he thought first, before being convinced by his first wife, Khadija, and her uncle that he actually had encountered the divine. Many Sufis are unable to articulate clearly their experience of God in their ecstatic state. It is a vague and undefined phenomenon, which they claim can only be experienced.  The fast pace of the rhythm of music at which this experience happens is not unique to Sufism. Hare Krishna devotees indulge in rhythmic chanting leading to an experience of Krishna consciousness. Many tribal religions are also involved in a similar type of worship which is regulated by rhythmic drumming and ecstasy as worship.  In Voodoo, there is rhythmic music and ecstasy, opening up to possession by spirits. Therefore this psychological phenomenon cannot be considered an encounter with the divine. None of the prophets of the Old Testament, or even Jesus, indulged in mysticism.  Moreover this practice has actually opened up people to commune with demons rather than with God. [Read more...]

The 5th Wave: I Am The Battlefield

“I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless16101128 hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running, not staying, but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.” – Yancey’s favorite quote from The 5th Wave

Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave has received starred reviews in Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus, the New York Times and Goodreads both listed it as one of the best YA books of 2013, Entertainment Weekly thinks it might be “the next big thing,” and Sony Pictures is currently in the process of bringing this book to the big screen. The much anticipated sequel, The Infinite Sea, is being released today.

The 5th Wave is an ambitious alien invasion story written for both YA and adult audiences, packing not just one but five extinction events into one book. Aliens have been waiting patiently for decades to take over east, infusing their essence into unborn babies and lying dormant until the right time for an invasion. They begin their attack with Four Waves of disasters that obliterate most of humanity. The embedded aliens manifest in their human hosts to infiltrate – and then eradicate – the remnant of humanity in a decisive 5th Wave of human/alien hybrid assassins. These Silencers have brought the sucker punch. Up to this point, humanity had feared the aliens. Now they have to fear themselves. [Read more...]