December 2005 issue
Crescent International (UK)
Website: Muslimedia International

Reclaiming the Islamic Movement From the Jihadists

by Iqbal N. Siddiqui

We do not have to believe everything that the Western spin doctors and media tell us about al-Qa'ida to have deep reservations about much that is done in the name of the Islamic movement today. The bombings of civilian targets in Western capitals, such as the underground systems in London and Madrid, and the sectarian killings of Shi'is in Iraq, are just some of the actions that Islamic activists have carried out in the name of jihad that we cannot possibly condone. It is true that nothing Muslims have done comes close to matching the scale of the crimes committed against Muslims by our enemies in pursuit of their interests, but that is no justification or extenuation of the fact that Muslims too have been guilty of appalling atrocities. Even where Muslims have been subjected to the most intense political oppression, such as Chechnya and Palestine, we have to be clear that there can be no justification for such responses as occupation of the Beslan school siege in September last year. We can do little about the crimes of our enemies except condemn them; but those of our own people, committed by our Muslim brothers and sisters in the name of Islam, we have a duty to do something about.

It is no coincidence, of course, that this is the face of the Islamic movement that is most widely promoted by the international Western media, while the fact that Islamic movements provide, for example, the only proper community organization and social services in most Muslim countries is little known around the world. In fact, much of the rise to prominence of such elements in the Islamic movement is probably attributable to Western intervention, keen to promote disruptive and divisive elements within the movement to counter the much more dangerous trends influenced by movements such as that in Iran. Western commentators on al-Qa'ida often comment on the irony that many of its members were once supported by the CIA for its own nefarious purposes; acknowledging that that is true is not necessarily to question the motives or sincerity of the Muslims in question. But it is no coincidence that all these elements within the movement that were once cultivated by the West and its allies, such as the Saudis, were on the extreme Wahhabi and salafi wing of the Islamic movement the sectors of the ummah that were most anti-Shi'i and therefore least likely to follow the lead of the Islamic Revolution.

But the fact that many Muslims regard political Islamic activism less than favourably cannot be attributed only to the influence of our enemies. The fact is that, at every level, many Islamic activists and supposed leaders appear to do their best to put people off, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The rigid, strident and unthinking dogmatism of so many elements within the movement is as alienating of intelligent, open-minded young Muslims as it is of others. Unfortunately, the Ummah of Islam, and therefore the Islamic movement, is no more than a cross-section of humanity as a whole. Within it we find people with every fault known to man, Arrogance and stubbornness are features of the human condition, and it is no surprise that we find them in Muslims, particularly young ones who think they know it all, as young people everywhere are prone to do. Of course, such conduct is utterly alien to the spirit and ethos of Islam, but the simple fact of being Muslim does not make people immune from it.

Such conduct is less understandable or excusable when it comes to those who purport to be leaders of Muslims, however. Unfortunately, in many Muslim communities, there are plenty of so-called Islamic leaders who draw attention because they speak loudly and provocatively, rather than because they have something to say. Such leaders, and their followers, often aim to dominate Islamic organizations and groups, and spend as much time fighting those they perceive as rivals (although they have good Islamic reasons for condemning them, of course) as they do trying to do any positive work for the movement. Even when they do try to work, their understandings are often so distorted as to be counter-productive, as is the case with the groups that proclaim the supposed hijackers of the jet airliners that crashed into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon as "The Magnificent Nineteen". It is hardly surprising that Muslims and non-Muslims alike are put off by such thoughtless stupidities; and again, it is hardly surprising that many of our enemies are only too eager to promote such figures as the real face of the Islamic movement.

In truth, however, nothing that has happened in the last twenty-odd years is all that surprising. As the profile of the Islamic movement rose, it was bound to attract both the wrath and vengeance of our enemies, and those elements within the ummah who had more enthusiasm than understanding and good sense. What has happened, unfortunately, is that the true face of the Islamic movement, reflecting the genuine commitment and instinctive Islamic values of the Muslim ummah, has been lost between the strident voices of our enemies on one side and those of our own extremists on the other, both keen to drown out the small, quiet, humble voice of genuine faith and Islamic principles in between.

Copyright © 2005 Iqbal Siddiqui - Editor, Crescent International

"Issues & Answers," re. Islam, democracy, terrorism, other religions, etc.

[Sheik Hamza Yusuf, in a groomed goatee and sports jacket, looked more like a hip white college professor than a Muslim sheik. Imam Zaid Shakir, a lanky African-American in a long brown tunic, looked like he would fit in just fine on the streets of Damascus.--Laurie Goodstein, "American Muslim Clerics Seek a Modern Middle Ground," New York Times, June 18, 2006]

Patrick J. Buchanan, "Needed: A new policy on Islam," Creators Syndicate, June 23, 2006

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