RELIGIOUS QUEST II
Outside the Mainstream
In the Beginning
Is it possible to believe that in both Islam and Christianity, two faiths ultimately founded on notions of peace and forgiveness, that it is morally acceptable to commit sin against those who are “the real sinners”? Both the Islamic terrorist organization Al-Qaeda and the North American based Christian terrorist group the Army of God obviously sympathize with that statement. Each organization has set personal vendettas against the United States and the policies the US has established regarding their stray from the conservative, traditional practices within each of their faith traditions. Through that warring, essentially extremist ideology, Al-Qaeda and the Army of God have set themselves apart from their religious affiliates, outside the mainstream philosophies of Islam and Christianity. However, as erratic and irrational as these groups’ principles seem, their backgrounds and ideologies lend some sort of practical insight into the minds of these organizations, who have seemingly defied the very foundations of their faiths. From the warring mountain regions of Afghanistan to an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida, these two organizations, hundreds of miles apart and centered around two different religions, are eerily linked in the violence and terror they instill upon the unsuspecting public.
In order to fully understand the Muslim jihadist group Al-Qaeda and their position outside of mainstream Islam, one must understand where they began and who helped bring them to such prominence. This is where Osama Bin Laden, America’s most wanted man following the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Centers, comes to the forefront. He was credited with the founding of Al Qaeda and was often looked to as the inspirational figurehead of the organization throughout his period of leadership.
Three major events finally drew the fundamentalist Bin Laden to militancy: his study of Egyptian activist Sayyid Qutb, the overthrow of the Iranian Shah by Ayatollah Khomeini and the subsequent militant uprising, and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Bin Laden first became radicalized by the teachings of Sayyid Qutb. Qutb challenged the traditional ideas of the Islamic conception of defense of the Islamic community, preaching attack as a form of self-defense, and martyrdom as a possible outcome. The rising of the Ayatollah to power over the Shah of Iran established a much more militant Islamic community, one that was capable of holding fifty two Americans hostage in Iran hostage for over a year. The tipping point for Bin Laden however came from the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. This invasion served as a calling to many Muslim individuals to bear arms and fight to protect their Muslim brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. Bin Laden’s legacy started with his defeat of the Soviet troops at Jaji. This groundbreaking defeat for the Soviets proved to serve of little importance in the grand scheme of the conflict. However, Bin Laden received notable recognition for his tactical maneuvers in leading these Muslim fighters over the secular Soviets. Bin Laden parlayed this notoriety into a partnership with Egyptian doctor and activist Abu Al-Zewarhiri, a radical and outspoken activist who viewed Bin Laden as a leader for his growing group of followers.
Bin Laden and Al-Zewarhiri are credited with much of the rise of Al-Qaeda’s influence. Following the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistan, Bin Laden and the militants shifted their focus towards the west and their unacceptable presence in Arabia, aiding the Kuwaitis in ousting Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden held his first press conference declaring war against the United States and proclaiming that, "by God's grace, we have formed an organization with other Islamic groups in different Islamic nations, a front called the Islamic Front". This front,...
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