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Terrorism's roots lie in literal Islam

Islam needs a revolution

Only a root canal of Islam’s ideas can move the Arab and Muslim world toward modernity.


Salman Masalha ||

Terrorism's roots lie in literal Islam


One of the fundamental problems with Islam is the view that its doctrines – exactly as written, exactly as they were developed and forged in the Arabian desert in the 7th century – “are good for all times and all places.” The religious ideology that all Islamic scholars of all Islamic sects uphold rests on the Koranic text and the canonical traditions attributed to the Prophet Mohammed.

According to Islam, the world is divided into two: the camp of the faithful, comprised of those who believe in the religion of Islam, and the camp of the infidels, which comprises the rest of the world, including Christians and Jews. “The infidels are divided into three categories: people of the book – the Jews and Christians ... those who have a sort of book – the Zoroastrians ... and those with no book – those who worship idols or the stars,” the Shi’ite scholar Al-Tusi wrote in the 10th century. And Islam’s attitude toward unbelievers nowadays is made very clear in the words of religious arbiter Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz, the former grand mufti of Saudi Arabia: “The Koran, the laws of the prophet and the general agreement among Muslims all teach us that Muslims have an obligation to be the enemies of the infidels – the Jews, the Christians and the rest of the idol worshippers.”

As Islamist terror appeared on the world stage over the past few decades, many Muslims cried out, claiming that such terror besmirched Islam and didn’t represent it. The terrorists have kidnapped Islam, they said. But the question that begs to be asked is, Who kidnapped whom? Isn’t it more reasonable to assume that the Islamic texts are the ones that kidnapped the terrorists, not the reverse?

When reports emerged after a recent conference of Islamic scholars at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University that one religious arbiter had implied that members of ISIS were heretics, Al-Azhar was forced to issue a denial. Muslim religious scholars find themselves at a disadvantage compared to those who wave the banner of militant Islam – for reading the publications of these fundamentalist organizations shows that they derive their strength and inspiration from the very same foundational texts of Islam itself.

These Islamists aren’t ashamed to proclaim their worldview in public. From their perspective, Islam is “an aggressive religion, a religion of war, a religion of jihad, a religion of beheadings and bloodshed,” as Hussein bin Mohammed wrote in an article published on an Islamist website under the title “The beheading issue.”

“It’s neither beheading unbelievers nor terror that besmirch Islam,” he argued, but rather “all those who want Islam to be in the image of Mandela or Gandhi, without bloodshed and beheadings.” The provocative writer then added, “That isn’t the religion of Mohammed, who was sent out with his sword until Judgment Day; Mohammed, of whom the only chapter in the Koran that bears his name is called the war chapter. ... All those who try to paint Islam as a religion of peace, doves and love ... are doing so under the influence of the West’s false views and its evil ideas, which are being exported to the Islamic nation in order to weaken it.”

The author wasn’t making anything up. He cites Islamic sources. These are the same sources from which all Muslim religious scholars derive their worldviews.

So who is the abductor and who is the abductee in this story?
It seems that Islam needs a serious ideological shake-up. Or to be more precise, it needs a revolution that will bring it into alignment with the modern era. The “sacred” job of being the standard-bearer of this revolution must fall on the shoulders of Muslim intellectuals everywhere. For only a root canal of Islam’s ideas can move the Arab and Muslim world toward modernity.
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Haaretz, Jan. 21, 2015


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