Extremist Muslim fundamentalists support their violent view of Islamic teaching by failing to read their own sacred texts in entirety and in context.
Listen to this NPR interview with former Al-Qaeda recruiter and jihadist Hassan Butt; it is extremely insightful.
In the case of Muslims, this means selecting verses which support terrorism and destruction of all infidels. By basing the arguments upon the Islamic scripture of the Qur’an, rather than merely intellectual or emotional basis, Hassan Butt was able to convert those who were Muslim political activists to a more violent agenda. I’ve transcribed portions of his interview below. (Please pardon my uneducated transcription of the Arabic words used.)
[Renee Montagne (Interviewer )] You recruited others. What did you tell those that you were talking to that they found the most compelling?
[Hassan Butt] Obviously we would talk about the atrocities that were taking place in Palestine, in Iraq; the atrocities that were being comitted by Muslim governments with the support or with the silence i guess of the Western regimes. And these would be inspiring factors, but this wouldn’t be the thing that would turn someone from a normal political activist to someone who would turn to militant radical Islam. It became us teaching these people that the only solution Islamically that we have is to fight these people and to kill these people. We would use islamic theology, and we would show them that the work we were engaging in was an obligation upon Muslims, using various interpretations of the Qur’an and various interpretations of the saying of the prophet Mohammed.
There’s a verse in the Qur’an which means “strike fear in the hearts of the unbelievers.” We would actually say terrorism is part of Islam. It’s not something against Islam. This word is actually used in the Qur’an. It comes from the word il-hab.
Eventually, Mr. Butt left radical Islam, and currently works to combat it. His impetus for leaving seems to have been the same kind of unanswered questions which often interest young Muslims in radicalism:
I really began to think, “Is this really being done in the name of Islam or is this being done in the name of some political agenda?” For me these people became murderers who just enjoyed killing and causing havoc, rather than trying to achieve any type of stability as a result of it.
He goes on to discuss how the intentional disregard of certain portions of the Qur’an, on both sides of Islam, allows Islamic terrorism to prosper:
For a long time, a lot of people, especially the moderate Muslims have been talking about how peaceful Islam is and how loving Islam is, and what they’ve tended to do is ignore the verses and chapters in the Qu’ran that talk about violence, that talk about killing, and they’ve hoped by ignoring it, or being in denial about it, that this problem would disappear, and this hasn’t been the actual case. If I’m a young Muslim who’s picked up the Qur’an and come across certain chapters and in there it says, “Kill the unbelievers until they become Muslim; fight them until they say, ‘lahi lahi l’allah.'” [I believe this is, “There is no God but Allah.”] You know, if a young Muslim reads that, and he goes to the mosque and the mosque says, “Oh, don’t ask questions like this,” or the moderate Muslim says, “Oh, don’t discuss things like this,” if they then go to the radical Muslim who is willing to discuss this Qur’anic chapter, then naturally he’s going to become inclined towards him, because this person is giving him answers to questions that his mind has. And so hence what I’m calling for is there to be an open debate, firstly. We need to be able to go back to the books of Islam and to be able to a new what we call itchthihad, or like create a new reality and explain, “Hang on a second, you know, everything that was written in the Medieval times is not applicable today,” and then that new reality needs to be addressed to young Muslims.
One of the things that’s fascinating about this interview is the idea presented that both the extremists and the moderates have the same flaw in ignoring part of the Qur’an, which ultimately serves the radicals.
For further reading:
- USC Compendium of Muslim Texts, including the Qur’an
- Qur’an Contradiction: Fighting All People Until They Do What? (Good discussion of Surah 9, referenced in the article above, and Islamic texts that refer to it.)
- Answering Islam
- WikiPedia article on the Qur’an