A “Closer Look” at Radical Islam

by: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.

Beloved, before I begin I need to make clear my intentions. The following information and opinions are not meant to establish a negative generalization regarding the Islamic religion. The vast majority of contemporary practitioners of Islam are peaceful, kind, and generous people who live their daily lives hoping to find purpose and passion just like the rest of us. I have several American Muslim friends who I cherish and enjoy. I have served on several interfaith panels where Muslim clergy have enthusiastically participated, and it has been rewarding to interact with them on many levels.

However, I would be misleading you if I were to say there isn’t a component or two of Islamic history, culture, and religious practice that hasn’t violently reared its ugly head and caused hateful and cruel damage to people and institutions they view as challenging the value, history, stability, and expansion of Islam itself.

For those “haters” out there, let me again remind you that pointing accusing fingers in the direction of a whole group of people for the actions and beliefs of a minority of that same group is dangerous and foolish.  I shouldn’t have to remind all of you Christian souls out there that even though the Bible clearly states “God is love” and those who are connected to God should seek “peace and justice,” there remains a small minority of people who claim connection to the Christian “understanding of God” while abusing individuals, degrading intellect, separating communities, and even violently opposing differing points of view other than their own limited and inappropriately literal interpretations of Biblical text.

Not unlike most good and peaceful Muslims, we Christians also are forced to frequently deal with the sting of public humiliation when we are bundled together with the “outer fringes” of our own religious expressions. This uncomfortable association gives both Islamic and Christian followers more spiritual and emotional headaches than we care to admit.

Now, with all these disclaimers, let’s talk plainly about “radical” Islamic fundamentalism.

A very influential Egyptian Muslim intellectual, Sayyid Qutb, once stated, 

“Dominion should be reverted to Allah alone, namely Islam, that holistic system He conferred upon men. An all-out offensive, a jihad, should be waged against modernity so that this moral rearmament could take place. The ultimate objective is to re-establish the Kingdom of Allah upon the earth.”

This attitude, understanding, and world view of a growing minority of Islamic fundamentalists regarding the term and expression of “jihad” is a problem that is not going away anytime soon. To react to it effectively will require a highly educated populace who will feel secure in the overall methodologies and tactics used to combat its hateful and counterproductive goals.

Even though the word “jihad” means “to struggle,” that struggling, in the majorative sense, involves the broader perspective of spiritual, psychological, social, physical, and even intellectual “warfare” against anything or anyone who intentionally curtails the expansion of Islamic religious foundations. Clearly Muslims are divided over the understanding and application of “jihad.” The Holy Book of Islam, the Quran, does teach about the word “jihad” and these teachings can be found in Suras 4:74; 8:12, 15-16, 39-42; 9:39. However, Muslims can and often disagree passionately about both the contemporary relevance and specific meaning of military or violent expressions of “jihad.”

In general, fundamentalist Muslims have a distinctly aggressive and harsh personal commitment to defend and protect Islam. This separatist, negative, and certainly literalistic view of some texts within both the Quran itself and the sayings (the Hadith) attributed to the founding father of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad. These fundamentalists are not that dissimilar to some of our own far right wing Christian sects. However, there is a big difference between fundamentalist views and the remarkable jump to the violent expression of Islamic “radicalism.”

The toleration movement in far-left circles, as well as the sophomoric tendencies toward isolationist thinking in the far-right consciousness, is not only foolish and ignorant it is profoundly dangerous as it relates to “radicalized” Islamic fundamentalism. Even though much of the modern expression of Islamic law does not support radical Islam’s violent tendencies we in the rest of the world — both Muslim and non-Muslim — can not ignore it. We cannot ignore this radicalized version of Islam especially in the light of the violence and political intrigue of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, eastern Arabia, North and eastern Africa, the Sept. 11th Twin Towers destruction, and the growing expansion of turmoil in the Eastern Pacific arena.

In the earliest history of Islam, a civil war was fought over the “true successor” to the Prophet Muhammad. That civil war led to a split between the majority Sunni and the minority Shiite populations. From this internal and bloody conflict, there arose a group entitled the Kharajites (the withdrawers) who believed that only Allah could determine the “proper successor,” and that He would let his ultimate will be seen and experienced through the process of physical “battle.”

In David Foote’s book, “Radical Islam vs. Islam,” it describes these Kharajites as holding the belief that 

“any person who strayed from the practice of Islam was ipso facto an apostate (someone intentionally leaving the faith) and therefore could be killed.”

Particular doctrines (standardized and accepted teaching) of Kharajism that were common among all who followed their lead involved the idea that “a believer” who committed a mortal sin is an apostate, and that all non-Kharajites are infidels.

Another form of Islam is titled: Wahhabism, named after its founder, Muhammad ibn’ Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) who taught that all additions to Islam after the third century of the Muslim era (about 950) were inauthentic and are required to be eliminated by any means necessary. Unlike western thinking, Wahhabism does not distinguish between races, nations, or artificial factions of tribalism. Rather the only distinction that matters to them is “believer” versus “non-believer.” Osama bin Laden and his extremist views are directly in-line with these beliefs.

For radical fundamentalists, Christianity, merely because of its teachings about Jesus Christ, have already committed the “worst sin” against Islam and therefore have initiated hostilities by seeking to take away “the faithful” from their Islamic faith and practices. For this radical “fringe” of Muslim thinking the designation of Jesus as God “incarnate” is blasphemy against Allah and therefore requires faithful followers of Muhammad to label them as “aggressors” and “enemy people.” With this understanding, there would be a legitimate validation to waging “jihad” against them by any means necessary.

Beloved, after this metaphoric cold glass of water thrown into your collective faces, let me again remind you this view is an extreme fringe expression and we should not paint Muslims as terrorists or radical fundamentalist just because they follow the teaching, practices, or religious expressions of the Prophet Muhammad. That would be wrong. However, many of us need to remove our heads from out of the sand, get educated to the realities we face.


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