Counter-Terrorism: The Source Of Islamic Terrorist Justification


December 8, 2015:   Egyptian religious scholars are now admitting what few of them ever even wanted to discuss openly; that Egyptian Islamic scholars provide the religious justification for groups like ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant). Making this public is a side effect of yet another outbreak of Islamic terrorism in Egypt. The last one, in the 1990s, took years to suppress and that campaign only managed to eliminate the most violent Islamic radicals inside Egypt. Many of the Islamic terrorist leaders fled to other countries (one now leads al Qaeda) and many of the Islamic scholars who inspired the Islamic terrorists (but never officially joined Islamic terrorist organizations) remained free on the understanding that they would not encourage any more Islamic terrorists. That restriction began to erode after the 2011 revolution that overthrew the Mubarak dictatorship that had long enforced it. Now some of those pro-Islamic terror scholars are having second thoughts.

Under Mubarak it was thought that the Egyptian Islamic scholars were united in their opposition to Islamic terrorism. They weren’t and this was discovered in 2005 when the Egyptian government opened a new front in the struggle against Islamist radicalism. Egypt sent a large numbers of moderate imams, trained at Al Azhar University in Cairo, to Yemen. There, the imams were welcomed by the government, which was beset by rising Islamist influence in some tribal areas. The Islamic clergy are more like Jewish Rabbis than the priests and ministers found in most other religions. An imam is basically a prayer leader and teacher of religious knowledge. But because of that position, they usually become community counselors and leaders. Some of the Egyptian imams sent to Yemen turned out to be quite radical in their beliefs and quietly supported the resurgence of Islamic terrorism in Yemen, which is now full of al Qaeda and ISIL fighters.

Widely respected throughout Islam, Al Azhar is one of the oldest educational institutions in the world. Unlike most Moslem religious institutions, Al Azhar is more like a Western university, and the students receive a much more liberal education than the narrowly focused one typical of most Moslem religious education. This makes them much more highly educated than they typical Moslem cleric, and thus better able to offer arguments and counter-arguments in disputations over the meaning of religious texts, and also tends to give them a moderate outlook on religious matters and relations with other faiths. But Al Azhar has, especially since World War II, been the source of many of the radical ideas that encourage and justify modern Islamic terrorists. The recent revelations pointed out how ISIL and other Islamic terrorist groups can all trace the interpretations of Islamic scriptures that justify their savagery to Islamic scholars trained at Al Azhar, and some who still teach there. For this reason you rarely, if ever, heard Al Azhar religious scholars ISIL, mainly because ISIL is following Islamic teachings long promoted by faculty at Al Azhar and several generations of predecessors.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close