If you are a Westerner, an American, a non-Muslim, or a Muslim of a different stripe than they, then some radical Muslims hate you.
Why? The complex answer involves history, culture, politics, religion and psychology. Of course, many – some would say most – Muslims are peace loving and deplore terrorism. Islam is quite diverse. Extremist Muslims do not represent all Muslims any more than white supremacists represent all Christians. Not all “radical” Muslims are violent or hateful. But understanding extremist Muslim hatred is essential to interpreting our post-9/11 world.
Osama Bin Ladin calls on Muslims to “obey God’s command to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions … to kill Americans and their allies, both civil and military ….” He and his sympathizers want to eliminate Western influence and restore their version of Islam to the world.
Would you believe that dancing in American churches helped fuel some radical Muslim anger today? Princeton Near East scholar Bernard Lewis illustrates.
In 1948, Sayyid Qutb visited the United States for Egypt’s Ministry of Education. His stay left him shocked with what he perceived as moral degeneracy and sexual promiscuity.
He wrote that even American religion was tainted by materialism and consumerism. Churches marketed their services to the public like merchants and entertainers. Success, big numbers, “fun” and having “a good time” seemed crucial to American churches.
He especially deplored clergy-sanctioned dances at church recreation halls. When the ministers lowered the lights, the dances became hot. Qutb’s PG description: “The dance is inflamed by the notes of the gramophone … the dance-hall becomes a whirl of heels and thighs, arms enfold hips, lips and breasts meet, and the air is full of lust.” He cited the famous Kinsey Reports as evidence of American sexual debauchery.
Qutb, who was dark skinned, also experienced racism in America. Back in Egypt, Qutb joined the Muslim Brothers organization. Imprisonment and torture made his writings more militant. Qutb became what Georgetown University religion and international affairs professor John Esposito calls “the architect of radical Islam.”
Some Muslim Brotherhood groups, offshoots, and alumni are mainstream and nonviolent. Others have a violent legacy. A militant offshoot, Islamic Jihad, assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Esposito notes that Abdullah Azzam, a radicalized former Muslim Brother, significantly influenced Osama bin Ladin. Former CIA Middle East case officer Robert Baer observes that a Kuwaiti Muslim Brother, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, became a bin Ladin terror chief.
Princeton’s Lewis notes that Sayyid Qutb’s denunciation of American moral character became incorporated into radical Islamic ideology. For instance, he says Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, in calling the U.S. the “Great Satan,” was being consistent with the Koranic depiction of Satan not as an “imperialist” or “exploiter” but as a seducer, “the insidious tempter who whispers in the hearts of men.”
The founder of the faith I follow, Jesus of Nazareth, told people to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is not emotionally easy for me to love Osama bin Ladin or to pray for him. I have to ask God for strength for that.
Certainly bin Ladin’s hatred of me and my compatriots – flawed though we may be – does not justify his campaign of terror. His campaign rightly prompts national vigilance, a proverbial cost of freedom. But as we keep the powder dry, might it also be appropriate to individually reflect on the character that seems so offensive to him and his colleagues?
Rusty Wright is an author and university lecturer with Probe.org who has spoken on six continents.
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