The Origin of Islamic fundamentalism and possibilities for its eradication
by Rachel Kohan
Fri 16th Jan 2015
The global resurgence of violent Islamic fundamentalism can only be circumvented with a full comprehension and acknowledgment of what has historically gone wrong.
The most recent despicable slaying of seventeen individuals in Paris, committed by the hideous assassins - those few disenfranchised [Sunni Muslim] culprits- has once again propelled the resurgence of Islamic radical fundamentalism (the ultra-orthodox Islamic puritanism as followed by the Boko Haram, ISIS, al Qaeda, or the Taliban) to the front of the global discourse. In response, humanity as a whole and with one voice must strongly deplore such heinous terroristic acts, and help bring such criminals to expedited justice. It is also inextricably inevitable that the international community must proactively coordinate efforts to prevent such terrorist acts from occurring again anywhere. Easier said than done, this requires not only dealing with the effects and the aftermaths of such incidents, but far more consequentially, the full understanding of the historical causes that have led to the prolific manifestation of such recent catastrophic acts.
Aspiring to tackle the above impasse, while confessedly there is no magic wand to miraculously resolve it entirely overnight, there are, nonetheless, key elements that must decisively dealt with if we genuinely hope to avoid its further propagations. To that end, we must also scrupulously examine the historical and more contemporary colonial and post-colonial causes that have exacerbated Islamic fundamentalism in the past few decades.
Islam, as conceived in the Arabic Peninsula 1,400 years ago, borrowed heavily from the old Testament and re-narrated these same fables in an Arabic mindset; this is self-evident from many chapters and verses in the Quran that are similar to the Torah and Old Testament.
Unlike Christianity, the faith initially believed by the oppressed on the societal margins of Palestine that only became politicised as the tool for the rulers and evangelized three hundred years thereafter by the Roman Emperors, and Judaism that was never proselytized as it only applied to the twelve Jewish tribes rather exclusively, Islam since its epoch, from the migration of the Prophet Mohammad from Mecca to Medina served as the combined politicised and proselytized doctrine. In fact, upon closer scrutiny of the chapters and verses in the Quran revealed in Mecca for the first thirteen years after Mohamad declared himself to be the prophet of Allah amongst his own tribe of Quaraish, one could discern them to be conciliatory, flexible, advisory, inconsequential, and quasi-compassionately merciful. The tone of the chapters and verses revealed later in Medina for the last ten years before Mohammad died changes punitively to encompass wrath, rage, threats, war, revenge, vengeance, provocation, warnings, and extremely harsh rhetoric for the afterlife. It is this latter Islamic indoctrination when combined with prior tribal Arab rituals, altercations and raids on the caravans and other tribes, that by and large drove Islam in less than one hundred years across Asia, North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula and Southern Europe. Southern Europe bore nearly 800 years of Muslim domination by the Moors before it again reverted to Catholicism.
Although all Muslims adhere to many religious commonalities, the Shiite-Sunni schism was conceived right after the death of Prophet Mohammad in that a righteous minority represented by his blood relatives - his daughter Fatima and her husband- wanted Ali his cousin/son-in-law, the youngest and the first Muslim convert apostle to succeed him; nonetheless, the majority opined in favour of the eldest apostle and Mohammad’s father-law Abu-Bakr, to succeed him. Ali was finally appointed two decades later as the Fourth Rashidun Caliph, preceded by Caliphs Omer and Osman. The Shiite divisiveness, since then believing Ali to have become the first caliph to be followed by his eleven kin in succession, remained a minor path mostly in the Levant until the 14th century when it was mixed with the Persian identity, taking root in Persia to battle out the Arab and later the Ottoman Sunni hegemonies. The British Shirley brothers and the Vatican emissaries to the Safavid Dynasty in the late 15th century led to not only a rapid conversion of mostly Sunni Persians into Shiism, but it also dwindled the respectable Christian (Armenian/Assyrian), Jewish, and Zoroastrian communities of Iran. It was also through such commissions that the Iranian armies of the time were organized according to European military system and given canons and rifles five hundred years ago. The Iranians now mass converted into Shiism with many passion plays and rituals imposed on them by Catholicism, fought many skirmishes against the diehard Sunni Ottomans as typified in the battle of Chalderon. Such battles, some won, some lost, in essence salvaged the territorial integrity of Persia in that the Ottomans conquered and ruled most Arabian and North African territories for nearly five hundred years but never spent a day in the Persian heartland. In fact, the last incursion of the crusaders into Jerusalem where they let flow the Jewish and Muslim blood baths, and the Spanish inquisitions coincided with the emergence of the Ottoman Caliphate representing the Islamic world.
The Xenophobic European leaders led by the Papal States negotiated military alliances with the new Shiite majority Safavid dynasty to open up a major eastern military front against the Ottomans. The eastern front was instrumental in not allowing the Ottoman forces to advance beyond the eastern gates of Vienna. In retrospect, Europe owes it immensely to the Persian Shiites of the Safavid era. Many Europeans still keep a close xenophobic eye on Muslims immigrating to Europe from their former colonies. Again, we must fully understand that such Islamic xenophobia still persists today in European and increasingly the American psyche in that they consider themselves to follow the Judeo-Christian values and thus perceive Islam as contradictory. Most Muslims in the West are well educated, affluent and secular. In reality however, all three Abrahamic monotheistic religions including Islam, are in essence anchored on the same set of values and principles, and with the same inadequacies and flaws.
The Shiites comprise up to 20% of the 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide. The majority of the populations of Iran, Iraq, Azarbaijan, Kuwait, and Bahrain are Shiites; they also constitute major minority communities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan. However, they have little to no civil or constitutional rights when compared to ruling Sunnis in these latter countries.
In fact, the pillars of hegemonic colonisation and subjugation of the orient for siphoning away their natural and economic resources were laid by the Russian Tsars and the occidental British and French kings/queens of the 14-19th centuries, with the help of Christian missionaries. Despite Europe having stalled in the dark ages when the Islamic world enjoyed much progress for a millennium (600-1600AD), the era of enlightenment and renaissance in Europe coincided with inward mysticism and socio-political regressions in the Islamic east from the 14th century AD onwards.
The Sunnis, comprising 80% of all Muslims, are further divided according to differences in Jurisprudence and interpretation into four sub-sects: Hanbalism, Hanafism, Malikism and Shafi’ism. Hanbalism became the foundation for Salafi Wahhabism of the early 18th century in Najd on the Arabian Peninsula; the peninsula was only called Saudi Arabia a little more than one hundred years ago when the alliance of Abd-al Wahab and Mohammad bin Saud laid the foundation for the self-ascendance of the Saudi Kingdom in 1932. The critical role of British colonial agents, such as T. E. Lawrence, who were sympathetic to major Salafi elements in the Arabian Peninsula during the 19th century and wanted to amplify the most radical Wahhabism against the Shiites now represented by the non-Arab Persians as well instigating against the Ottomans to bring their house down, cannot be sufficiently stressed. This paved the way for Anglo-American oil and gas consortiums that sill meddle in internal affairs in the region. As odd bedfellows as they seem, the Russian and French colonists, and later the Americans post World War II, were accomplices for such expeditions to install undemocratic rulers in order to permit exploitation of natural resources, such as oil and gas, by western conglomerates.
With a current estimated surplus of nearly 400 billion dollars, Saudi Arabia has spent well over 100 billion dollars within the past few decades alone in order to propagate Wahhabism; this has in turn led to the training of a massive number of devout radicals who resort to any subversive and overt instigating insinuations to drive the Saudi agenda. As hosts of the two holiest Muslim cities of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia's rulers have heavily invested in propagating their radical ideologies. The global distribution of copies of the Quran and other religious paraphernalia in their financed Madrases is only one manifestation of such Saudi Jihadism. Paradoxically, such projects were carried out with the blessing and, at times, participation of the west including the US administration in order to challenge Soviet communism or to deter socio-economic and political and nationalist movements.
According to Wahhabi Mufti edicts, not only all infidels and non-Muslims, but far more consequentially the other Sunni and particularly Shiite sects are idlers and must be annihilated. The Saudi Kingdom theologians extract such conniving ideology from the most twisted interpretations of the Quran.
It all depends on which chapters of the Quran one chooses to examine. And then it becomes clear why in the past few decades we have seen a number of terrorist attacks all committed by Wahhabi Islamists sponsored ideologically and financially by Saudi Arabia. One could only yearn that with the lowering of the cost of oil and gas worldwide, and the independence of the US and its European allies from importing oil, that the strategic importance of Saudi Arabia is no longer valid and has lost its merits. To begin with, Saudi Arabia and other regimes in the region must be held accountable to ensure the aspirations of all their citizens (irrespective of their race, creed or religion) toward socio-economic, political and religious reforms, sovereignty and democracy are pursued organically. We must further treat the loss of innocent life, irrespective of where it occurs and who the criminal culprit is, as equal.
Epitomising and as esoterically idealistic as it may seem to the cynics and skeptics, allow me to share for our common humanitarian sense of purpose in life, the translation of the famous poem by Sa’adi the 13th century Persian Poet as follows:
All Humans are integral members of One frame
Since all at first, from the same One essence came.
When by hard fortune One limb is oppressed
The other members lose their desired rest.
If thou feel’st not for others’ misery
A Human therefore, is no name for thee.
And Confucius’ 孔 子 (551-479 BCE) statement, “Don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto thou,” will more than suffice for all humanity, does it not?
The Author, born in Iran in a diverse family comprised of the Shiite and Sunni Muslims as well as Baha’i, Jewish, Armenian/Assyrian Christian and Zoroastrian lineage, is a naturalised American who has resided in the US for nearly forty years. She has come to believe in and advocate for secular universal humanism and equal [blind] justice for all on earth.