About the author
Noor Dahri is an independent researcher based in London, UK. He has studied Counter Terrorism from International Institute for Counter Terrorism ICT- Herzliya – Israel. He is a honorary member of the ZF-UK.
Islam and Islamism are totally different systems in the world. Islamism is an extremist ideological system and in this system, one could find many political ideologies which are functioning in different patterns, names and organizational networks within the world.
According to a Dr Erin Saltman, “Islamic extremism is the belief that Islam is a totalitarian political ideology. It claims that a political sovereignty belongs to God rather than the people. Islamists believe that their reading of Shariah should be state law and that it is the religious duty of all Muslims to create and pledge allegiance to an Islamic state that reflects these principles.”
Islamic extremism is a strong and powerful ideology; the world governments cannot counter, control or defeat the ideology by simply bombarding or killing their ideological leaders. If governments try to use force to destroy extremist ideology, it will grow stronger and if they let it go, it will cause more danger to nations and to the democratic systems of the world. This ideology exists in every country and system especially in Muslim countries. Those who are influenced by or adapted this most dangerous ideology cannot accept the democratic or Islamic sultanate (Kingdom) systems. There is a democratic system in most of the Islamic countries, but some have sultanate systems. Extreme ideology rejects both systems in the world and tries to establish their own radical empire, which surely was founded through their ideological thoughts. Moderate Islamic Ideology and extremist Islamic ideology are two different and opposite ideologies based on entirely separate systems which goes against each other.
Murdering innocent people in the epithet of a divine religion is unacceptable. We must keep in mind that, among those who were killed in the US, in the UK, in Pakistan and in Israel or elsewhere, there were people who loved and followed the religion of the Prophet Moses (PBUH), the Prophet Jesus (PBUH) and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is the method of moderate Islamic ideology.
There is a solution that can stop and change the extremist Islamic ideology to a moderate and balanced Islamic ideology, which is to beget a new energetic ideology that could counter and put down the existing extremist ideology. This is not a facile mission as it requires more work, more time, more knowledge, more capabilities and a dynamic system that can create a new powerful ideology against the extreme ideology. The Islamic extreme ideology is based upon religious belief with no uncertainty. However, the name of Islam has been hijacked by the extremists who manipulated the true aspect of Islam and mixed it with their own extremist ideology. They presented it to the world, trying to impose it. The moderate Islamic ideology is still based on religion, a true religious methodology of Islam to counter the extremist ideology. Both ideologies are fighting each other and trying very hard to destroy one another. The world governments should encourage a moderate Islamic ideology by recruiting those Muslim scholars who have vast knowledge regarding the true peaceful Islam. They are more capable to damage the extremist ideology by countering them through their positive knowledge of the moderate aspects of Islam. An ideology can defeat the ideology only, but it depends whose motives and objectives are substantial.
Bill Braniff, a lecturer at the University of Maryland in the USA, describes the effects of religious ideology: “Ideology is important for several reasons. Firstly, they can help to polarize society, to create an ‘us versus them’ mentality or an in-group and an out-group mentality. And that can help recruitment and radicalisation. That can also help mobilization of resources for a terrorist organisation that seeks to advance that ideology. Ideology also frequently serve to define the parameters of violence that a given terrorist organisation will use.”
The Islamic extremist ideology in South Asia and in the Middle East was developed in the Afghan-Soviet war when Pakistan’s Intelligence agency (ISI) devised extremist ideology to contest the most powerful Soviet Empire with the help of the Western powers. The Soviet Empire was designed with an ideological pattern too, which is called Communism. Communism was a strong and rapidly growing ideology in the world and it was a direct menace to the world’s Western democratic and capitalistic systems. The Western powers needed to destroy this powerful ideology so another strong ideology was essential to completely damage the Communist ideology. The Islamic Extreme ideology was formed in the name of religion and that ideology was much more capable and a stronger ideology than Communism. Within 11 years of war between two strong ideologies, one existing and powerful ideology of Communism with the latest technology was defeated by the hands of newly risen Islamic Extremist ideology with the help of the ISI, KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and the Western intelligence agencies.
Ideology is kind of a virus. If let it go, it will still grow and if treated wrongly, it will ruin the entire world’s democratic systems. If you counter or destroy the negative virus, you must invent a new strong positive virus that can completely vanish the virus that could cause danger to the system. To destroy the Islamic extremist ideology, we have to make another new powerful ideology.
According the Clarion Project, “Islamic extremist Ideology can only be countered by undermining the ideology itself. Reformist Muslims that support an interpretation of Islam that is favourable to modernity and Western democracy are viewed as critical to fighting Islamic extremists. Islamic extremism derives from a radical interpretation of Islam. Even among Islamic extremists, there are interpretative differences stemming from different sects and/or doctrines. It’s important to note that not all Muslims subscribe to a radical interpretation of Islam. In the West, Islamic extremist groups and their supporters spread their ideology (and, in some cases, directly sponsor terrorism) using a network of front groups. An example would be the Iranian government’s use of the Alavi Foundation in New York or the Muslim Brotherhood’s establishment of various political organizations under different names.”
Here, I must mention about how the extremist ideology develops in someone’s mind. The primary element of extremism is hate. Hatred and extremism are two different political theories of a radical version of faith, but in fact, hate is a sub ideological category of extremism. There is a direct connection between hatred, violence and extremism. Extremism and violent extremism are totally different phenomena, but are linked to each other because their root causes are the same. One form (hatred) helps in producing a second form (extremism).
The question is this; when does someone become a violent extremist? The answer is very simple. When someone adapts extremism, he firstly embraces hatred because without hatred, he cannot turn into a violent person. Once an extremist embraces hatred, he automatically jumps on the bandwagon of extremist ideology which calls for violent extremism. Violent extremism pushes him to perpetrate an act of violence against an individual or a system. On this secondary stage, one cannot become a terrorist if he doesn’t have a violent behavioural character. That character grasps the behaviour of hatred towards the opposite community, nation or religion. Before the terrorist commits an act of terrorism, he possesses three characteristics within his attitude.
- Hatred base character
- Violent behaviour
- Extremist ideology
Once someone possesses all 3 characteristics, his next step is to cause damage to the opposing community or system through his natural process because the terrorist’s aim is to generate a fear with the population. This ideology consists of violence in a society and without holding this ideology of violence, one cannot commit an act of terrorism.
According to Russian researcher Ekaterina Stepanova: “Terrorism is not an ideology; rather, it is a specific, hyper-extreme tactic of using or threatening violence.”
Extremism is like a disease and natural calamity. It is part of the human condition, but the icon of the terrorism is much more dangerous than the actual physical attack. What we should do is to remove the terror from the terrorism. We need to extinguish fear and hysteria by being aware that the fear is what terrorists really want. This will help us reduce the impact of an attack. We also need to recognise that terrorists do not share our moral values.
The Change Institute for the European Commission described how ideology links to someone’s social condition: “Ideologies link the beliefs, narratives and cognitive and evaluative perceptions of one’s social condition – particularly prospects for the future – to a programme of collective action for the maintenance, alteration or transformation of society, whilst also providing the justification for a particular action.”
We Muslims must see, who we observe and what types of Islamic narratives we have adapted. Whatever we have absorbed so far is political Islamism. A real Islam denounces terrorism and the killings of innocent people. Terrorism and the killing of innocent people in Islam is a great sin; Muslims must prevent these acts, thus bringing peace and justice to the world. We have induced this ideology which risks human lives and we are the ones who can counter this monster. We can combat this ideology once we have a real knowledge of our religion to the level that no one can exploit us in order to achieve his/her political ends.