Background of Islam, Extremists, and How to Overcome

Decades have gone by, yet common misconceptions about the Middle East remain. Speaking with non-Muslims, there is a general suspicion of turbans, Arabs, and the Middle East as a whole.

What is portrayed on Western news media every day is not Islam. It is a virus, transmitted through generations, cultivated by historical events, the CIA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Images of violence on television and stories of horror on the radio infuse new generations with this potent killer. We know it today as radical Islam.

Often the question is asked, where did it come from? It is not as simple as blaming it on a particular event or person in modern times. The source of this virus is rooted within the birth of Islam itself, and the blame of nurturing it can be passed around.

Most people who know anything of Islam know that Muhammad is important. But do they know why? His being a prophet is not enough. In the year 610 of the contemporary calendar, the divine word of God was revealed to Muhammad over a period of 20 years. Islam, as this religion came to be known, was not immediately popular. Muhammad brought together the various tribes around, overcoming ridicule and death threats. Initially, Islam was not the widespread religion embraced by millions today. The basis of Islam is simple, it calls for submission. A surrender of oneself to God, wholly, to carry out his divine will. Every Muslim knows this call to prayer: (Pardon the translation to English)

God is most great.
I testify that there is no god but God.
I testify that Muhammad is the Prophet of God.
Come to prayer.
Come to success.
God is most great.
There is no god but God.

Pretty simple, don’t you think? Without the third line, you might think a Christian or Jewish person was saying it. In my view, the Jews and Muslims have more in common with each other than with the Christians. Muslims and Jews are both fanatical when it comes to religion. They both adhere to age-old traditions, praying at synagogues and mosques. They don’t go to worship when they want to, like Christians, rather when their scriptures and teachings mandate it. And unlike the Christians, the Muslims and Jews do not idolize their prophets or God.

Yet the connotations attached to each are very different. Jews are for the most part respected individuals. Israel is looked upon as a victim surrounded by hostiles, a democratic island in a sea of raging chaos. Muslims and Islam in general are viewed by the Western world as backwards. The Middle East is seen as place where terrorists are born. The word Arab immediately connects to the word terrorist in the minds of most Americans. And then there are the turbans. The image of Osama bin Laden has so thoroughly infected the Western mind that an Indian of Sikh origin is immediately pulled over for extra screening at airport security, even though he speaks no Arabic and has only been to India and the United States.

With such misconceptions, it is easy to think that the way to combat the suicide bombers is to increase security. Those with a different mindset may suggest bombing the hell out of the Middle East. That is also a bad choice. The Middle East is not where terrorists are born; rather they used to be made there. That is no longer the case. The recent foiled attacks uncovered by Pakistani intelligence and British MI-5 proves without a doubt that the new terrorists are made in the West, infected by the virus of radical Islam.

I mentioned before that radical Islam is connected to the root of Islam. Here’s how: After the Prophet Muhammad’s death, his four closest companions started to rule. Their collective rule is referred to by Sunnis as the Rashidun or “rightly-guided” caliphs. The first two ruled relatively well (for all intents and purposes) but trouble started with the third. His name was Uthman ibn ‘Affan. Although his rule was decent, the soldiers were unhappy with his performance. They demanded more soldiers’ rights and accused Uthman of nepotism.

In Islamic law, it was deemed alright to overthrow and replace the current ruler if he was not meeting the needs of the ummah (Muslim community) or following sharia (Islamic law). From 656 to 661 was the first fitnah or civil war. Those who thought Uthman’s death was unjustified backed Mu’awiya, a descendant; while those justified his death followed Ali ibn Abi Talib. The “party of Ali” became known as Shi’a. The majority, however, did not support Ali, and are known as Sunni.

What followed had the potential to tear the Islamic world apart. Some may argue that it did, but for the time being, Ali and Mu’awiya came to a truce, where they agreed that Ali would rule. However, a few dissenters on Ali’s side wanted to crush Mu’awiya. Those dissenters, called Kharijites, can be viewed as the first Islamic radicals.

Despite the rift between Sunni and Shi’a, the Middle East brought some remarkable things to the world. Algebra and medicine were taught in the Middle East while Europe was still bleeding the evil out of their patients. Canals and irrigation were invented in Egypt, where scholars believed the world as round as opposed to the European flat model.

There’s more, but this isn’t about bragging. All I’m trying to show is that the Middle East is not composed of bumbling idiots and terrorists. Islam is infused into a highly intelligent population that is now spread across the globe.

But where does radical Islam come in? Islam itself is a very straightforward religion. There is a great sense of community among Muslims, whether they are in the U.S., Pakistan, or anywhere else. This sense of community that has kept Islam alive all these years is the same reason the virus can spread so far so fast.

The Middle East has been offered fruits by various Western powers, only to have the fruits withdrawn as interests in the region are fulfilled or forgotten. Take, for example, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. At the time, the U.S. teamed up with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to provide financial backing and military weapons to the mujahedin so that they could fight back against the communist regime.

And it worked. Soviet Politburo poured billions into a failing campaign that ultimately contributed to the failure of the Soviets to win the Cold War. And when the Soviets pulled out, the U.S. did too (although it took a few years, and the U.S. secretly violated the agreement at that time). In any case, when the U.S. pulled out, they stopped their cash shipments to the region. In fact, U.S. policy made it so that the Middle East almost didn’t exist. The shipments of rifles, plasic C-4 explosives, sniper rifles and remote detonators from the U.S. stopped.

Yet shipments of cash and weapons continued from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan continued to supply the mujahedin with hopes of sending them across the border into the disputed Kashmir territory now claimed by India. The Saudis kept sending money to their Muslim brethren simply because they were brethren. And in the midst of all of this, radical texts which popped up in Egyptian prisons written by jailed Marxists angry at their Egyptian government, angered by what they perceived as Western corruption – shopping malls, sex, crime, movies, jeans. These texts were sent out to universities all across the Muslim world. A new, different Islam was being taught; one that struck out on a jihad (religious, righteous war) against the Westerners and their corruptive ideas. It should come as no surprise that Osama bin Laden was exposed to such radical teachings. Once a wealthy young man who was admired by those who met him, bin Laden became an increasingly hostile force against the West. Cultivating a hate towards the U.S. and Israel, and with money to burn, bin Laden drew from the mujahedin camps initially started by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

This virus, now being spread to fertile young minds by figures like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, was ripe to be used as a weapon against the West. We all know the stories. The embassies bombed, the planes hijacked, finally culminating in the attack on 9/11.

But since then, the virus of radical Islam has changed. It has mutated. No longer can the U.S. hope to cut off the head. Bin Laden is no longer the figure masterminding attacks.

When young Muslims, influenced by the virus, see their motherland being ravaged by Israeli warplanes supplied by the U.S. and supported by Britain; they feel the need to attack. The same sense of community that holds Islam together allows for transmission of the radical version as well. The Qur’an does contain a notion of “just war.” And although I hate to admit it, the high CARB and Rice diet that the world has been subject to for the past 6 years makes the notion of “just war” all that more appealing to more and more young Muslims.

And as for Pakistan, the mujahedin plan backfired. No longer are the jihadists concerned about Kashmir. President General Parvez Musharraf must be feeling extremely confused. Having led an incursion of Pakistani Special Forces dressed as villagers along with jihadists into Kargil, disputed territory with India; Musharraf orchestrated a war that very possibly could have turned nuclear. Now, in our modern times with Islamist extremists turning their guns towards the West and Israel, Musharraf is in the sticky position of whether or not support the West and round up terrorists (by the way, Pakistan is the new Afghanistan) or to support the radicals he helped create.

In any case, we must abandon the high CARB and Rice diet. Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Bush and Condoleezza Rice have all worked very hard to become a sort of virus themselves. It’s now the CARB virus against the radical Islam virus, and the whole world is their playground. And if you don’t believe that the CARB team is a virus, just look at radical Islam. Just like radical Islam, the CARB team is hated by most of the world. Almost nobody supports it; it is misunderstood, and misguided. And finally, both are driven by a faulty interpretation of their respective religions.

It’s not a game though. Real people are dying. Look at Israel. Over 4 decades have passed and yet the Arab – Israeli conflict is as much the same now as it was back then.

Clearly, violence is not the answer. In terms of dealing with radical Islam; the U.S. and her few allies need to back down. We need to show the extremists that striking at America has no effect. Ignore them, belittle them, and make them the ones who are in the wrong. Right now, the extremists have every right to fight, because the U.S. has invaded their land, continually toyed with them, and supported a non-ceasefire on behalf of Israel. I know Hezbollah plays the charity game, but how does it look from the perspective of the refugee who just had his home blown out by the Israelis, who has lost everything, and suddenly Hezbollah comes to him with relief (and now cash stipends of $12,000, over two times an annual salary). The terrorists are good at PR, if nothing else.

What the U.S. should have done was immediately condemn the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldiers and stop Israel from countering. Israel has a bad habit of playing right into Hezbollah/Hamas plans. Also, a neutral peacekeeping force is a good idea. Including myself, a number of people have suggested such. Turkey is a good idea, as it has already been approached by Israel. France, Italy and Finland have also committed troops – an excellent plan. And although reluctant, Israel should also accept help from Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh; this is not a local matter.

Germany has offered maritime support.

The U.N., while looked down upon by the U.S. is still an important body. In fact, it would do the U.S. good to remember that in the catastrophic campaign in Mogadishu, Somalia to capture warlord Mohammad Farrah Aidid, in the end Pakistani peacekeepers with the U.N. provided support in getting the wounded out of the hostile zone. Made famous by the movie Black Hawk Down, the U.N. has been almost forgotten by the CARB team. (When did you last hear about the U.N. before the Lebanon – Israeli conflict)

Finally, it’s up to the Islamic community to step up. Their reluctance comes from the fact that many jihadists were once normal people. Doctors, teachers, friends, etc, it is hard for the moderates to completely break with the extremists.

But that time has come. It’s time to push aside the past mistakes and forge a new path. The moderates need to speak up and condemn the extremists. Stop sending the funds through charities that finance terrorist organizations. Musharraf needs to actively hunt terrorists in his country. It’s time to end the differences between India and Pakistan, Israel and Syria/Iran/Jordan/Lebanon. It’s time for the U.S. to kick people like Bush and Rice, to hold people to the highest moral standards. Everyone needs to be held accountable. If the necessary changes are not made, the bloodshed from the past and bloodshed of the present will only lead to bloodshed in the future.

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