Violent Extremism or Fundamental Islam Revival?
Revival movements are powerful. They source in a former glory, a dedicated purity that has been lost. They appeal to the higher instincts of the human soul that has lost the joy and purpose of a higher calling. Revival movements thrive in calling people back to fundamental beginnings.
Islam became a very successful religious political movement that is incompatible with democracy and freedom of conscience. It spawned four major empires that reached from Spain to the Indus. Had they not been defeated in Tours, France, in 732 A.D., we could have grown up in an Islamic West. Islam conquered and converted by the sword using basically the same methods of violence and fear that ISIS uses effectively today. Sharia law, beheadings, the killing of apostates or people who criticize Islam or its prophet and the slaughter of infidels all are fundamentals of historic Islam and now with ISIS. Saudi Arabia conforms to these fundamentals except that they are not seen to be conquering and killing infidels. Even though they have exported many radical imams who promote Wahhabism, a revival movement by a Saudi theologian in the 18th century to purge Islam of corrupting influences and return it to its original purity. This radical, militant thinking undergirds ISIS and like groups. Saudi oil dollars have financed the building of mosques and schools throughout the western countries. Saudi nationals have heavily supported radical, terrorist groups in the past.
Who are the liberal Muslims? There are moderate Muslims in the Middle East who wish for freedom of conscience from the oppressive rule of Sharia, but they are fearfully silent and thus irrelevant to our discussion. The Muslims in the West could be considered to be the “liberals” who do not hold to a literal interpretation of the Koran.
However, instead of admitting the issue, the “liberals” and the politicians try to convince the public that the issue doesn’t exist, that the liberal interpretation is pure Islam and that Muslims are being slandered and persecuted for their faith.
Understanding the Issue
One who call himself a Muslim and believes the Koran is a Muslim. Interpretation determines what kind of Muslim he is just as it does in any religion. Interpretation makes one Muslim Shia or Sunni, another “moderate” or “literalist”or jihadist. Many jihadists believe extreme violence is permitted to spread their Islamic message. So the extremism of ISIS is Islamic extremism. It comes from three sources:
- Economic and political issues
- Spiritual ambition to be important to a perceived good and winning cause. This sense of a higher calling inspires converts to heroic deeds, even to suicide for the cause. Extremist recruiters build on this aspiration.
- Theological convictions of a literal interpretation of the Koran enforce the Islamic extremist. Holy war against the infidels, Sharia law, the apocalyptic triumph of Islam, the special rewards for martyrs, all these are sincerely believed. If the Koran allows (literal interpretation) beheading, crucifixion and maiming of apostates and infidels, it isn’t a long journey to burning them alive.
Many ignore these spiritual and theological aspects and engage in senseless debate as to whether the extremists are Moslem or not. All of us should want tolerance and peace. But this problem should be confronted by Muslim leaders and scholars. It is an internal matter and no amount of denial or blame-laying can change the obvious truth.
Let’s pray for true revival and the coming of the Prince of peace!