Monday, January 5, 2009

What is "radical Islam"?

There is a serious problem we run into when we try to define "radical Islam." What is "radical Islam?"

First of all, nothing the radical Islamists say is outside the Kuran and Hadith. The Kuran and Hadith are the pillars of Islam, not only of radical Islam. That poses a serious problem. Because no muslim body has ever stated that parts of the Kuran and Hadith are now "outdated" or "irrelevant." The Hadith, for instance, gives numerous instances of rape of female captives captured after defeating infidels, in the presence of Mohammed. Since Mohammed is considered the perfect person and example for all to follow by ALL Of Islam, what does this mean? It means that ALL muslims must find this practise agreeable, at least in principle, and therein lies the problem.

People say "radical Islam" but what they mean is the radical verses in the Kuran and Hadith. Radical by whose standards? Not by the standards of Islam, since these verses have been accepted without any controversy within Islam for centuries. These verses are not radical for muslims, but they are radical by non-muslim modern civilization.

Take another example - the verse 4:34 in the Kuran that says that wives who are disobedient must be beaten. "Radical muslims" like the Taliban used to frequently quote this verse to justify their open violence against women. But this verse is in the Kuran! It is not in a separate book called "Kuran for radicals." It is in the one and only Kuran, and is equal to any other verse. So why is it radical? Because in today's modern society, we do not find this practise acceptable.

So it seems that the problem is that Islam is radical. It is not that there is a separate religion called "radical Islam", but that the religion of Islam has many components that are considered radical/unacceptable/violent by modern societies.

So what is the way out? My firm belief is that a reformation within Islam is needed. It won't happen though till we obfuscate plain facts. The plain facts are that numerous verses in the Kuran and Hadith say things which are simply unacceptable (and considered barbaric) by today's society. Let us say it as it is, instead of pretending that there is a separate ideology called "radical Islam." There isn't. Nothing that Bin Laden says is outside the Kuran and Hadith. As someone said - there are radical muslims and moderate muslims, but there is nothing called moderate Islam. Islam IS RADICAL. To make Islam moderate, we would have to expurgate many verses (and entire chapters, such as that on raping female captives without impregnating them, so that their slave price does not fall) from the Kuran and Hadith. Are we prepared to ask moderate muslims to do that?

The other obfuscation is that some people are "hijacking Islam." Who is? Bin Laden? Every single action he has done is justified by the Kuran and Hadith, and he has taken great pains to provide the verses that justify his actions. Not only that, for centuries, people like that were hailed as Ghazis (holy warriors) within Islam. It is not for nothing that in the muslim world, a majority of people hail him as a hero. It is only when you are trying to hide from the scrutiny of the west that you say he has "hijacked Islam." He is merely a person who follows Islam to the word. He is, in many ways, a true muslim. In numerous Hadith, Muhammed says that the best muslim is not one who fasts and prays, but who gets on his horse and fights against infidels (especially polytheists) for the spread of Islam. That is what Bin Laden is doing. What about the innocent women and children he kills? Guess what - the Hadith emphatically state that it is perfectly alright to kill the women and children of polytheists. Nothing Bin Laden does is outside the Kuran and Hadith. He is not a "radical" muslim, he is merely a practising muslim!

Let us be honest about this - the problem is not a chimera called "radical Islam." The problem IS ISLAM. Islam, as it exists in the Kuran and Hadith, is far too violent, intolerant, and yes, "radical", to co-exist with modern society. The moment a muslim starts following true Islam, he appears incredibly radical to us all, and we say "he is a radical muslim" when all he is doing is following his religion!

The ideology of Nazism led to the Holocaust. The ideology of Islam, and not "radical Islam", led to what TIME magazine called "the greatest genocide since the holocaust" - the butchery of 2 million Hindus (and 1 million muslims who were regarded as "contaminated by Hindu ideas") in East Pakistan by the Pakistan army between 1970-71. I discuss that in a separate post. Again, it is Islam, and not "radical Islam" whose teachings play a big role in the ongoing genocide and rape in Darfur. I will have a post on that shortly as well.

What would we call people who tried to hide the murderous ideology of Nazism, and tried to attribute the Holocaust to other causes? We would call them "abettors in Nazi genocide." Similarly, I call those who are trying to hide the true teachings of Islam abettors in Islamic genocides. Please, let us stop this intellectual cowardice and call it as it is. How many more must die to Jihad till we finally call it Jihad? Till we finally say "Yes, it is Islam that is causing all this violence?" Please say it today, and be on the side of truth.

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