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Islamic Extremism

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Traditionally, Jews and Christians are tolerated within Islam. They are part of dhimmis, or protected communities, because they are considered "people of the book" - recipients of valid, if outdated, revelations from God. Modern extremists and Islamists, however, have developed a very different perspective.

For them, Jews and Christians are regarded as being part of the great mass of infidels: first, because they have deliberately rejected the truth, and second, because of their connections to Western colonialism and Zionism. Both Jews and Christians are viewed as being part of a wide-ranging conspiracy to corrupt, divide and destroy Islam. This effort was instigated by the Jews and Christians of the 7th century, and it continues down through today.

These views were expressed and spread through the late 1970s and early 1980s by the journal al-Dawa, "The Call" (in a religious sense, like a "religious calling") which was run by former members of the Muslim Brotherhood. After Nasser's death, Sadat never agreed to allow the Muslim Brotherhood to reform, but he did allow a few of the members to publish this magazine.

Because it refrained from directly criticizing the Egyptian government, it was granted wide latitude in what it published. Although it was certainly not the only outlet for Islamist views, it was one of the most consistent and popular. By examining it, we can get a fairly accurate representation of what radical Islamists were thinking at the time.

As far as the writers were concerned, the Jews were the "ultimate" abomination. This term was used indiscriminately to apply both to Israeli citizens and to non-Israeli Jews. Indeed, being Israeli was only incidental: Jewishness alone was sufficient to merit condemnation, and it deserved to be eradicated wherever it was found.

Israel as a state, however, was an affront for two reasons. The first was political: the existence of Israel was regarded as simply another Western colonization effort in the Middle East. It was closely related to the efforts of the Crusaders to create European colonies in the Holy Land.

But there was also a religious objection to Israel, one that still often goes unrecognized today. The land area making up Israel is still regarded something which should be part of Dar al-Islam. It is simply unacceptable, from an Islamic prespective, that that a part of the House of Islam suddenly come under control of the House of War, especially when it is so closely associated with Christian Europe.

Although Jews were regarded as inherently evil, the Crusader was generally regarded as redeemable, at least in theory. Christians could be either good or evil, but the evil ones strive constantly to convert or kill the true believers of Islam. Whether attacking via military, missionaries, or political ideologies like capitalism, Crusaders must be resisted at any cost. They are only interested in conquering the lands of Islam and corrupting the true religion.

In the end, the journal al-Dawa had nothing really good to say about Crusaders or Jews. This legacy has continued even today, with both Jews and Westerners or Christians (often referred to as "Crusaders") being blamed for whatever ills have befallen Islam. It isn't a coincidence, then, that bin Laden's 1998 fatwa was titled "Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders.".

Yet even blaming Jews and Westerners for the corrupt governments in the Middle East and the suffering of individual Muslims is not an idea original to bin Laden. Westerners are still Crusaders because they are using both culture and the military to take control of Muslims - a view expressed by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, current leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami in Pakistan, and quoted earlier.


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