OrrHoly 06-3-34


A fresh look at the face of the extreme Islam


Frog and Amy Orr-Ewing

Authentic, 2002, 116 pp., ISBN 1-85078-460-4


The authors are British Christians who grew up in a multicultural context, spent some time in Afghanistan and met with Taliban leaders in 1996.  They have obviously studied Islam.  While not a thorough treatise, the book contains useful background information.


“For us the Taliban represented a genuine religious zeal whose quest for pure Islam, expressed both in the heart of the individual and in society, resulted in a political and religious system which was menacing and oppressive.” (Introduction)


Muhammad was born around AD 570. (1)  “His message was in general terms a call to believe in one God, to practice charity to the poor and a warning about the final judgment of God”  “In AD 622 he took about 200 followers to the richer Arabian city of Medina.” (2)  He was initially very positive about the Jews but later became very aggressive toward them. (3)  Muhammad is considered by Muslims as the last and greatest of all the prophets.  However, the honor given him by any goes beyond the bounds of the Qur’an.  The Hadith are written collections of the oral traditions and the sayings and action of Muhammad. (4)


The five pillars of Islam “are

1)     Recitation of the confession of faith (Shahadat)

2)     Observance of prayers (Salat)

3)     Giving alms to the poor (Zakat)

4)     An obligatory fast for adults and the physically fit in the month of Ramadan (Saum)

5)     A pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime (Hajj)” (6)


Shirk means the association of other beings with God and in Islam it is the greatest sin….  (The Christian concept of the Trinity is included here.)  (7)


“Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the authenticating miracle of Islam.”  “…the Qur’an itself is what proves the superiority and finality of Islam.” (11)


“One of the guiding principles of interpretation of the Qur’an is the principle of abrogation.  This is absolutely crucial in negotiating some of the contradictions we find in the message.  The message of the Qur’an was received over a period of 23 years and the principle of abrogation means that verses which come later take precedence over that which was given earlier.” “…earlier passages sympathetic to Christians and Jews are not taken so seriously as later condemnations.”  Muhammad became less tolerant of opposing views as his life went on.  (12)


Sunni – 90% of all Muslims.  Accept the Qur’an literally.

Shi’ite – follow Ali, Muhammad’s cousin.  Most Shi’ite Muslims today live in Iran.

Sufi – an ascetic and mystic stream within Islam.  (17)


“Islam means ‘surrender to God’s will’ or ‘submission’ and a Muslim is one who submits.”  The Qur’an “is the first source of all knowledge and underpins every aspect of human existence. (20)


Fundamentalism “a usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.” (24)


Islamic fundamentalism, according to Oliver Roy (The Failure of Political Islam) is “reform which censors corruption and moral laxity and re-emphasizes sacred texts.  The second tendency ‘is that of anti-colonialism, of anti-imperialism, which today has simply become anti-Westernism.’”  (27)


Militant Islam, or Islamism, is “imbued with a deep antagonism toward non-Muslims and has a particular hostility toward the West.  It amounts to an effort to turn Islam, a religion and civilization, into an ideology.” (28, quoting Daniel Pipes)


“Literally, then, jihad means striving – exerting oneself in contending against the enemy.”  “The jihad has been used by Muslims through the ages to make war sacred.  Jihad is fighting in the way of God – holy war.” (31)  “The meaning here (Sura 48:16) is that Muslims should fight until their opponents embrace Islam.” (32)  “In Indonesia, for example, at least 7,000 people were forcibly converted to Islam by well-armed Islamic extremists during the 1990s.  Those who refused were killed.” (32)


“Violent expressions of Islam have a rich ideological history within the religion.” (34)


“The principles of ‘pure Islam’ and using jihad as a means of bringing about political change in an Islamic country are essential bases for an Islamist movement.  However, the Taliban is unique when compared to other movements within Islam, because of their lack of intellectual sophistication.” “They see themselves as a pure, simple, rustic expression of true Islam.” [Note this is based on conversations in 1996. dlm] :Islamic reform was initiated, sponsored and forcibly imposed on a Muslim population by the state.” (39)


 “Their belief in the inherent corruption of all moderate Muslim rulers has inspired a whole generation of young militants….” (40)


Talib means ‘student of religion’ in Pashtu, hence the name ‘Taliban’….” (43)  “The Baliban originate from the Pashtu people group and the movement emerged from among the tribal Pashtus who straddle the rural Afghan-Pakistan border.”  “It has been argued by some that the Taliban had less to do with Qur’anic interpretation than with Pashtu culture.”  “The movement can be clearly traced back to the ‘Madrassahs’ or ‘religious schools’ which operate in the north of Pakistan.  In these schools the Qur’an is the center of all teaching….” (43-44)


The Taliban captured Kabul in September 1996.  “Televisions, videos, satellite dishes, all music, and all games including chess and kite flying were banned.  Men without beards were arrested and all women were banned from working….” (48)


“The UN estimated that between 5,000 and 6,000 Uzbeks and Tajiks were massacred along the Taliban’s route to Mazar.  The combination of religious extremism and racial prejudice was fatal.” (49)


“During the war against the Soviets, Muslims were recruited from around the world to fight with the Mujahedin in Afghanistan.”  “A good deal of the funding for the training of these Islamic militants came from Saudi Arabia.”  “What began as Islamic camps for training volunteers to help defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan became a network of extremist centers intent on bringing ‘pure’ Islam to the world by means of jihad.  Between 1982 and 1992 around 35,000 Muslim militants f4rom 43 different countries would pass through this military training.  When the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, this was seen as a divine victory for Islam against all the odds.” (51)


Afghanistan accounts for seventy percent of the heroin supplied to Western Europe.  The money from the drug trade went into the coffers of the Taliban and the terrorist networks they hosted. (53-54)  “It has conservatively been estimated that around one million Afghan farmers are making over US $100 million a year through growing poppies.” (55)


According to Samuel Huntingdon, “Global politics is the politics of civilizations.  The rivalry of the superpowers is replaced by the clash of civilizations … and the most dangerous cultural conflicts are those along the fault lines between civilizations.  The fault lines of conflict and civil war stretch across the continents where these civilizations meet….” (73-4)


However, it is not that simple, “…the Islamists’ project is turned not only against the West and ‘the Jews,’ but also against their fellow Islamists.” (74, quoting Rushdie)  “There is no monolithic Islam….” (75)


“The militant, violent, radical Muslims, who pose a threat to the world, would most successfully be dealt with by other members of the Islamic community.  Ideally the Umma must reform itself.  The clash of civilizations will only become more dangerous if this does not happen, and the Islamists succeed in carrying the rest of the Muslim world along with their agenda.”  (83)


“To this day the crusades are important in shaping Islamic self-understanding, for they represent the cruelty of Christian cultural imperialism.  The ancient grievance remains at the front of contemporary Islamic consciousness….” (86-7)


“…contemporary attempts to point to Christian cruelty during the crusades as a justification for contemporary Islamic aggression fails to embrace the complex political and religious mosaic that formed the backdrop to Islamic-Western aggression during that period, and moreover fails to appreciate the intense sectarian hatred that existed within Islam itself.”  “The crusading past of the Christian church is one of the greatest tragedies of church history – that the popes ever saw fit to declare war in Christ’s name on Muslims, or for that matter on fellow Christian peoples, has been rightly condemned as an aberration of the Christian gospel for several centuries.  The same cannot be said of many sectors of the Islamic community, for whom jihad, in all its senses, still retains its potency.” (90)


“Islam is a diverse and complex religion.”  “Islamism is a vibrant and dynamic aspect of the faith.  The violent and extreme Muslims who have achieved such notoriety around the world are a legitimate part of the religion.”  “It is important to recognize that this phenomenon of militarized religion is not merely a social or economic problem – it is a profoundly theological issue.” (103)  “The causes of Islamism are not only social and economic, but also profoundly theological.”  “Islam is not a privatized religion, but has political action as an integral part of faithful practice.” (104)


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