FaithWorld

Guestview: Why “militant Islam” is a dangerous myth

koran kalashnikov

(A Palestinian gunman marches with a Koran and his rifle during a protest in Deir al-Balah September 25, 2002/Magnus Johansson )

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Dalia Mogahed is Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. mogahed

(Dalia Mogahed/ Gallup)

By Dalia Mogahed

Right-wing pundits in the U.S. and Europe sometimes argue that it is misguided to avoid religious language when describing terrorists. They point out that members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates call themselves “jihadists”, a derivative of the Arabic noun “jihad” meaning a struggle for God. They explain that it is therefore accurate and fair to refer to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates by the same term.

These same commentators also assert that political correctness in labelling the enemy is the last thing Western societies should be worried about. In fact, they say, focusing too much on not offending others may even weaken Americans’ and Europeans’ will to defeat those who wish them harm.

Yet Gallup research paints a very different picture; an ambitious new study suggests that casting tensions between Muslims and the West in religious terms may actually weaken the ability of America and Europe to fight religiously-branded extremists. This report, which inaugurates Gallup’s Abu Dhabi Center, is entitled “Measuring Muslim-West Relations: Assessing the “New Beginning,” and presents the results of more than 100,000 interviews with citizens in 55 countries. A key finding is that those who see the conflict as primarily due to religious differences are more likely to see a clash as inevitable.

Russia’s Islamist rebels mull language switch to Arabic or Turkish

grozny (Photo: Workers clean blood from the sidewalk outside the parliament building in Grozny October 19, 2010 following a suicide attack there that killed four people/Kazbek Basayev)

Militants waging an Islamist insurgency in Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus region have proposed using either Arabic or a Turkic language as a lingua franca for their affairs. The insurgents now communicate with each other largely in Russian, also the main language of the dozen or so Islamist web sites they are affiliated with, and of their video addresses.

The insurgency leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, suggested earlier this month that a “state” language be formed for the self-styled Caucasus Emirate, a grouping of Muslim republics including Chechnya and Dagestan that want to quit Russia.

Arabic was proposed due to its status as “the language of Islam,” while a Turkic group language was suggested due to the historical and linguistic links of dozens of languages spoken in the North Caucasus. Last week a member of the Caucasus Emirate, Abu Zaid, posted a long appeal on kavkazcenter.com in favor of Arabic as a state language for the Caucasus Emirate, calling it “the international language of jihad.”

Israel charges imam with incitement against pope

nazareth (Photo: Pope Benedict meets religious leaders in Nazareth, May 14, 2009, with many Muslim clerics in white and red turbans in the audience/Atef Safadi)

Israeli authorities have charged the imam of a mosque in Nazareth with inciting violence against Pope Benedict and supporting al Qaeda and “global jihad,” the justice ministry has said.

The indictment said Nazim Mahmoud Salim, who was arrested by police a month ago, led a group of about 2,000 worshippers, and had also preached at the flashpoint al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest shrine.

Salim is charged with inciting violence against Pope Benedict during his visit last year to Nazareth, the town of Jesus’ boyhood in the heartland of Israel’s minority Arab population.

Low support for radicalism among European Muslims — Pew report

london mosqueSupport for radical Islamist groups is low among European Muslims and some leading groups with overseas roots are now cooperating with local governments and encouraging Muslims to vote, according to a new report. (Photo: A minaret in East London, August 11, 2006/Toby Melville)

European groups linked to wider Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami now focus more on conditions for Muslims in Europe than their original ideologies from Egypt and Pakistan, according to the report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report also cited tensions between “jihadists” and peaceful Islamists in Europe, saying some groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood were working with police to counter militants.

Hardline Islam steps out of the shadows in Algeria

algeria salafi (Photo: Books by ultra-conservative Salafis are increasingly available in Algeria, 2 August 2010/Louafi Larbi)

In a bookshop in an eastern suburb of the Algerian capital, visitors can stroll in off the street and pick up titles such as “Our fight against the West,” and “Jihad according to Salafist principles.”

After years of keeping a low public profile, Algerian Salafists — followers of an ultra-conservative brand of Islam — are becoming bolder, laying down a challenge to a state that is firmly secular and fighting a lingering Islamist insurgency.

Most Salafists in Algeria have never been involved in the violent conflict that convulsed the country from the early 1990s, and in fact many cooperated with the government to persuade the insurgents to lay down their arms.

Muslim scholars recast jihadists’ favourite fatwa

magnifying koran

An Indonesian Muslim uses magnifying glass to read Koran verses printed on lamb parchment, Jakarta, July 27, 2005/Beawiharta

Prominent Muslim scholars have recast a famous medieval fatwa on jihad, arguing the religious edict radical Islamists often cite to justify killing cannot be used in a globalized world that respects faith and civil rights.  A conference in Mardin in southeastern Turkey declared the fatwa by 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya rules out militant violence and the medieval Muslim division of the world into a “house of Islam” and “house of unbelief” no longer applies.

Osama bin Laden has quoted Ibn Taymiyya’s “Mardin fatwa” repeatedly in his calls for Muslims to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and wage jihad against the United States.

from Global News Journal:

Southeast Asia’s Islamists try the domino theory

Photo: Jihad book collection in Jakarta Sept.21, 2009. REUTERS/Supr

A half-century ago, Washington worried about Southeast Asian nations falling like dominoes to an international communist movement backed by Maoist China, and became bogged down in the Vietnam War.

Noordin Top, believed to be the mastermind behind most of the suicide bombings in Indonesia -- including the July 17 attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels -- pronounced himself to be al Qaeda's franchise in Southeast Asia.

Top and his allies in Jemaah Islamiah (JI) aimed to create an Islamic caliphate across Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, southern Thailand and Southern Philippines. Even before the 9/11 suicide airliner attacks, they were trying to spark an Islamic revolution with ambitious plots and attacks.

Adapting the U.S. “Koran for Dummies” for French readers

koran-for-dummies-175coran-pour-les-nuls-175If you don’t know anything about the Koran but want to learn, does it make any difference if you’re an American “dummy” or a French “nul”? That  isn’t meant to cast doubts about knowledge on either side of the Atlantic. But it does arise now that the French version of the American guide to Islam’s holy book has just been published in Paris.

The book at right is based on the original text at left, but it would be wrong to call it a translation. First Editions, the French publisher of the “Pour les Nuls” (“For Dummies”) books, took the U.S. original and asked a leading Paris-based Islam specialist, Franco-Algerian Malek Chebel, to adapt it for French readers.

Chebel, who has also just published his own translation of the Koran and an accompanying “encyclopedic dictionary,” explained at the book presentation here that he had to make several changes. The original text by Sohaib Sultan, now the Muslim chaplain at Princeton University, was fine for U.S. readers, he said. “There weren’t errors,” he explained, “but I had to make some fundamental changes. I told the editor, she checked with the American publishers and asked if they agreed. They went along with it. So I worked from that basis and the book became a French book.”

Could gagged Mumbai confession do more good than harm?

hindux1A crucial part of gunman Mohammad Ajmal Kasab’s hindu-articleconfession at the Mumbai attack trial has been censored by the judge on the grounds that it could inflame religious tensions between Hindus and Muslims in India. After stunning the court on Monday by admitting guilt in the the three-day rampage that killed 166 people, Kasab gave further testimony on Tuesday that included details about his training by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based militant group on U.S. and Indian terrorist lists.

The front-page report in today’s The Hindu, which noted the judge’s gag order in its sub-header, put it this way:

Ajmal made some crucial statements on Tuesday as part of his confession. They pertained to the purpose of the attack as indicated by the perpetrators and masterminds and the message they wanted to send to the government of India. Ajmal also wanted to convey a message to his handlers. However, this part of his confession faces a court ban on publication.

Algeria also opts for “Sufi card” to fight Islamist extremism

algeria-sufi (Photo: Sufi at festival in southern Algeria, 24 March 2008/Zohra Bensemra)

FaithWorld recently ran a post about Pakistan considering playing the “Sufi card” in its campaign against Islamist militants. The idea is that promoting this mystical and tolerant school of Islam could counteract the influence of more radical readings of the faith. It looks like they’re not the only ones considering this:

After using police raids, arrests and gun battles in its fight against Islamist insurgents, Algeria is now deploying a new, more subtle weapon: a branch of Islam associated with contemplation, not combat.

The government of this North African oil and gas producer is promoting Sufism, an Islamic movement that it sees as a gentler alternative to the ultra-conservative Salafism espoused by many of the militants behind Algeria’s insurgency.