The Brutal Rise of Islamism Is Forcing Muslims to Confront the Enemy Within

Cape Times (South Africa), December 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

The Brutal Rise of Islamism Is Forcing Muslims to Confront the Enemy Within


BYLINE: Hussein Solomon

Forget the "Clash of Civilisations" thesis; the battle lines within Islam have been drawn.

Two years ago, I published a paper entitled Between Tolerance and Totalitarianism, Between Islam and Islamism. The basic thrust of my argument then was that Islamic principles of tolerance and compassion are increasingly being displaced by Islamism. Islamism is a 20th century totalitarian ideology that seeks to mould Islamic religious tradition to serve narrow political ends of domination. Not only is Islamism totalitarian in character, it is also violent in its methods and, in the process, betrays the very Islamic ideals it supposedly champions.

At the time of writing that paper two years ago, I recall feeling pessimistic, feeling that Islamism was on the ascendancy. However, recent events have tempered my despondency and filled me with renewed hope that Muslims are recapturing the true ideals of their faith - those of tolerance and compassion - while rejecting the Islamist extremisms and distortions of their faith. A key catalyst for this is that Muslims are increasingly being turned off by the barbaric methods employed by Islamists.

In Iraq, unprecedented revulsion was displayed by Iraqi Muslims at the fact that young children were being recruited as suicide bombers by al-Qaeda. Two cases earlier this year illustrate the point well. In one incident, a young girl aged 13 exploded her suicide belt in Diyala, and in September, a 10-year-old boy blew himself up next to Sheikh Imad Jassem, the leader of the Sons of Iraq in Tarmiya. Not only was Muslim public opinion affronted by the age of the suicide bombers, but also at the fact that they were recruited by coercive means and, in one case, did not even know that they were being strapped with an explosive device.

The use of child suicide bombers by al-Qaeda may make tactical sense since less attention is paid to children at security checkpoints, but in the process they are alienating Muslim public opinion, which they do need in order to sustain their campaign. Increasingly, Iraqis are now co-operating with authorities in sharing information, which is contributing to more preventive action in Iraq. As such, the death toll is dropping and the security situation is improving while al-Qaeda and others of its ilk are increasingly on the defensive. …

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