Counter-Terrorism: Theology Matters


September 27, 2008:Western diplomatic and media pressure on Islamic scholars in the Moslem world, and in the West, is having a serious impact on the popularity of Islamic terrorists in their own backyard. The reason is simple: the terrorists are using a heretical interpretation of Islam to justify their use of violence. Particularly odious is the belief that innocent Moslems killed during terrorist attacks are "involuntary martyrs" and that any Moslem who does not agree with the terrorists "is not a true Moslem" and can thus be killed as an infidel or heretic.

Mainstream Islamic scholars long opposed the theological misdeeds of the terrorists, but were either shouted down, terrorized into silence or ignored (especially by key media in the Islamic world). As more Moslems were killed as "collateral damage" to Islamic terrorism, the more pressure there was on Islamic scholars to openly condemn the sins of the killers. Even before September 11, 2001, Pentagon and State Department officials were making this point, without much success.

The theological errors of the current crop of Islamic terrorists are half a century old, and have never been a secret. Moreover, the goals of the terrorist groups (Moslem Brotherhood, Salafists, al Qaeda and so on), were the removal of the tyrants running, and misruling, Moslem nations, and thus widely popular. Moslem theologians knew they were vulnerable to a very physical backlash if they openly criticized these "heroes,"so they kept quiet.

The tide began to turn in a big way after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. This infuriated the Islamic radicals, who were carrying out most of the terror attacks, and these killers tuned on Moslem states, like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and others that had tolerated them. The Islamic terrorists now blamed all Moslem states for allowing, if not assisting, a "crusader army" that was invading Iraq. Al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq over the next few years repulsed Moslems everywhere. Al Qaeda began sinking in popularity ratings. Islamic scholars began to preach against the terrorists.

Now al Qaeda, and other Islamic terrorists are on the defensive. They are releasing a lot of audio and video messages just to try and defend their interpretation of Islamic theology. The Islamic scholars are ripping these arguments to shreds, and al Qaeda would face even more public hostility if the theologians were physically threatened. This phenomenon goes largely unreported in the non-Arabic, and non-Moslem media, but it is a big deal in the places where terrorists come from.


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