Terrorism rooted in 300-year-old violent sect

Jihad: The hate that has become global is based on the teachings of an extreme corner of Islam that condemns mainstream Muslims as well as Jews and Christians.

March 21, 2004|By Frederick Forsyth | Frederick Forsyth,New York Times News Service

ALL TERRORISM has two things in common. First comes the hatred: a sick, conceited hate that can bring a man to slaughter women and children. Then, even more sick, comes the self-justification, the whining excuse that it is all in a noble cause and therefore justified.

Thus the IRA butchered civilians "for Ireland." The fact that Ireland never asked for murder in its name is beside the point. The Baader-Meinhof gang killed "for the German working class." The fact that German working people were disgusted by them was irrelevant.

Most terrorism has a third thing in common. The terrorists have demands that a cowardly society could, if it groveled hard and fast enough, grant. Then the murder would stop.

But al-Qaida has no such demands, seeks no negotiations and has only one aim. To kill us. Meaning Christians, Jews and secular Muslims.

Forget the left-wing tripe that "America was asking for it" or "If we hadn't provoked them, they would have left us alone." The United States just happens to be the biggest and richest Judeo-Christian society in the world. The United Kingdom comes next, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

If there can be any question whether al-Qaida's attacks required provocation, think back. Australian kids in Bali, French engineers in Karachi, German tourists in Tunis, fellow Muslims in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Turkey, and thousands more in Jakarta and Iraq, were killed because they were secular - i.e. nonfanatical - Muslims.

And 10 days ago, on the eve of the anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq, the latest apparent victims of al-Qaida's wrath are some 200 people who were simply trying to take a commuter train in Madrid, Spain, on a Thursday morning.

These new terrorists do not need to be provoked, because they are insane.

But where does the insanity come from? Islam is a truly great religion, and like all the great faiths, it is theoretically based on love: of God and of one's fellow man. And like all great religions, it has one fundamental book of spiritual and moral teaching. The Quran, for true believers, is the revealed word of God, dictated to the prophet Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel in a series of trances 1,400 years ago.

Finally, like all great religious books, the Quran teaches the desirability of peace and love over hate and war, a state to be achieved by devotion to God and his messenger, prayer, charity, the annual fast of Ramadan and the pilgrimage to Mecca. So whence comes the terrorism, the hatred, the lust to kill in the name of Allah?

Three hundred years ago, there arose in the bleak desert heart of today's Saudi Arabia a preacher of extreme violence and bigotry, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab. The sect he founded was and remains based on his conviction and teaching.

But about 20 years ago, Wahhabism broke out of the confines of the Saudi peninsula and has exported itself to every corner of Islam. It has done this by sending out imams and preachers, founding and funding colleges and schools in more than 100 countries to brainwash youngsters in the new creed.

Wahhabism, also called Salafism, condemns about 90 percent of fellow Muslims as being impure, along with all Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims. This is why fanatical Salafists seem to come from so many different countries. Many Muslims are as bewildered by the continued rise of this manic cult as Christians are, and ask, "What have we done?" The answer is: nothing. It is not what we have done; it is what we are.

Quranic scholars (not all, but some) are loud in their wail that the holy Quran never asked its adherents to go around slaughtering Christians and Jews, and that Wahhabism is therefore not true Islam but an aberration. But for those who are by now truly brainwashed, this is also heresy worthy of death.

What Wahhab did in his preachings and writings was to make two changes to orthodoxy, and then call his changes the true orthodoxy. The Quran makes provision for jihad, or holy war, but as a last resort to defend Islam itself. Wahhab made jihad the first duty of a true believer.

More dangerously, Wahhab changed the status of the Christian and the Jew. In the Quran it is made plain that because these two earlier religions also worship the one true God, they are also "people of the Book" and thus may be tolerated.

Within this tolerance Christians, Jews and Muslims lived for centuries in harmony under Muslim rulers right across southern Spain and the Mediterranean basin and on into Asia.

But there is another category for whom no such tolerance exists - those who worship many gods, idolaters. These are repugnant to God and may be killed en masse if they refuse to convert. Wahhab reclassified Christians and Jews as "mushrikun," idolaters, worthy of death to extinction. Hence the global jihad against us all.

This is why there can be no negotiation of terms with Salafists or the numerous killer groups that have sprung from their explosion across the world, now grouped under the umbrella title al-Qaida. American stockbrokers, Spanish commuters, it matters not.

Mainstream Islam cannot simply throw up its hands and say. "Nothing to do with us." If the world is to become sane again, the sane must unite to drive out the lunatic incubus that has arisen in one extreme corner of Islam.

Frederick Forsyth is the author of The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and The Dogs of War, among many other novels. His latest is Avenger.

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