Political Islam causes Religious absolutism and then Terrorism
Political Islam causes Religious absolutism and then Terrorism
By: Tashbih Sayyed, Ph. D
If one has to look for one basic, elementary cause of terrorism engulfing civilization today; it is religious absolutism. Religious absolutism results from a belief that a particular faith represents the absolute truth and therefore must be accepted by everyone else without question. Such an absolutist ideology encourages bigotry of the highest order and promotes extreme hatred of other faiths.
Since true intellectual enlightenment respects diversity and rejects bigotry, religious absolutists, as a matter of faith, tend to be anti-intellectual. That's why all absolutists are, by nature, fundamentalist and obscurantist. They preach literalist philosophies and demonstrate an intrinsic repulsion for modernity. They abhor open societies and work to destroy any system that promotes tolerance and advances the cause of democracy.
Nazism, Communism, Japanese imperialism etc. all claimed to have possessed the absolute truth and tried to impose it on others, causing a great amount of human suffering in the process. Fortunately, none of these philosophies enjoyed the backing of any church and therefore lacked religious legitimacy, making it relatively easy for the civilized world to eventually defeat them.
Radical Islam, also know as political Islam, driven by extremist and an obscurantist interpretation of Islam, is the current face of this evil. Because it has very cleverly managed to hijack Islam, a faith of more than 1.2 billion people, its sway is absolute. Most Muslim societies have fallen under its influence and, as a consequence, have become the breeding ground of terrorism. Events of the recent past have reconfirmed, beyond any doubt, its destructive potential.
Being a totalitarian ideology, radical Islam demands absolute submission. And since it knows that enlightened and informed souls do not make obedient slaves, it is committed to keep Muslims backward and uninformed. Radical Islam, like any other totalitarian ideology that thrives on lies, manipulated Holy Scriptures, fabricated traditions of the Prophet and literalism, and cannot allow its prey to be exposed to an open intellectual environment. That's why it enforces strict censor and does not allow unconditional pursuit of knowledge. This is the only way it can keep the masses in the dark and in its control.
In an Islamist controlled society, debate is forbidden, difference of opinion and dissension is considered a perversion, and modern education a threat. Individual reasoning is forbidden. And expression of doubt about any aspect of the "religiously mandated" social, cultural and political sociology is barred as blasphemy.
Anyone attempting to challenge the status quo is instantly declared an apostate. An Islamist mind is a possessed mind - a condition that compels him or her to live to destroy others. An Islamist does not believe in living side by side with anyone who does not conform to his or her ideology. His life is a constant Jihad (holy war) to overwhelm and eradicate infidels.
No one is more threatened by radical Islam than the Muslims themselves. That's why some of us who have somehow escaped the Islamist control and influence have taken upon ourselves to expose the scourge and by doing so exterminate it. As a Muslim, it is my experience and observation that radical Islam can only be defeated by providing Muslims a basis of comparison - by informing them of the truth about the others. In an Islamist controlled society, Muslims see Jews, Christians and Hindus through a cleric's lens.
Whatever image of the others has been created by a dogmatic and obscurantist clergy has been accepted by the Muslim masses as truth. Nobody is permitted to challenge this one sided propaganda. The result has been that this state of affairs has deprived the Muslim street of the ability to make an impartial and rational judgment.
No Muslim living in this darkness is aware of the light outside. Only a Muslim can change it. Only a Muslim can remove the darkness of hatred.
For starters, we can begin by letting Muslims know the true nature of other faiths, especially of those faiths that have a tradition of democracy, debate and openness. I have no doubt that if an honest picture of others is shown to Muslims, they will certainly reject the images created by radical Islam.
Muslims need to be told what kind of evil; the ideologies based on evil concepts of "final truths" are capable of.
Christian Europe was fortunate to have lived through the throes of reformation, counter-reformation and various movements that ushered in enlightenment and made the French Revolution possible. This experience allowed Europe to see the benefits of democracy, pluralism and tolerance. Acceptance of democratic values made it possible for the feuding states of Europe to make their mark as prosperous and developed nations. The surge of Nazism underlined the need of permanent vigilance against absolutist minds, and the defeat of Adolf Hitler's war machine reconfirmed that minds once freed of absolutism will never allow Fascism to enslave them again.
Muslims, on the other hand, were not so fortunate. They did not feel the necessity of any reformation. They were living in their own fool's paradise. And there were reasons for Muslim lethargy.
Up until 1798, when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded and conquered Egypt, Muslims never felt a need for self-evaluation and self critique. The very fact that they remained in control of much of the world as rulers from 622 A.D. gave them a sense of superiority.
But absolute power corrupted them absolutely. They became victims of the worst kind of ethnocentrism that took away their ability to respect others and learn from them. Seemingly unending successes and worldly conquests contributed in perpetuating the belief that their faith represents an absolute truth and is destined to run the affairs of the world for ever.
Even the fall of their Khilafah, the Ottoman Empire in 1924, could not prompt Muslims to look for any faults and weaknesses in themselves. The Islamists, once again, succeeded in convincing the masses that their fall had been caused by a Judeo-Christian conspiracy. Exploiting the universal Muslim sense of loss at the demise of Ottoman Empire, Radical Islam went on to build its own campaign of terror. There was no one to challenge them.
Corrupt and undeserving Muslim rulers supported the evolution of radical Islam for their own selfish reasons: it could keep the masses distracted and prevent them from noticing their ruler's corruptions. In order to ensure that radical Islam remains in control of the Muslim heart and mind, the Islamist state joined hands with the dogmatic mosques that preached the most rigid and the most exclusivist interpretations of Islam - Deobandi, Salafis and Wahhabis.
Saudi Petro-Dollars helped this un-holy alliance to gain legitimacy and hijack mainstream Islam. It took a while before the civilized world realized the threat this posed. Based on the theory that the world is divided into two major realms, the dar ul Islam (House of peace), consisting of Muslims only, and the Dar ul Harb (House of war), consisting of infidels, the Islamist state sought/seeks to control the world by overwhelming all open societies.
Radical Islamists are aware that they cannot succeed without destroying the United States of America as it symbolizes pluralistic and democratic values. The American passion for spreading freedoms poses a direct threat to Islamist designs.
All democratic and freedom-loving peoples also need the Muslim world to be educated and informed. Education opens a mind. And an open mind is always an enemy of extremism. The world has counted on education and openness to correct Muslim perceptions about non-Muslim civilizations and to provide a basis for stability in the region and peace in the world. Once educated and informed, as this thinking goes, the Muslims could surely overcome their age old prejudices and biases against "infidels."
Knowing that an educated and informed Muslim street will not allow it to control its collective heart and mind, radical Islam is always on guard to find a way to defeat any plan that is aimed at educating Muslim masses. As a first step in this direction, Islamists have launched a smear campaign against Judeo-Christian values and civilization.
Radical Islam's job has been made easier by misinterpretations of the Holy Scriptures that condemn Jews and encourage violence against "infidels."
Thousands of fables demonizing Jews and Christians that have been passed down as the Prophet's Sayings and Traditions, are also being used to legitimize the fundamentalist terror. These manipulated Holy Scriptures and fabricated traditions help radical Islam in laying the responsibility for Muslim defeats, setbacks and downfall at the door steps of Judeo-Christian powers.
According to radical Islam, the Western concept of democracy is un-Islamic. Man, in the eyes of the Islamists, does not have the authority to legislate; it is solely God's right.
The concept of the nation-state is condemned as a Judeo-Christian conspiracy aiming to divide the Muslim Ummah (faith-based Muslim nationhood). Radical Islamists realize that their spin and mesmerism will only work so long as the Muslim street is not exposed to the truth - as contained in modern and scientific knowledge and the principles determining the directions of open societies. In order to prevent the Muslim masses from gaining such insight, they have made certain that modern education does not reach the grass roots level. They have succeeded in achieving this by labeling all modern education as un-Islamic.
Consequently, the Muslim world is plunged into an abyss of darkness, anti-modernity, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.
(The writer is editor-in-chief of Muslim World Today and Pakistan Today, California-based weekly newspapers, president of Council for Democracy and Tolerance and adjunct fellow of Hudson Institute.)