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ICG Risk Blog - [ Putting bin Laden into the perspective of Islam, Part II ]

Putting bin Laden into the perspective of Islam, Part II


Part I here

Conservatives believe that Islam achieved its zenith somewhere in the past in the Medinian society under the guidance of Prophet Mohammed and the time of the four "rightly guided caliphs," encompassing the laws of the faith as developed during the early centuries of Islam, and so is rightly a closed cultural system that allows for no change. Modernists, in their attempt to make Islam relevant to modern society, attempt to insert a contemporary Western ethos into Islam, reinterpreting Islam’s fundamentals in such a way as to provide what amounts to a sanctioning forum for the introduction of new ideas and an authentication for adopting Western legal, social and economic institutions.

Both conservatives and modernists are unhappy with the present situation of Muslims. While they share a pride in the glory of the past and have confidence in the prospective of a better future, their views of past, present and future vary greatly. Conservatives believe the authority of the past is valid for the present and the future, i.e., the past is ideal, and if Islam were only to resuscitate it, it would regain its ascendancy in the world. Religion is not only the central part of life, it is the totality of life. Modernists see the past as crucially important for bringing an element of pride and dignity to the individual and endowing Islamists with the ability to function in the modern world.

Needless to say, there is much disillusionment and both conservatives and the modernists feel that the conditions of Muslims need reform. To the conservatives reform means resuscitation, requiring Islam is to eliminate, by force if necessary, all alien elements that have attached themselves to the faith and thus drained its life. To the modernists reform means creative innovation, removing Islam’s suffocating strictures that have not adjusted to changing realities and have arrested in its development and growth.

The US is seen as the pole star, the animus, of Moslem distress heaped upon it by the Western World. To bin Laden and his adherents, we are the Great Satan of which the Ayatollah Khomeini spoke. Islamist terrorist groups, while differing in motivation, objectives, ideologies, and levels of activity, remain the most active of all terrorist organizations, stating as their main objective "the overthrow of secular, pro-Western governments, the derailment of the Arab-Israeli peace process, the expulsion of U.S. forces from the region, or the end of what they consider unjust occupation of Muslim lands."

Conversely, the US has geopolitical and energy-related reasons for remaining in the region. Conflict cannot be negotiated or avoided between the US and this powerful minority.

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


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