Islamic Case against Islamic Radicalism

Article excerpt


About three years ago, in Birmingham, England, I lectured a large Muslim audience on the topic "The Evidence for God." My lecture focused on the modern scientific discoveries that support the idea of a fine-tuned universe and an intelligently designed life. The audience consisted mostly of very interested Muslim students.

Yet there was a small, dissatisfied group. During the question-and-answer session, one rose and passionately objected to the conference's whole idea. "Why are we wasting time with all this useless philosophical and scientific sophistry?" he demanded. "Shouldn't we concentrate on establishing the worldwide Islamic state that will save us from all evils?"

Later I learned this angry young man was a member of the radical group Hizb-ut Tahrir, firmly dedicated to establishing a global Islamic state. I am sure he and his comrades saw themselves as pious Muslims. Yet something was terribly wrong with their faith, a defect that left them much more interested in the case against "capitalism" than in the case for God.

This extreme politicization is not peculiar to Hizb-ut Tahrir but a common trait among groups and individuals who advocate Islamic radicalism. They actually seem motivated by hatred of the West, expressed in Islamic terminology. Antoine Sfeir, a French scholar studying Islamic radicalism in Europe, characterizes the movement as "a kind of combat against the rich [and] powerful by the poor men of the planet."

It is thus not surprising to see former Marxists join the ranks of Islamic radicals - including figures like Carlos the Jackal, who recently penned a book titled "Revolutionary Islam." This brand of Islam, Carlos argues, "attacks the ruling classes" and stands against "the enslavement of nations."

This is a deviation from Islam proper. Radicals see Islam as a force to lead "enslaved" nations against "ruling" ones. The Koran, however, presents Islam as a way to lead all humans to God's path. From a purely Koranic point of view, non-Muslims are potential brothers to whom Islam should be presented "with wisdom and fair admonition ... in the kindest way." (16/125) Moreover, Jews and Christians are already under divine guidance; the Koran calls them People of the Book and orders Muslims to agree with them on the basis of monotheism. (3/64) But from the radical point of view, all non-Muslims, especially Westerners, are dehumanized enemies to be insulted, attacked and murdered.

The big difference between these two perspectives comes from their motives. …