Religious Extremism

Topics: Islam, Jihad, Al-Qaeda Pages: 9 (2565 words) Published: September 27, 2006
Love and compassion are central themes to most of the world's religions. While subscribing to this philosophy, they also share another more sinister philosophy - that of extremism. We would like to look into the three major religions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity (including cults) and how that they all have a history of extremism and also extremist activity today. We would like to study why extremists believe what they do so we can better prepare for them.

Islam Extremism

Islamic history has been a product of culture and conflict. One strong root of this conflict comes from Jihad, which in its original and basic meaning translates to the struggle to be a good Muslim or the struggle to live by the codes of Islam. The Greater Jihad, which is the more prominent form in Islamic culture, is the internal struggle to improve one's soul. Then there is the Lesser Jihad which is the external and physical struggle of Islam. Under Lesser Jihad, Muslims would have the right and responsibility to physically defend the faith.

"Permission to take up arms is hereby granted to those who are attacked, they have suffered injustice, God has all the power to give them victory" (22:39, Qur'an). This form of Lesser Jihad would show one of its first faces during the period of the Crusades which began in the 11th century. It was only later in history during the 18th century that a radical interpretation of the Qur'an soon took hold of many Muslims. One such radical extremist is Seyyid Qutb, who wrote the book Milestones. In it he justified the armed struggle for Islam against those who stood in its way and he used the Qur'an to legitimize the struggle by saying that the world has changed and Muslim governments are no longer defending the world of Islam against incursions. He argued that each individual Muslim would have to take the responsibility of Military Jihad on his own shoulders (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2006).

Current examples of radical Muslim extremism are synonymous around the world today because of the vast amounts of violence that are taking place. Extremism today evokes images of suicide bombers, hijackings, kidnappings, and other various forms of terrorism. The attacks on September 11th, 2001 in New York which killed over 3000 innocent people proved to be the greatest act of terrorism ever acted upon when it comes to radical extremism. On one of the planes that crashed on that day, it was the terrorists' last words that were heard repeatedly as a chant on the flight voice recorder, "Allah Akhbar!" which means "God is Great." The group responsible for that tragedy was Al-Qaeda which is an international terrorist organization whose founder is Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden has even justified the act by quoting the Qur'an, "Fight and slay the pagans, wherever you find them, seize them, and take them captive and lie in wait for them in ever stratagem of war" (9:5, Qur'an). Al-Qaeda is the largest terrorist extremist group today.

Other significant Al-Qaeda operations include the 1998 suicide bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; the maritime suicide attack in 2000 on an American warship, the USS Cole, anchored in Aden, Yemen; and the commuter train bombings in Madrid, Spain, in March 2004 that killed more than 190 people and wounded more than 1,400.

Another example would be the bombing on October 12th, 2002 on the Indonesian island of Bali which killed many tourists. The group responsible for that act was the militant Islamic terrorist organization known as Jemaah Islamiyah which is dedicated to the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy in Southeast Asia.

Hezbollah is a Shiite Islamic group founded in 1982 to fight the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon. Even though many people in Arab and Muslim societies consider the group as a legitimate resistance movement, the U.S. and various other governments regard it as a terrorist organization. They are also responsible for acts of extremism...

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