God calls to the Abode of Peace and He guides whom He wills to a straight path.
The Real Face of the Terrorists Who Act in the Name of Religion
Those who believe and do not mix up their belief with any wrongdoing, they are the ones who are safe… (Qur'an, 6:82)
All these examples reveal that organising acts of terror against innocent people is utterly against Islam and it is unlikely that any Muslim could ever commit such crime. On the contrary, Muslims are responsible for stopping these people, removing "mischief on earth" and bringing peace and security to all people all over the world.
It is not possible to talk about "Christian terror", "Jewish terror" or "Islamic terror". Indeed, an examination into the background of the perpetrators of these acts reveal that the terrorism in question is not a religious but a social phenomenon.
Crusaders: Barbarians Who Trampled Their Own Religion
The true message of a religion or a system of belief can be at times distorted by its own pseudo-adherents. The Crusaders, whose period constitutes a dark episode in Christian history, are an example of this type of distortion.
The Crusaders were European Christians who undertook expeditions from the end of the 11th century onwards to recover the Holy Land (Palestine and the surrounding area) from the Muslims. They set out with a so-called religious goal, yet they laid waste each acre of land they entered spreading fear wherever they went. They subjected civilians along their way to mass executions and plundered many villages and towns. Their conquest of Jerusalem, where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived under Islamic rule in peace, became the scene of immense bloodshed. They massacred all the Muslims and Jews in the city without mercy.
In the words of one historian, "They killed all the Saracens and the Turks they found... whether male of female."16 One of the Crusaders, Raymond of Aguiles, boasted of this violence:
Wonderful sights were to be seen. Some of our men (and this was more merciful) cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses. But these were small matters compared to what happened at the Temple of Solomon, a place where religious services are normally chanted ... in the Temple and porch of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins.17
In two days, the Crusader army killed some 40,000 Muslims in the barbaric ways just described.18
The Crusaders' barbarism was so excessive that, during the Fourth Crusade, they plundered Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), a Christian city, and stole the golden objects from the churches.
Of course, all this barbarism was utterly against Christian doctrine. Christianity, in the words of the Bible, is a "message of love". In the Gospel according to Matthew, it is said that Jesus said to his followers, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew, 5:44). In the Gospel according to Luke, it is said that Jesus said, "To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also." (Luke, 6:29) In no part of the Gospels is there any reference to the legitimacy of violence; thus murdering innocent people is unimaginable. You can find the concept of "murdering the innocent" in the Bible; but only in the cruel Jewish King Herod's attempt to kill Jesus while he was a baby.
If Christianity is a religion based on love that accommodates no violence, how did Christian Crusaders carry out some of the most violent acts in history? The major reason for this was that the Crusaders were mainly made up of ignorant people who could better be defined as "rabble". These masses, who knew almost nothing about their religion, who had probably never read or even seen the Bible once in their lifetime, and who were for the most part completely unaware of the moral values of the Bible, were led into barbarism under the conditioning of Crusaders' slogans which presented this violence as "God's Will". Employing this fraudulent method, many were encouraged to commit dreadful acts strictly forbidden by the religion.
It is worth mentioning that in that period, Eastern Christians - the people of Byzantium, for instance - who were culturally far ahead of Western Christians, espoused more humane values. Both before and after the Crusaders' conquests, Orthodox Christians managed to live together with Muslims. According to Terry Jones, the BBC commentator, with the withdrawal of the Crusaders from Middle East, "civilized life started again and members of the three monotheistic faiths returned to peaceful coexistence."19
The example of the Crusaders is indicative of a general phenomenon. The more the adherents of an ideology are uncivilised, intellectually underdeveloped and ignorant, the more likely they are to resort to violence. This also holds true for ideologies that have nothing to do with religion. All communist movements around the world are prone to violence. Yet the most savage and bloodthirsty of them were the Red Khmers in Cambodia. This was because they were the most ignorant.
The Bedouin Character in the Qur'an
In the period of the Prophet Muhammad, there existed two basic social structures in Arabia. City-dwellers and Bedouins (desert Arabs). A sophisticated culture prevailed in Arab towns. Commercial relations linked the towns to the outer world, which contributed to the formation of "good manners" among Arabs dwelling in cities. They had refined aesthetic values, enjoyed literature and especially poetry. Desert Arabs, on the other hand, were the nomad tribes living in the desert who had a very crude culture. Utterly unaware of arts and literature, they developed an unrefined character.
Islam was born and developed among the inhabitants of Mecca, the most important city of the peninsula. However, as Islam spread to the rest of the the peninsula, all the tribes in Arabia embraced it. Among these tribes were also desert Arabs, who were somehow problematic: their poor intellectual and cultural background prevented some of them from grasping the profundity and noble spirit of Islam. Of this God states the following in a verse:
The desert Arabs are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more fitted to be ignorant of the limits which God has sent down to His Messenger. But God is Knowing, Wise. (Qur'an, 9:97)
The desert Arabs, that is, social groups who were "worst in disbelief and hypocrisy" and prone to disobey God's commands, became a part of the Islamic world in the Prophet's time. However, in later periods, they became a source of trouble for the house of Islam. The sect called "Kharijis" that emerged among the Bedouins was an example. The most distinctive trait of this perverse sect (which was called "Kharijis", the "rebels", because they greatly deviated from Sunni practices), was their wild and fanatical nature. The "Kharijis", who had little understanding of the essence of Islam or of the virtues and the values of the Qur'an, waged war against all other Muslims basing this war on a few Qur'anic verses about which they made distorted interpretations. Furthermore, they carried out "acts of terrorism". Ali, who was one of the closest companions of the Prophet and was described as the "gate of the city of knowledge", was assassinated by a Kharijite.
In later periods, "Hashashis", another brutal organisation, emerged; this was a "terrorist organisation" made up of ignorant and fanatical militants bereft of a profound understanding of the essence of Islam and thus who could be readily influenced by simple slogans and promises.
In other words, just as the Crusaders distorted and misinterpreted Christianity as a teaching of brutality, some perverted groups emerging in the Islamic world misinterpreted Islam and resorted to brutality. What is common to these sects and the Crusaders was their "Bedouin" nature. That is, they were ignorant, unrefined and uncultivated, lacking a true understanding of their religion. The violence they resorted to resulted from this lack of understanding, rather than from the religion they claimed to espouse.
One of the Sources of Terrorism: Third World Fanaticism
These examples from history may help us gain better understanding of the present phenomenon, the so-called "Islamic terror", which is nowadays at the top of the international agenda. That is because those who emerge and carry out acts of terrorism in the name of Islam and those who back such acts, representing a tiny minority in the world of Islam, stem from this "character peculiar to Bedouins", not from Islam itself. Failing to understand the essence of Islam, which is essentially a religion of peace and justice, they make it a tool of barbarism, which is simply an outcome of their social and cultural structure. The origin of this barbarism, which may well be called "Third World Fanaticism", is the benighted initiatives of people who are devoid of love for their fellow human-beings.
It is a fact that, for the last few centuries, Muslims in all corners of the Islamic world, have been subjected to violence by Western forces and their allies. The colonialist European states, local oppressive regimes or colonialists backed by the West (Israel, for example) have caused great suffering to Muslims at large. However, for Muslims, this is a situation that has to be approached and responded to from a purely Qur'anic stance.
In no part of the Qur'an does God command believers to respond to violence with violence. On the contrary, God commands Muslims to "respond to evil with goodness":
A good deed and a bad deed are not the same. Repel the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and someone else, he will be like a bosom friend. (Qur'an, 41:34)
It is no doubt a legitimate right of Muslims to react against this cruelty. However, these reactions should never turn into a blind hatred, an unjust enmity. God warns about this in the following verse:
... Let not the hatred of a people [who once] obstructed you from the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgress. Help one another in benevolence and piety, and help not one another in sin and transgression… (Qur'an, 5:2)
Consequently, carrying out terrorist acts against the innocent people of other nations under the pretence of "representing the innocent nations in the world", is by no means compatible with Islam.
Another point that deserves a special mention here is that all Western nations and communities cannot be held responsible for the aforementioned violence and oppression against Muslims. Actually, the materialist, irreligious philosophies and ideologies that prevailed in the 19th century are in the main responsible for these dismal acts. European colonialism did not originate from Christianity. On the contrary, anti-religious movements opposing the values of Christianity led the way to colonialism. At the roots of the greatest brutalities of the 19th century lies the Social Darwinist ideology. In the Western world today, there are still cruel, mischievous and opposing factors, as well as a culture dominated by peaceful and just elements that have its roots in Christianity. As a matter of fact, the main disagreement is not between the West and Islam. Contrary to the general opinion, it is between the devout people of the West and of the Muslim world on the one hand, and the people opposing religion (materialists, atheists, Darwinists etc.) on the other.
Another indication that Third World Fanaticism has nothing to do with Islam is that, until recently, this fanaticism had been identified with the communist ideology. As is well-known, similar anti-Western acts of terror were carried out in 1960s and 1970s by Soviet-backed communist organisations. As the impact of the communist ideology faded, some of the social structures which gave birth to communist organisations have turned their attention to Islam. This "brutality presented under the guise of religion", which is formulated by the incorporation of some Islamic concepts and symbols into the former communist literature is entirely against the moral values which constitute the essence of Islam.
A last remark about this issue is that Islam is not peculiar to a particular nation or geographical region. Contrary to the dominant Western perception, Islam is not an "eastern culture". Islam is the last religion revealed to mankind as a guide to the true path that recommends itself to all humanity. Muslims are responsible for communicating the true religion they believe in to all people of all nations and cultures and making them feel closer to Islam.
Consequently, there is a unique solution for people and groups who, in the name of Islam, resort to terror, form oppressive regimes and turn this world into a dreadful place instead of beautifying it: revealing the true nature of Islam and communicating it so that the masses can understand and live by it.
The Error of Radicalism
There is another idea that we must examine together with that of terror; that is, the phenomenon of radicalism.
Radicalism means supporting sudden revolutionary destructive changes in any sphere and applying a strict uncompromising policy in order to achieve them. Radicals are characterised by their desire for revolutionary change and the stern, sometimes aggressive attitude they adopt.
In this, as in every sphere of life, the guide for the Muslim is the Qur'an. When we look at radicalism in the light of the Qur'an, we see that it has nothing to do with the way in which God commands the believers to behave. When God describes a believer in the Qur'an, He depicts him as a loving, soft-spoken person, shunning conflicts and arguments, approaching even the most hostile people with warmth and friendship.
An example to guide us in this matter is the command given by God to Moses and Aaron to go to Pharaoh and speak gently to him:
Go to Pharaoh; he has overstepped the bounds. But speak to him with gentle words so that hopefully he will pay heed or show some fear. (Qur'an, 20:43-44)
Pharaoh was one of the most cruel and rebellious unbelievers of his time. He was a despot who denied God and worshipped idols; moreover, he subjected believers (the Israelites of the time) to terrible cruelties and murder. But God commanded His prophets to go to such a hostile man and speak to him gently.
You will notice that the way shown by God was the way of friendly dialogue, not the way of conflict with sharp words, angry slogans and agitated protests.
There are a few other examples to show Muslims how to behave in the dialogue between Shu'ayb and the deniers. This dialogue is related in the Qur'an in this way:
And to Madyan their brother Shu'ayb. He said, "My people, worship God! You have no deity apart from Him. Do not give short measure and short weight. I see you prospering and I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing Day.
My people! Give full measure and full weight with justice; do not diminish people's goods; and do not go about the earth, corrupting it.
What endures with God is better for you if you are believers. I am not set over you as your keeper."
They said, "Shu'ayb, do your prayers instruct you that we should abandon what our fathers worshipped or stop doing whatever we want to with our wealth? Yet you are such a lenient, normal person!"
He said, "My people! What do you think? If I do possess a Clear Sign from my Lord and He has given me His good provision, I do not want to oppose you in what way I am forbidding you. I only want to put things right as far as I can. My success is with God alone. I have put my trust in Him and I turn to Him." (Qur'an, 11:84-88)
When we examine what he says, we see that Shu'ayb invited the people to believe in God and to adopt high moral principals and he did this with friendliness and humility. We can explain some of the reasons behind of the things said in these verses:
* When Shu'ayb says "I am not set over you as your keeper." to the people, he does not want to dominate them; his only intention is to inform them of the truth that God has revealed.
* "You are clearly the forbearing, the rightly-guided": These words of the deniers to Shu'ayb show his warm, gentle and courteous character and that this was particularly appreciated by the deniers.
* "My people! What do you think?" This expression used by Shu'ayb shows that he calls on the deniers to use their intelligence and conscience. In other words, he does not use insistent pressure, but questions their ideas from an opposing stance and invites them to consider and come to a conclusion based on their own free conscience.
* "I do not want to oppose you in what way I am forbidding you". Shu'ayb's prohibition here is not actually a prohibition. He explains that some acts are sinful and invites the people to abandon them. Moreover, when Shu'ayb says "I do not want to oppose you", it is not his purpose to dispute with the people; he does not want to make them uncomfortable and incite a quarrel; he wants only to invite them to faith and the practice of high moral principles.
If you examine the Qur'an you will see that a warm, gentle and tolerant disposition characterized all the prophets. God describes Abraham as "tender-hearted and forbearing." (Qur'an, 9:114) and in another verse, the prophet Muhammad's moral principles are described in this way:
It is a mercy from God that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult with them about the matter. Then when you have reached a firm decision, put your trust in God. God loves those who put their trust in Him. (Qur'an, 3:159)
An obvious characteristic of radicalism is its anger. This disposition can be clearly seen in the speeches, writings and demonstrations of radicals. However, anger is not an attribute of Muslims. When God describes believers in the Qur'an, he describes, "those who give in times of both ease and hardship, those who control their rage and pardon other people - God loves the good-doers" (Qur'an, 3:134)
There is no situation in which a Muslim displays anger. The only thing a Muslim wants from other people is that they believe in God and live according to moral principles, but this is possible only by the grace of God. No matter what we do, no matter how much we try to explain the truth to people, human hearts are in God's hands. God reminds Muslims of this very important fact in this verse, "... Do those who believe not know that if God had wanted to He could have guided all mankind? ..." (Qur'an, 13:31)
There is another verse that emphasises this same fact;
If your Lord had willed, all the people on the earth would have believed. Do you think you can force people to be believers? (Qur'an, 10:99)
Therefore, it is the duty of a Muslim only to explain the facts and to invite people to accept them. Whether or not people accept the invitation is completely up to their own conscience. God reveals this truth in the Qur'an when He says that there is no compulsion in religion.
There is no compulsion in religion. True guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects false deities and has belief in God has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Qur'an, 2:256)
Therefore, there is no coercion to make people believe and become Muslims, or to make Muslims perform prayers and beware of sin. There is only advice. God reveals in a few verses addressed to the Messenger of God that Muslims are not oppressors:
We know best what they say. You are not a dictator over them. So remind, with the Qur'an, whoever fears My Threat. (Qur'an, 50:45)
Say: "Mankind! The truth has come to you from your Lord. Whoever is guided is only guided for his own good. Whoever is misguided is only misguided to his detriment. I have not been set over you as a guardian." (Qur'an, 10:108)
Muslims are responsible only for explaining their religion, they apply no pressure or coercion on anyone and are enjoined to speak gently to even the most tyrannical deniers. Such persons cannot be radicals, because radicalism stands for the opposite of those qualities we have enumerated. Indeed, radicalism is an unIslamic current of thought and a political stance that came into the Islamic world from outside. When we examine social phenomena described in terms of radicalism, it will be seen that these are basically a collection of methods and pronouncements used by communists in the past, or an expression of the "fanatical rage" that has no place in true Islam. (The Qur'an, 48:26)
All Muslims must totally reject an angry, unbending argumentative attitude which goes against the very nature of the Qur'an and in its place adopt a friendly, gentle, tolerant, calm and compassionate one. Muslims must set an example to the world and be admired for their maturity, tolerance, moderation, modesty and peacefulness. Muslims must live Islam in the best possible way and be its representatives to the world, not only in these things, but also by their achievements in the fields of science, culture, art, aesthetics and social order and others.
Explaining Islam to others and defending Islam against ideas alien to it are included in what we have listed above. In the verse below, God clearly reveals what attitude a Muslim must assume with regard to others:
Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided. (Qur'an, 16:125)
Terrorist Methods and Psychology
The concept of terror has a wider meaning in today's language. Generally it refers to the armed conflict carried on by radical ideological groups. In general, terror means intimidation. But this intimidation encompasses a broad field including the whole lives of people who feel the intense threat of fear and violence. Terror includes intense and systematic intimidation designed to make people adopt a certain way of thinking and behaviour, as well as every kind of violent act carried out to produce this intimidation. But in every situation, the target of terrorism is directly or indirectly the citizens themselves.
Terror organisations use terror to rally support. The intimidation they use is calculated to increase their strength and so to gain the support of some or all the citizens.
The first thing that people think of when we mention the word "terror" is generally the kind known as "leftist terror", but there is also a kind of terror found in Third World countries and practiced by dictatorial regimes. Actually the reality here is nothing other than a massive implementation of leftist terror tactics. A dictator or a group in power is oppressive, using their power only for personal gain and for this reason they experience various kinds of social opposition. In this situation, the dictatorial regime always resorts to the same formula to show that it is stronger than the opposition; they inaugurate the use of terror so that citizens will be afraid and their own power are consolidated.
Terror organisations, on the other hand, in accordance with the ideologies they espouse, claim that their aim is to remove a government and its administrators which they regard as illegitimate and cruel and, in so doing, that they will reach their goal of establishing a happier and more just way of life. However, this is not a realistic claim. In the Qur'an, in the first verses of Sura Baqara, God issues this command to those who think in this way:
When they are told, "Do not cause corruption on the earth," they say, "We are only putting things right." No indeed! They are the corrupters, but they are not aware of it. (Qur'an, 2:11-12)
For terrorists, killing people is a way of life. They may shoot innocent people without pity and throw bombs at children. For them shedding blood is a pleasure. They have ceased to be human beings and turned into raving savage beasts. If there is anyone among them who shows the least feeling of compassion, they brand him as a coward or a traitor and demote him. Often they use their guns against one another and carry out bloody purges against internal factions in their own organisation.
It can be seen that terrorism is nothing other than a totally diabolical source of bloodshed. Whoever supports this cycle of savagery is defending a satanic system. If a terrorist uses religious language and symbols, this must not deceive anyone. Terrorists who hide under the cloak of false religion are doubly guilty, both of the blood they have shed and for the anti-religious propaganda they have spread while committing these crimes in the name of religion.
Terror and religion are completely opposed to each other. Terrorism adopts the way of aggression, murder, conflict, cruelty and misery. But according to the Qur'an, all these things are kinds of oppression. God enjoins peace, harmony, goodwill and compromise. He forbids terror and every kind of act that does not promote peace, and, condemns those who commit such acts:
But as for those who break God's contract after it has been agreed and sever what God has commanded to be joined, and cause corruption in the earth, the curse will be upon them. They will have the Evil Abode. (Qur'an, 13:25)
The basic quality that terror and those who are infected by its cruelty have in common is that the fear and love of God is something completely alien to them. Their hearts have become hardened and they are spiritually ill. In the Qur'an, God speaks about the character of such people:
But do not obey any vile swearer of oaths, any backbiter, slandermonger, impeder of good, evil aggressor, gross, coarse and furthermore, despicable.(Qur'an, 68:10-13)
To rebel for no cause and to commit acts of assault are forbidden by God. In Islam, acts of what we call terror and anarchy today are forbidden. In the Qur'an it is said:
Say: "My Lord has forbidden indecency, both open and hidden, and wrong action, and unrightful tyranny, and associating anything with God for which He has sent down no authority, and saying things about God that you do not know." (Qur'an, 7:33)
Acts of Violence- One of the Most Important Methods of Terrorist Propoganda
Terrorists regard acts of violence as propaganda for their organisations. For them, killing innocent people, robbing banks, assassinating people, kidnapping and planting bombs all act as propaganda for their struggle. To the terrorist who is bent on wreaking chaos, what publicity a single act of violence can generate in one day is much more publicity than what millions of brochures could do.
This idea is totally foreign to every kind of human feeling of compassion, mercy, concord and tolerance; it is alien to the moral teaching of the Qur'an and can gain a following only in those societies in which anti-religious ideologies hold sway. For this reason, the only possible solution that can save humanity from this benighted way of thinking is the widespread acceptance of the moral teachings found in the Qur'an and taken as a way of life.
God calls to the Abode of Peace and He guides whom He wills to a straight path. (Qur'an, 10:25)
16. Gesta Francorum, or the Deeds of the Franks and the Other Pilgrims to Jerusalem, translated by Rosalind Hill, London, 1962, p. 91
17. August C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants, Princeton & London, 1921, p. 261
18. August C. Krey, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eye-Witnesses and Participants, p. 262
19. Alan Ereira, David Wallace, Crusades: Terry Jones Tells the Dramatic Story of Battle for Holy Land, BBC World Wide Ltd., 1995.