Moderate Muslims Must Seize the Reins of Islam

By Tom Knowlton

Webmaster note when this was written in 2003 some hoped that truly reasonable Muslims would prevail, but in 2015 with the Middle East in flames and terrorism everywhere the simple fact is the only moderate Muslim is either dead or leaves Islam. L. Loflin

The Muslim world has every right to be angry, very angry - but not with the West.

In his authoritative book, What Went Wrong?, Islam scholar Bernard Lewis described the peak of Islamic power (circa 13th century): "For centuries the world view and self-view of Muslims seemed well grounded. Islam represented the greatest military power on earth - its armies, at the very same time, were invading Europe and Africa, India and China. It was the foremost economic power in the had achieved the highest level so far in human history in the arts and sciences of civilization."

However, from the 13th century onward, the Muslim world moved into steady decline and was rapidly eclipsed by empires in Europe and Asia. Now, far from its golden age, the Middle East is a society largely steeped in economic despair, poverty, failed states and oppressive and stagnant regimes. The main catalyst for this decline is the failure of the Muslim world, not to Westernize, but to modernize.

Muslims should be bitter about the decline of their empires, but not with the West and certainly not with the United States. No, the betrayal of the umma, the Muslim community, has come not from without but from within. Beginning in the 13th century, the advancement of the Muslim world has been stymied by radical heretics, mubtadi'ah, who have hijacked and perverted the tenets of Islam.

The first of these mubtadi'ah was the theologian Shiekh ul-Islaam Taqi-ud-Deen Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), who wrote extensively on the need for jihad. In an extensive body of written works, he exalted the call to jihad above the Islamic obligations of fasting, the hajj (greater pilgrimage) and the umrah (lesser pilgrimage). Ibn Taymiyyah began the work of transforming Muslim culture from one of science and advancement, to one of militancy and intolerance.

The virulent tenets of Ibn Taymiyyah's brand of Islam would be further twisted by the Saudi Arabian theologian Muhammad Al-Wahhab (1703-1792), founder of the radical Wahhabi movement to which both the Saudi royal family and terrorist Osama bin Laden follow. He penned the work Kitab at-tawhid, the Book of Unity, laying the groundwork for a sect of Islam that far surpassed the Christian Puritans in rigid intolerance.

Al-Wahhab extolled the need for armed jihad against all infidels and classified not only Jews and Christians as infidels, but also those Muslims who did not subscribe to Wahhabist beliefs. The punishment for being an infidel was adjudged to be death, violating a main tenet of Islam that granted the right of judgment only to Allah. Moreover, al-Wahhab railed against innovation in Islamic society and decreed that any socio-political activity that was not based completely and exceptionally on the Sharia, Islamic law, to be apostate and anathema.

Both Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Wahhab laid the foundation for radical militancy and intolerance in Islamic thought, culture and society. The catalyst for their writings was the threat to Islamic power by outside forces, the Tartars in Ibn Taymiyyah's time and for al-Wahhab, the defeat of Muslim forces in Europe beginning with the failed siege of Vienna in 1683. Their writings called for a return to medieval Islam as the only solution, hindering the possibility of modernization to meet the changing geo-political threats of the world and pushing Islamic thought into a veritable dark age.

The failure of the Muslim world to modernize ushered in the psychologically devastating humiliations of the 20th century. The Ottoman Empire crumbled in 1920, bringing with its demise a wave of Western colonization that would eventually lead to the carving up of the Middle East into Western styled nation-states. The Muslim psyche would then suffer further humiliation in a string of defeats in wars with Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973.

However, once again the need to modernize (not Westernize) the Muslim world was derailed by Islamists who preached to the masses a call to return to the thousand-year-old concept of a feudal Islamic Caliphate. The chief mubtadi'ah theologians who crippled the prospects of modernization in the Middle East were Sayyeed Qutb and Muhammad Abdus Salam Faraj.

Sayyeed Qutb (1906-1966) was an Egyptian Islamist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood who wrote the radical tome Ma'alim fi'l Tariq (Milestones), which divided the world into two spheres Nizam Islami (truly Islamic) or Nizam Jahi (barbarism). While his work was strongly derived from earlier writings of anti-Western Egyptian theologian Hassan al-Banna, he drove Islamist thought to the bitter extreme. Qutb expanded upon al-Banna's call for a rejection of Western-styled government and a return to Islamic rule by justifying the assassination of political leaders - something hitherto expressly forbidden by the Koran.

In Milestones, Qutb declared, "A society whose legislation does not rest on divine law (shari'at allah) is not Muslim, however ardently its individuals may proclaim themselves Muslim, even if they pray, fast and make the pilgrimage," thus sanctioning the murder of Muslims who disagreed with his radical brand of Islam by casting them out of the umma.

Likewise, the Egyptian Muhammad Abdus Salam Faraj (1952-1982) spoke of the necessity of jihad in his influential writing Al-Faridah al-Gha'ibah (The Neglected Duty). Faraj proclaimed the need to wage jihad on not only non-Muslims but also those Muslims who rebuke the radical Islamist ideology. The Neglected Duty has become the spiritual manifesto of many of the most violent Sunni terrorist organization, including al Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Many terrorists cite justification for their horrific attacks in one Neglected Duty passage: "It is permissible to make a raid on the disbelievers whom the call of Islam has reach without prior warning."

Palestinian Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989) was the main architect of fomenting Islamist theology into action. It was Azzam, not his chief disciple Osama bin Laden, who organized the Islamist community into a global terrorist cooperative in the later days of the Soviet-Afghan War. Al Qaeda is the direct descendant of Azzam's organization, Makhtab al Khadimat, which bin laden assumed control over after Azzam's assassination in 1989.

Azzam's most famous works, Join the Caravan and Defense of Muslim Lands, furthered the Islamist notion of armed global jihad and galvanized the Islamist community behind a mystique of invincibility in the wake of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. Since the execution of Faraj in 1982 for his implication in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Azzam's assassination seven years later, the Islamist movement has been advanced largely by a gaggle of miscreants.

Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, Shiekh Omar Abdul Rahman, Abu Qatada, Omar Bakri Muhammad, Mullah Omar, 'Abd al-Mun'im, Abu Zant and Abu Hamza al-Masri have proved to be nothing more than shameless demagogues, incapable of doing more than regurgitating the works of their predecessors. They wave the Islamist banner, not out of genuine piety, but to achieve their own personal ambitions of power. Not since the Nuremberg trials have such a collection of misfits and criminals assembled under the false guise of ideology.

Likewise, here in the United States the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) continue to sacrifice the achievements of the American Muslim community on the alter of radical Islam. In July 1998, CAIR's chairman, Omar Ahmad, stated, "Islam isn't in America to be an equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran...should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on earth."

CAIR has denounced the teachings of brilliant contemporary Islamic thinkers such as Khalid Duran , Shiekh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, Abdul Karim Soroush and Rashad Khalifa , who was murdered by al Fuqra militants in Arizona in 1990. These Islamic theologians want to modernize (not Westernize) the Muslim world within the bounds of Islam, and believe that Islam and democracy are inseparable - that submission to Islam is impossible without freedom. They look beyond the guise of Islam behind which many of the tyrants in the Middle East cloak themselves and weigh the good or evil of a leaders actions.

The United States has welcomed Muslims to its shores and granted them the right to worship regardless of race or creed, even those whose vitriolic brand of Islam has made them unwelcome in the land of our Muslim allies. In America, every Muslim has the freedom of speech, even when they call for the destruction of the United States and the American way of life.

Shia and Sunni Muslim communities coexist in the United States in a harmony unequaled by any nation in the Middle East. Moreover, the United States is unsurpassed by any country in the world in the opportunities available to Palestinians to freely live, work, learn and succeed. The radical Islamist clerics who dominate the mosques in America threaten all that American Muslims have achieved. They are rapidly bringing all Muslims to the brink of the abyss not by spreading religion, but by trying to foment an Islamic world system that - akin to communism - would subjugate all of humankind.

It is shameful that today Islamists support a ruling theocracy in Tehran that oppresses the spirit of Iranian Muslims. Moreover, they defend the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein, the man who employed chemical weapons against Sunni Kurds, the very descendants of the Muslim hero Saladin, and massacred Shia Muslims in Karbala on the very ground where the patriarch of Shiism was martyred! Many of these Islamists live and preach in the West because of the unprecedented religious freedoms and protection from persecution that they are afforded by our governments.

But I fear that the time is short before another horrific terrorist attack such as occurred on 9/11 gives rise to vigilante groups such as the Regulators of the 1700s, Anti-Masons of the 1800s, and the anti-communist American Protective League, National Security League, and American Defense Society of the 1900s, who huddle behind closed doors and plan to counter the evil acts that they envision are being planned in their neighborhood mosques. Moderate Muslims need to act now. They need seize the reins of Islam and cast out the Islamist mubtadi'ah who have betrayed the umma and damned the Muslim world to an endless cycle of poverty, despair and oppression.

Tom Knowlton is a Contributing Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at 02-26-2003


What does Al Gore say about the 'science' behind climate change?

"As it happens, the idea of social justice is inextricably linked in the Scriptures with ecology."

What does Daniel Pipes have to say about the two political parties?

I vote Republican because I support the party's core message of individualism, patriotism, and respect for tradition, in contrast to the core Democratic message of dependence, self-criticism, and "progress." I am inspired by the original reading of the U.S. Constitution, by ideals of personal freedom and American exceptionalism. I vote for small government, for a return of power to the states, for a strong military, and an assertive pursuit of national interests.