Deviant theology of violent extremists

By Imam Mohamed MagidExecutive director, All Dulles Area Muslim Society; President, Islamic Society of North America; Board member, Muflehun As … Continued

By Imam Mohamed Magid
Executive director, All Dulles Area Muslim Society; President, Islamic Society of North America; Board member, Muflehun

As an American imam at one of the largest mosques in the DC Metro area, I am greatly troubled by the new cases of violent extremism among Western Muslims, both American and European.

Recent cases of young people engaging in violent extremism clearly show they have not learned Islam from respected, well-known Muslim scholars. Instead they have learned a deviant theology through the Internet, often from Western-born hate preachers adept at misusing their knowledge of our society. These hate preachers claim that genuine Islamic scholars are not credible, and actively try to invalidate their teachings by completely distorting both the message and the way it is communicated.

There are several major problems with these hate preachers:

First, they follow no actual frame of reference or consistent methodology, but rather pick and choose whatever fringe opinions can support violent extremism. They ignore mainstream schools of thought, religious establishment and well-respected scholars, while actively trying to discredit them. They preach their perverted messages without the checks and balances of rational debate.

Second, the lack of information and the misinformation among young people in America and Europe about Islam, theology, dealing with conflict and understanding the concept of jihad, allow this situation to persist. The hate preachers count on this, and use the lack of adequate educational materials in English to further exacerbate their hate.

In the history of Islam (as with other religions), a group called the “kharijites” adopted overly radical ideas, killed innocent people and turned against fellow Muslims. This group was anti-establishment, anti-law and order and anti-social norms. The kharijites were ultra-rigid, and misused theology to justify violent extremism, and even believed that anyone who did not accept their beliefs had no right to live. We are unfortunately seeing a revival of that perverse ideology in a fringe minority that does not represent 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe.

Recruiting people into this extremist ideology has now taken a new turn: people with little knowledge but able to speak eloquent English and Arabic can pose as preachers, despite lacking necessary qualification as scholars. They simply confuse their listeners about Islam and what it stands for.

They also try to reinterpret history and make those Muslims struggling in particular parts of the world into the fodder for their hatred, while using them to justify taking innocent lives. Some examples of the misconceptions they spread are:

• Injustice: Islam has never accepted using another injustice to fight injustice. Even during times of war, Islam has prohibited taking innocent life and attacking civilians, yet these preachers’ perverted perspective allows that. Similarly they ignore the lessons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about the way neighbors and people of other faiths should be well-regarded, about the responsibility of Muslim communities to protect minorities, and they ignore historical events such as early Muslims seeking (and being granted) refuge under the protection of a Christian king in Abyssinia.

• Betrayal: Their call to law-abiding American or European Muslims to turn their back on our societies is actually a call to betrayal. Muslims are religiously obligated to uphold any contract they make. Immigrants and naturalized citizens effectively sign “contracts” with their adopted country, and violating that is a betrayal – and a grave sin.

• Suicide: Contrary to what violent extremists preach, suicide is prohibited in Islam, as is taking any innocent life. Taking one life is like taking the life of all humanity, just as saving one life is like saving all of humanity. As we are told by the Prophet (peace be upon him), “Whoever violates the right of a person of another faith, I will be an enemy to him on the day of Judgment.”

• Security: Creating fear, destruction and disturbance in society is one of the greatest crimes in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught Muslims that no one can be a person of faith if his neighbor does not feel safe from him or her. Extremists violate this principle when they preach war, chaos, instability and destruction. Indeed, more Muslim lives are being lost as a result of their actions than those of any other community.

• Service: Islam calls for every individual to take care of their parents; convincing young people to go to fight in Somalia or tribal areas of Pakistan violates this tenet of our faith.

• Public Discourse: Extremists ignore Islam’s history of calling for open discourse to address issues, and ignore the lessons of American history in how past mistakes were corrected through open political discourse. The ability to resolve issues that faced the African American and the Jewish American communities, and others, clearly show the efficacy of the civic political process.

Some of these extremists have been brainwashed into seeking glory, fame and self-satisfaction through taking innocent lives, while others have been misguided into believing that their criminal deeds are allowed by religion. In reality, violent extremism is like organized crime with a credo that only appears to be religious. Countering this threat is something that everyone needs to participate in.

The Muslim American community must work with law enforcement to keep our communities safe. Since 9/11 our mosques are more vigilant, citizens more proactive and parents willing to closely monitor their own children – as can be seen with the Muslim Association of Hawaii’s work with law enforcement last week, the Muslim vendor who reported the Times Square bomb and the parents of the Virginia Five.

In addition, the Muslim community is responding by introducing a meta-narrative describing what Islam actually is. This is not a simple counter to those preachers advocating violent extremism with no consistent narrative, and whose ideas have become a cult perpetuated through blind acceptance. Over the years the Muslim American community has issued many statements and fatwas condemning violent extremism, with organizations like the Islamic Society of North America campaigning against violent extremism with brochures to raise public awareness, or MPAC and others which have had scholars speaking out against violence, and Muflehun which had been set up to study the issue and engage both youth and law enforcement to keep our society safe.

We pray to God that our efforts will galvanize all Americans to truly reject these distorted philosophies of hate, and to make our country safe and secure from the harm they wish to inflict.

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  • Saad1

    Just to play devil’s advocate, the neo-kharijites would argue that you (the traditional scholars of Islam) have decided to take a backseat in addressing the injustices faced by Muslims around the world. And as a result, the neo-kharijites have taken it upon themselves to defend the Muslim cause (by any means necessary). In addition to condemning terrorism, do you feel you should also, perhaps, fulfill your role as a leader of the Muslim community to condemn the crimes committed by the Western governments against innocent Muslim women and children (and men) in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Mindanao, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.? After all, the more you continue to avoid condemning American state-sponsored terror, the more you will be forced to condemn Muslim stateless terror. Salaam.

  • EddietheInfidel

    I would respectfully submit, Imam Magid, that you are fighting an uphill battle. It is unfortunate for you and the muslim community that for every rational thinker such as yourself, there are two or three “respected” imams that continue to preach jihad against the infidel west and cite justification for it in the core texts of islam.You say, “They preach their perverted messages without the checks and balances of rational debate.” The problem is that many of your fellow islamic leaders reject any and all debate or criticism of islam in any form, and invariably react to any criticism of islam with calls to violence.Their argument is that it is only complete submission to islam, and by extension, complete submission to the teachings in the quran, hadith and sunnah that define a “good muslim”. It appears that by using this tactic, they are finding many willing recruits to their cause among members of the American muslim community.

  • AKafir

    Imam Majid,Saad1 is pushing Al-Qaeda view of the world. In that view Islam’s deep hate for the non-muslim, it bloody history, it evil laws for the non-muslims do not exist, but that is the view of the majority of muslims. You and your friend Imam Johari Abdul-Malik are pushing a version of Islam that is not real. Islam is not peaceful, and it cannot live in peace with the non-muslims. It may temporarily but the inherent conflict between the Islam’s Iman and the Kufr cannot be hidden for long. That message is on practically every page of the Koran, and practically in every action of Muhammad. A muslim has to be of the Ummah, and not of the nation, or tribe, or family. You see your non-muslim fellow Americans do not believe in your Allah, and they commit shirk by going to church and bowing to Jesus, or going to Temples and praying to Yaweh, or going to Mandirs and praying to many Gods and Goddesses, etc.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Saad1I take it from your response that you support Islamic terrorism. So, why be offended when it is called the name that it is? Isn’t that being hypocritical? For whatever reason, you support the sneaky, backstabbing methodology of those snakes in the grass who call themselves Muslims.You are part of the problem. Islam has no central authority that even pretends to say what Islam is. It only has a community of consensus. But in the West, especially, you are not bound by theis consensus, but you can strike out on your own, and say that Islam is anything, according to your own personal predjudices and whims; the dictates and meaning of Islam is open to your personal caprice of the moment.Islam is melting down, into nihilsm. Soon, your people will not need any tortured Islamic excuse to commit any attoricity upon mankind, but just do it because you feel like doing it; that will be you new Islam, your new religions.

  • voiceofreason11

    The comments of AKAFIR clearly show how little he knows of Islam. If you substitute the word “God” for his use of “Allah”, his comments lose all their force and negative context. As the Koran also states (to paraphrase), “tell the Christians and the Jews that their God and our God are the same”. This is not a Muslim view – this is the accepted opinion of all serious religious scholars, from all Abrahamic faiths.For example, if you change the passage quoted by AKAFIR to: God’s messengers, according to Islam, include Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, and even Jesus Christ (who is mentioned repeatedly in the Koran), and even the Virgin Mary, the only woman to have a chapter of the Koran devoted to (and named after) her.Even his other quote loses the pejorative quality when properly translated: “Those who resist God and His Messengers will be among those most humiliated.” No Christian or Jew should find that a different message from what the Bible teaches us.I am frankly tired of the refusal of people like AKAFIR to try to find any common ground. The history of Christianity is equally bloody (and maybe even more so) to the history of Islam; both sides are guilty of using God and religion to justify heinous acts. We castigate Muslims for not being peaceful, and yet we equally castigate those Muslims who are trying to promote peace. I am simply ashamed of people like these who spurn every effort of Muslims like Imam Mohamed to try to extinguish the fires of hatred. We accuse Muslims of promoting hate – yet the views and comments of people like AKAFIR or EddietheInfidel are doing exactly what they criticize Muslims for – spreading hatred and misunderstanding. They do not represent mainstream Christian or Jewish thought, and their views should be seen as what they are – hate preachers of the same ilk that Imam Mohamed is so eloquently fighting in his religion.

  • abrahamhab1

    Voice of Something pontificates thus:

  • AKafir

    VoiceOfReason11:I am not trying to fan the flames of hatred.I am trying to get the Imam to honestly face the arguments that a muslim encounters from those who do not accept the Imam’s pablum without any grounding in Islamic “theology”. The argument I laid down for the Imam is not mine, but standard fare in islamic literature. I am merely repeating the argument that a young muslim hears from his peers when they denigrate the Kafir society and tell each other that their loyalty is to Islam, Allah, and the ummah, and not to their nation, or to their tribe, or to their family. Don’t you think it should be fairly easy to come up with a forceful argument to counter that? Your argument boils down to that Christianity and Judaism are hateful too and see that they can live with peace, and so why worry about Islam. Not very comforting considering how long and how hard it was for the jews and christians to marginalize their “nuts”. I do not for a second think that Imam Majid is lying, but I think he is totally ineffective in addressing the real issues of hate for the non-muslims within Islam that is propelling the fervour of the young muslims towards hating the kafirs around them. I am trying to challenge him to come up with an effective answer for what SAAD1 has written.Read what SAAD1 writes. That is the grievance that Muslims claim when they are justifying violence. That is the argument that people like Michael Moore, and other accept and tell us that all we have to do is to withdraw into a cocoon because we are the aggressors and we are the evil ones and the jihadis will leave us alone. Do you think we are evil? Do you think we are the aggressors? Do you know how to answer in a way that resonates with the muslim jihadists so they understand and not hear you as grovelling apologetic and essentially accepting their arguments, and hence the next step is talking about what compensation is due to them? How much jiziya are you willing to pay to buy a second class human status for yourself and your children?

  • AKafir

    VoiceOfReason11:The argument that the Imam Majid gives to the muslim immigrants that they should refrain from Violence is You see Muhammad was allowed to break any treaty with any non-muslim tribe if he felt that they had “aided any one against him or failed you in anything”. When the Kafirs are accepted as the aggressors then muslims do not have to honor any contract with them. That is not my argument but the argument that I have heard many a times from Muslims. Understand that Imam Majid is using a language that appeals to the ignorant Kafirs, but the muslims who are susceptible to Al-Qaeda’s message have counter arguments all lined up to dismiss the good Imam’s message without much effort.

  • voiceofreason11

    My goal is not to refute (or refudiate) point by point – this is not the Debate Society. I know I am never going to convince AKafir or most likely anyone else who expresses such views – they are too ingrained to ever accept reason. And if AKafir is truly a former Muslim, he has already decided that he is right and “they” are wrong, and nothing will remove the bitterness from his heart. But that does not make his arguments any the more valid.Let me give just one example. He states that “All contracts with the Kafirs stand automatically null and void….” but then quotes the Koran which in his own words clearly states “(But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous.”This means that contracts – with pagans or anyone else – are to be honored so long as the other contracting party has not violated that contract. This is simple contract law, or Common Law, or any other kind of Law. If one party to a contract violates the terms and conditions of that contract, it typically is nullified, and the aggrieved party usually has the right by that contract to seek redress – and certainly to break the terms of the contract.Where then is the negative in this? You can certainly make the argument of what exactly is aggression, and do the actions of the USA constitute such aggression and therefore do they truly break that contract. That is perfectly valid – on both sides. But does this justify violence? Not according to Imam Mohamed apparently, or to those many others like him who have repeatedly rejected violent responses.The point however is not (as I said above) to see who can score more debating points – while Muslims and non-Muslims alike are at threat of violence from misguided people (if they can truly be called people in their own inhumanity) on both sides. My dispute with AKafir is that you deride the Imam for not being able to stop the violence, but give no credit for his efforts to speak out. Instead of condemning him as essentially too weak and insufficiently “forceful” to stop these lunatics (who pretend to be motivated or guided by Islamic principles), why not applaud his efforts and encourage others to join them? You actually seem to want the same result as the Imam, yet you are upset that he has no magic wand that can make the situation better. Is it not better to have someone speaking out, in hopes that others will hear him and join their voices to his?

  • AKafir

    VoiceofReason11:”who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you””if they fail you in aught (ANYTHING) or aided any one against you” means that Muhammad was the sole decider what anything or aiding anyone meant. Regardless of the substance of the contract, Allah had given permission to Muhammad to abrogate that contract at his personal discretion. Please explain your logic how you read “failed you in anything” to mean “violated the contract”, and please do not go into the apologetics of the convoluted Islamic history of which contract was under discussion at the time for even that at close examination does not support a notion of justice by Muhammad.

  • AKafir

    VoiceOfReason:You don’t get it. I don’t blame you because Islam would not be as successful as it is if it was not extremely good at hiding its evil. I am not condemning the Imam for not being forceful or being too weak. The arguments that Islam needs to bring it into the modern world do not exist as yet. The imam does not have at his disposal the arguments that can confront the jihadists on their theological ground. The jihadist have the Quran, the Hadiath, and the 1000 years of writings of the Imams on their side. All those writing support what they are saying. The argument the imam is offering are not new at all, but have been voiced by many other moderate imams in the muslim world but they have lost because they are unable to connect their arguments to the massive Islamic literature of the last 1000 years. The arguments of the moderates appeal to the authority of “natural law”, to human rationality and logic, and that is something that Islam has been rejecting since the ninth century. If the Quran says, as it does in places, that evil is good then that is the law of Allah and no amount of rationality can win the argument. I will not participate in the charade that the arguments that Imam Majid gives have a chance of winning over the “hearts and minds” of any religious muslim. The one who will listen to the Imam need no encouragement, and those who should will not buy into the Islamically discredited argument that the Imam posits.

  • RobertSF

    Well, I’m not going to nit-pick the imam’s points one by one. I’m willing to believe that he’s a decent, peaceful man of good will. Nothing that he writes above makes me believe anything else.And anyway, the imam addresses violent extremism, which should not concern us in any case unless we are in law enforcement. To ordinary Americans in their everyday lives, the risk of being affected by terrorism is very, very low. Terrorism is like shark attacks: they strike fear way out of proportion to their real risk.We have much more to fear from Islamization, the process through which peaceful Muslims demand acommodation after acommodation, until their surroundings could just as well be Istanbul, although they actually are in East London.Islam has already changed Europe in a way that should be unacceptable to Americans. In the Netherlands — of all places! — a man stands criminal trial for saying what’s on his mind, even though it incited no one to violence. In Britain, forced marriages are such a problem that the London Constabulary has launced the FMU (Forced Marriage Units, of course), units that specialize in handling forced marriages and their victims. Europeans accommodated Islam, moving over again and again, until they realized Islam was taking over. Now they have to go through the unpleasantness of banning burqas and minarets.Let’s not let that happen to America. Oppose Islamization from the beginning. All Muslims are welcome to practice their faith privately and behind closed mosque doors. But nobody, regardless of religion, is welcome to take away our freedoms in the name of their religion.

  • Guarapari

    I just don’t understand why the all powerful Allah needs to use people who are obviously emotionally disturbed to advance His agenda for this world.

  • lavistabb

    BS. Islam is a violent religion responsible for most of the senseless violence in the world. You propagandists can say whatever you want in friendly venues like the Washington Post but we now have access to a free and independent method of checking the lies the media continue to push. The Internet has made it over for liars who continue to deny the basic tenets of Islam. We are on to you. Your so called religion does not permit reform nor does it allow association with any other religion but Islam. It punishes non believers and renders them Dhimmini’s-a form of Jim Crow which is incompatible with western traditions and governments. It is only natural that violence is the result when your basic tenets require persecution of women, homosexuals and non believers. How else would you enforce your hate filled rules? After all, if it is a rule it must be enforced. If you do not believe in the basic tenets then you are not a good Muslim. Good advice for you is to leave and go to a country where the basic tenets of your religion do not conflict with the laws of the nation and where the general outlook is not 7th Century based. You will not be missed.

  • mosmanpat

    I submitted two well documented, factual,historically correct reviews of the history of Islam from the 7-8 centuries to today with quotes from two of history’s most respected men,Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill. To date neither has been posted. Should I resubmit.

  • mosmanpat

    Imam Magid picks and chooses his history of Islam by which he whitewashes its true nature from Mohammad’s conquests until today’s terrorists bombers.

  • mosmanpat

    Where is the moderate Muslim outrage, the condemnation, or even issuing fatwas by peaceful Muslim mullahs against the ” the few terrorists today” who take hundreds if not thousands of lives, many other Muslims, Jews, Christians and other innocents with suicide bombers and attacks by heavily armed terrorists. Why ignore or hide the truth? Is there a conspiracy of silence? Or fear that some radical mullah will issue a fatwa against any Muslim who objects to violence against both believers in Islam, but not followers of the right sect, or any non-believers.

  • mosmanpat

    It wasn’t only Churchill who observed and understood the true nature of Islam but also Thomas Jefferson.“…that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman (Muslim) who should be slain in Battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

  • mosmanpat

    Second the world needs to understand that Islam was not spread by sandal shod mendicant mullahs preaching from the Koran but by mounted scimitar wielding jihadists as described in “Dhimmitude for Dummies” By Victor Sharpe in which the following is found:This is the word that describes the parlous state of those who refused to convert to Islam and became the subjugated, non-Muslims who were forced to accept a restrictive and humiliating subordination to a superior Islamic power and live as second class citizens in order to avoid enslavement or death. These peoples and populations were known as dhimmis , and if such a status was not humiliating enough, a special tax or tribute, called the jizya , was imposed upon them and upon all dhimmis .Dhimmitude is the direct outcome of jihad, which is the military conquest of non-Islamic territory mandated by Allah as a spiritual obligation for every individual Moslem and Moslem nation.From its beginnings in the seventh century, Islam spread through violent conquest of non-Moslem lands. In the eighth century, a formal set of rules to govern relationships between Moslems and non-Moslems was created based upon Moslem conquests of non-Moslem peoples. These rules were based upon jihad , which established how the Moslems would treat the conquered non-Moslems in terms of their submission to Islam.Jihad can be pursued through force or other means such as propaganda, writing, or subversion against the perceived enemy. The so-called enemies are those who oppose the establishment of Islamic law or its spread, mission, or sovereignty over them and their land.Propaganda and subversion are the very means now being employed against the West and Judeo-Christian civilization, and Islamists have shown themselves to be brilliantly adept at manipulating the gullible and uninformed western media in pursuit of their aims of world domination.”

  • livingaware

    It’s amazing to me how many non-Muslims seem to know just enough about Islam to be extremely wrong.Lecturing an Imam on some of the finer points of Shariah is rather laughable, if you spend a moment or two to think about it – especially when one’s total knowledge of Islam obviously comes from anti-Islamic sites.Here’s the deal:The Imam who wrote this article is sincerely stating what he knows to be true. His views aren’t at odds with the information some of you already have because he is wrong, but rather, because that other information is wrong.Consider: he’s a Muslim Imam; a full-time cleric in the religion. The other information comes from non-Muslims with a vested interest in making Islam and Muslims look bad.Who is more likely to speak or write accurately about Islam?Moderate Muslims such as Imam Magid are the allies of other peaceful people everywhere; they are part of the solution, not part of the problem.Bigotry is every bit as blind and violent no matter who wields it.Ignorance can, and often does, manifest as bigotry.Example: Islam did not “expand at the point of a sword” from the 7th century on, in terms of the religion. Politically, yes – just as “Christiandom” engaged in quite a bit of violent, political expansion that wasn’t because of Christianity.When Muhammad marched on Mecca with an army of ten thousand, what happened?Exactly.Everyone was allowed to go free, in peace, and no one was required to convert.”Conversion” didn’t even compute, during Muhammad’s lifetime, especially to Muslims. Islam, Judaism and Christianity were viewed more as different denominations than different religions, especially by Muslims – all three Abrahamic faiths are comprised of ‘Ahl al-Kitab – People of the Book – to Muslims.All the violence, forced conversions and perverted interpretations of Shariah came along centuries after Muhammad’s lifetime – and as with every religion, when egoic people with power make the decisions – bad things happen.More importantly though:Saying, as Americans, that we want to hear moderate Muslims speak out — and then jumping down their throats when they do — is probably not the best way to help create the peaceful world that we’d all like to see.Fear builds walls.The solution we’re seeking comes from tearing walls down, not building more of them.This isn’t a dress-rehearsal.World Wars have started over less tension than exists, politically and in terms of religion, today, around the globe.These discussions about Islam aren’t just part of determining what kind of world we’ll have in the twenty-second century — they’re part of determining if we’ll have a world in the twenty-second century.And so, I’d suggest it’s time for the most powerful weapon of all.Peace itself.Peace to all.

  • mosmanpat

    The examples cited in my post are historically correct and not simply words from an anti-Islamic site.Ignoring the truth and attacking the messenger is a typical response to try to censor debate.

  • mosmanpat

    The examples cited in my post are historically correct and not simply words from an anti-Islamic site.Ignoring the truth and attacking the messenger is a typical response to try to censor debate.