The Radicalization of Muslims – A White Paper

Arif Humayun


Nearly all terrorist acts throughout the world are routinely ascribed to Muslims – by default. This abrupt deduction is not without cause since radical ideologies amongst Muslim societies provide ample support for such an inference. Sadly, insufficient attention – especially within Muslim communities – has been focused on the root cause of politically motivated ideologies that drive Islamic radicalism, impedes development within their societies and threatens world peace. In fact, instead of encouraging intellectual discourse to deflate these ideologies, the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) is actually attempting to stifle debate on these topics. This White Paper aims to encourage introspection among Muslims to understand how their religion of peace is being manipulated by radicals; the chasm between the Islam of Allah (God)1 and that of the mullah, 2 is highlighted. The origins of the politically inspired doctrines of jihad, apostasy, blasphemy, sharia, 3 etc., which form the basis of the radicals’ agenda, the unsuitability of the traditional educational system that graduates passive and receptive minds, and the separation of religion and politics, are discussed and some specific consequences highlighted. Through this analysis, Muslims are encouraged to seek modern secular education, reject faulty doctrines, better understand their faith through critical intellectual discourse, and divorce politics from religion. Additionally, this analysis will enable social scientists to strategize and develop policies for eliminating radicalism. Finally, the analysis can assist law enforcement identify leading indicators and prevent the spreading of radicalism. Introduction Islam’s growth, since its beginning in 6104 CE (current era) from the deserts of Arabia to most of the then known world and its subsequent decline, can be broadly classified into five periods: 1. The beginnings (570 – 661 representing the Prophet Mohammad’ssa5 lifetime (570 – 632 CE) and the subsequent period of the four elected caliphs6 (632 – 661 CE). 2. Development (661 – 935 CE when the Caliphate became hereditary running the affairs of the State in Muslim controlled territories). 3. Culmination of all encompassing Caliphate (935 – 1500 CE when independent political units emerged within the Muslim territories and Caliphate retained a 1 As detailed in the Qur’an, (includes the five pillars and articles of faith) 2 As preached by the politicized clergy and practiced in several Muslim countries 3 Islamic Law 4 The year of the first revelation to the Prophet Mohammadsa 5 Customary salutation meaning “peace be on him” 6 Prophet’s successor or leader of the Muslim community 1 symbolic religious function. This period includes the Crusades, expansion of the Muslim empire, and the Mongol invasion). 4. Triumphant Islam (1500 – 1700 CE when the Safavid (in Persia), Ottoman (in Turkey) and Mughal (in India) Empires ruled vast areas of the world as independent political entities. The Caliphate existed solely for religious functions and was part of the Ottoman Empire). 5. Decline (1700 – present time, with the rise of the Western Powers due to the industrial revolution and the defeat of the three Muslim Empires). Karen Armstrong7 records the history of each period and documents that Islam’s rapid growth was based on its message of peace, equality, and justice. In the global agrarian economy that existed at that time, this efficient system flourished and allowed Islam to spread to distant lands. The transformation of the caliphate from an elected office based on piety during the first period, to a hereditary position running the affairs of the state during the second period, and its subsequent modification to a symbolic religious function when independent political entities emerged within the Muslim held territories is significant and demonstrates the evolution within the Islamic caliphate system. A nonpolitical caliphate is perhaps strongly required today to spiritually unite Muslims by rejecting the flawed concepts and enabling them to follow the Qur’anic teachings as interpreted under the current situation. This Paper focuses on the growth of Islamic radicalism during the “Decline” period of the Muslim Empire (1700 to present) and describes how the radicals’ concepts have become accepted by the mainstream during this turbulent period. With the primary purpose of encouraging introspection among Muslims, this paper presents an overview of Islamic teachings, excerpted from the Qur’an – its undisputed source – and contrasts them with radical ideologies that propagate violence highlighting the gulf between them. Using specific, documented examples from Pakistan, the absurdity of radical ideologies of politicized clergy will be highlighted along with consequences of their application on the global scene. Directed towards a broad audience – Muslims and non-Muslims – this paper will inevitably include details that may appear trivial or unnecessary to particular groups; nevertheless, to show the complete picture – origins and ‘cause and effect’ phenomena – that is unavoidable.


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