We were created as human beings before we chose our religions, acquired our cultures, learned our languages, or belonged to our homelands. Therefore, we cannot be good religious people, or good citizens, if we are not human beings first. Our religions, cultures, languages, and loyalty to our homelands are learned, and they are non-biological parts of our life. So, why do people use these secondary characteristics to justify killing the humanity of people outside one’s own group… when our humanity is the nature and innate part of our life? Religion, culture, and language are put to their highest use when they build a community. However, sometimes, our loyalty to them makes us forget our humanity, when this loyalty changes to being prejudiced against others.

Some people did not like the 2014 movie “Noah” because it did not follow the Biblical or Quranic portrayal. However, the movie presented an important issue, which is the conflict between religion and humanity… between what you believe is God’s will and some Human principles, such as not killing kids.

Does God command us to do something against our natural Human principles? How can a believer kill his humanity? How can a believer use his religion to justify the evil that he commits? Is God unable to carry out his will, putting it into effect on earth, so He created us to carry it out? How can a good believer transform into an evil human?

I believe one’s evil behavior is not because his religion commands him to it, but rather because he has allowed himself to become an evil human being. That is why Prophet Muhammad said:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was asked, “Who are the most honorable of people?” …  The Prophet (ﷺ) said, Do you ask about (the virtues of the ancestry of) the Arabs?” They said, “Yes,” He said, “Those who were the best amongst you in the pre-lslamic period are the best amongst you in Islam if they comprehend (the Islamic religion).. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 65, 4689)

This statement means that if you are a good person you can be a good Muslim, because you would interpret Islam in a good way. On the other hand, if you were a violent person, you would interpret everything to mean violence. Islam is the same religion, but we have different eyes.

How does a believer know God’s will for sure, so that he can carry it out without waiting for God to carry it out by himself?  Is that not an issue in all religions?

Did not God say in the Quran that disbelievers will end up in the hell fire; so then, some Muslims decided to kill them to hurry them to hell fire? These Muslims transform into terrorists who believe that killing innocents is Jihad, and they can achieve their lives’ purpose and please God by murdering people.

Did not God promise the Jews the Holy land, so modern Zionists did not wait until God would give it to them? Instead, they waited for Great Britain to carry out the Balfour Declaration , to occupy Palestine for them, to supply them with guns and to train them to kill and exile the Palestinians in one of the worse ethnic cleansings in history, so as to create a racist state.

Do not some fundamentalist Christians believe that Jesus will not come back to the earth until Jews would go be back to the holy land and create the state of Israel? Therefore, they have supported Israel and supplied it by money and guns to exile the Palestinians from their land and houses, kill them, and destroy their homes, as if God commanded them to use their strengths and powers to support the killer and blame the victims when he tries to defend himself.

That is why the Scottish philosopher and historian David Hume (1711-1776), in his book The Natural History of Religion, found that the greatest crimes are compatible with a superstitious piety and devotion in many instances. Hence, he considered it is unsafe to draw any inference in favor of people’s morals, from the fervor or strictness of their religious exercises, even though they themselves believe their intentions sincere.

 Terrorism

Terrorism is a tactic or technique that uses intentional violence and indiscriminate killing of innocent people during peacetime, or in war, against non-combatants (mostly civilians and neutral military personnel), as a means to create terror and generate fear in society, in order to force the hand of its political leaders, for political purposes.

We can divide terrorism into two different types: official and non-official terrorism. OFFICIAL TERRORISM is the violence which is used by a state against another state or against its own citizens to terror them to accept a dictator-based regime (such as in China and Syria) or a race-based regime (such as the apartheid regime in South Africa and Israel), so they will not have a revolution or any attempt to change it.

NON-OFFICIAL TERRORISM differs based on the terrorists’ motives. These motives can be one of the following:

  1. Criminal: Even though criminals have different purposes than terrorists, some criminals use the same method of terrorism, such as taking hostages when they try to escape.
  2. Anarchism: Some anarchists believe that violence is a necessary evil as a reaction to state violence.
  3. Liberation: Most liberation movements use guerrilla asymmetric warfare to resist colonialism and gain independence.
  4. Nationalism: It is called also Right-wing terrorism, such as neo-fascism, neo-Nazism, Zionism and white nationalism or white supremacy. Most of them aim to overthrow governments and replace them with nationalist or fascist regimes.
  5. Revolutionary (Left-wing): It is called also Marxist–Leninist terrorism, and it aims to overthrow capitalist systems and replace them with socialist societies.
  6. Religious: Although there is no religion which which justifies terrorism, terrorists use religions to mobilize people so as to serve their political aims. Therefore, we can find in every religion at least one terrorist movement or group which tries to hijack this religion to commit terrorist acts in its name, such as the Zionist organizations and groups (Haganah, Lehi and Irgun) in the name of Judaism, the Ku Klux Klan in the name of Christianity, Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the name of Islam, and the Myanmari 969 movement in the name of Buddhism. But the fact is that Zionism is a secular ideology that considers Judaism as a race, not a religion; the Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist group more than a Christian group, and the 969 movement is a Burman nationalist movement,not Buddhist. So what about Al-Qaeda and ISIS? And why was there no mainstream Muslim terrorist group in the modern era before the last century? [i]

The figure below categorizes the various types of terrorism.

Global terrorism
Official or state terrorism Non-Official terrorism
Criminal terrorism Anarchist terrorism Liberation terrorism National terrorism/

Right-wing terrorism

Revolutionary/Left-wing terrorism Religious terrorism

(Figure 1. Types of terrorism)

 Jihadist-Salafism

The French political scientist Gilles Kepel coined the term “Jihadist-Salafism” to describe the beliefs of the conservative Muslims who became interested in violent/offensive jihad.

Salafism is an old Islamic school of thought that believes in scholarly authority, and focuses on the Islamic creed, worship, and law more than on Islamic spirituality. It takes its name from the term salaf (“predecessors”, “ancestors”), because Salafi scholars oppose the use of dialectics or speculative philosophy in theology, and they think Muslims must follow the example of the first three generations in Islam, known collectively as the “pious Predecessors.”

Ijtihad (reason, independent legal judgment, or personal effort of thinking) is now an established source of Islamic law. However, Salafi scholars believe that only the “pious Predecessors” could use it, but not all Muslims. Salafi scholars from Saudi Arabia are generally bound by Hanbali jurisprudence (the strictest Islamic jurisprudence) and advocate following a scholar rather than understanding scripture oneself. Oil money made these Saudi scholars stars. It opened the door of the media widely for them, published their books, and translated them into many foreign languages.

The Ottoman Empire was the last Islamic caliphate which was a polity-based in Islam and multi-ethnic trans-national empire. The sultan of the Ottoman Empire was the caliph.  ‘Caliph’ means an Islamic steward who is considered to be a political-religious successor to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslims nation. After the Ottoman Empire was defeated in World War I, the Allies dictated the terms of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and of partitioning it into different states that became occupied or were put under the protectorate of the Allies. As a result of this dissolution, the caliphate institution was canceled in Turkey with the consequence that Muslims lost their united leadership.

In seeking Indian independence from Britain, the Indian thinker Abu al-A’la Mawdudi (1903-1979), changed jihad by associating it with anti-colonialism and “national liberation movements.” This view opened the door to a secular and nationalist interpretation of jihad. Therefore, the Jihadist movements emerged, along with secular movements, to defend the Arabic countries during the European colonization early in nineteen century,

Some Jihadist movements remained active even after the disposal of European colonization, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. When the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan, many Egyptians, Jordanians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Yemenis went to Afghanistan to defend it as an Islamic country. Saudi Arabia supplied them with financial resources, and the United States supplied them with weapons. In Afghanistan, the jihadist and Salafism intermarried, and gave birth to the “Jihadist-Salafism”, which did not die when the Soviets left Afghanistan. Some of these Arabs left Afghanistan victorious, and returned to their countries; some of them immigrated to Europe, carrying with them the “Jihadist-Salafism” thought.

Most of them adopted an old advisory legal opinion (Fatwa) of the scholar Ibn Taymiya (1263-1328) which had made a declaration of apostasy (Takfeer, resulting in ‘excommunication’) against Muslim rulers who do not implement Islamic law (shari’a), and it obliged believing Muslims to  fight against them. Actually, Ibn Taymiya was referring to the Muslim rulers who were supporting the Mongol rulers against the Muslims.

However, the Salafi Jihadists took this Fatwa as a precedent to consider their rulers, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Al-Sadat, not to be true Muslims and fought them before directing their jihad against external enemies.

Jihadist-Salafism’s Motivations

Of course, there is no excuse for terrorism. The killing of civilians is a crime that is unrelated to any other crime committed by others, even if the killer himself was a victim of these other crimes. Murder is a crime in both cases. However, we still need to understand the reasons that led a person to become terrorists, who try to control people, and trample their destiny, their plans, and their relationships with other nations.

Salafist jihadists have carried out domestic terrorist acts in Islamic countries and international terrorist acts in western countries. Most domestic terrorism is a reaction to violent dictatorship, closing the doors to participation in political action and non-circulation of power. Accordingly, we can note the directly proportional relationship between the number of terrorist acts and the violence of the dictatorial states. For example, the equations of terrorist acts in Egypt have increased since the fifties of the last century while most international terrorism is because of disruption (misfiring) in the balance of powers (as it is in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict) and power vacuums (as in what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria).

DOMESTIC TERRORISM is motivated by the following:

  1. Applying the Islamic law (Shariah) by unqualified individuals, which is taking punishment unlawfully into their own hands (i.e. an extra-judicial punishment by an informal group). This equates to “lynching” as it arose in the late 19th century, post-Civil War America: lynching is simply a form of terrorism by another name. Analogously, Salafist jihadists attacked some liquor stores in Egypt, in disregard of the principle that Islamic law must be applied by a state, not by individuals. That is why the prophet Muhammad did not apply it until he had established the first Islamic state in Medina.
  2. Replacing the Muslim rulers who do not apply the Islamic law. The example of that is the assassination of the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.
  3. Defending specific Islamist groups, such as the Muslim brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. The example of that is the assassination of the Egyptian prime minister Mahmoud Fahmy Elnokrashy Pasha by the Muslim Brotherhood less than three weeks after he formally had outlawed the Brotherhood and imprisoned its members. Such acts are personal revenge and exaggeration of their group as if it constitutes Islam itself.
  4. The conflict between two Islamic sects (Sunni and Shia), which is used politically by different states.

The following motivate INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM:

  1. Forcing the western countries to withdraw their troops from Islamic states. The example of that is when Al-Qaeda bombed Madrid train simultaneously, coordinated bombings in 2004. Spain withdrew its troops out of Iraq after these bombings.
  2. Punish anyone who mock Islamic symbols and the western countries that occupied Islamic lands in Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. However punishment is not jihad, and even if Muslims are under western attacks, if Muslims must go to a war they have to commit to Islamic moral rules, such as the rule: “Do not fight anyone who did not fight [you]” because the Qur’an has stated:

“No bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another.” [Surah Al-Fâṭir, 35:18]

This means that if you are weaker than your enemies, and you cannot defend your land or defeat them in a war, still you cannot attack their buildings and kill civilians. However, terrorists do not fight back. They just choose to attack unarmed innocents. That is a betrayal of those who give them trust, and Islam does not allow that.

When the Muslims were defeated in the battle of Uhud the prophet Muhammad accepted the defeat as a lesson to teach Muslims for the next battle, but he did not send them to Mecca to sneak-attack its people or burn their houses.

As we see, politics is the biggest source of terrorism. Some people believe that terrorism is the reaction to two centuries of European colonization, and the western absolute support for Israel against Arab interests.

To be continued, inshâ’Allah, in Part 2…


[i] The Hashshashin were a Nizari Ismaili Shi’ite terrorist group in the 12-13th centuries, but they were limited to a time and place and did not transmit their practices or ideology to mainstream Islam, which rejects the Ismaili claims to be a legitimate reform movement within Islam.

 

Ayman Refaat

Ayman Refaat

Ayman Refaat hails from Alexandria, Egypt and now resides in the United States of America, where he teaches as Adjunct Instructor of Arabic Language at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He also serves as Islamic Spiritual Guide at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth. Mr. Refaat holds several university degrees: Bachelors (1994) in Arabic Language and Literature, as well as in Oriental Language and Literature, from the University of Alexandria; Masters (2015) in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Among his publications in Arabic are several articles regarding Arabic and Hebrew Literature; also two books on Arabic grammar and rhetoric. English language publications include a set of three primary level books for learning Arabic starting with the alphabet. Forthcoming works: Liberate Islam: A Modern Rational View of Islam in its Original Sources; The Bell Curve of Civilizations - with focus on Islamic Civilization; The Purpose of Life in Islamic Spirituality. Also, he has given presentations on the theme of his book, The Bell Curve of Civilizations, at several churches in his area. Mr. Refaat is available for small group talks on Islamic subjects and may be contacted at ayman_refaat72@hotmail.com

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