The Real Face of the Terrorists Who Act in the Name of Religion
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."15 One of the Crusaders, Raymond of Aguiles, in his own eyes boasted of this violence:
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 the essence of Christianity. Christianity, in the words of the Gospel, is a "message of love". In the Gospel according to Matthew, it is said that the Prophet Jesus (as) 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 the Prophet Jesus (as) 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 King Herod's attempt to kill the Prophet Jesus (as) 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 falsely as "Allah's Will". Employing this fraudulent method, many were encouraged to commit dreadful acts strictly forbidden by Allah.
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.
In the same way ignorant people can carry every idea espousing violence to the point of madness, so they can also involve violence in the Divine religions, which are absolutely opposed to violence. Examples of this have also taken place in the Islamic world.
The Bedouin Character in the Qur'an
In the period of the Prophet Muhammad (saas), 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, most of them 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 peninsula, all the tribes in Arabia embraced it. Among these tribes were also desert Arabs, who were somehow problematic: their cultural background prevented some of them from grasping the profundity and noble spirit of Islam. Of this Allah 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 Allah has sent down to His Messenger. But Allah is Knowing, Wise. (Surat at-Tawba, 97)
Some social groups among the desert Arabs who were "worst in disbelief and hypocrisy" and prone to disobey Allah's commands, became a part of the Islamic world in the Prophet's (saas) time. But in subsequent periods, due to erroneous interpretations and attitudes, some of them have given rise to bodies incompatible with the moral values 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". Hazrat Ali (ra), who was one of the closest companions of the Prophet (saas) 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.
A Terrorist is Without Pity Whose Only Purpose is to Destroy
The founder of Russian Anarchism, Michael Bakunin and his disciple Nechayev define an ideal terrorist in this way:
The whole work of his [a revolutionist's] existence, not only in words, but also in deeds, is at war with the existing order of society, and with the whole so-called civilized world, with its laws, morals and customs, he is an uncompromising opponent… He knows only one science; the science of destruction.19
As understood from these words of Bakunin and Nechayev, terrorists are people who sever their relationship with every material and spiritual institution thereby rejecting every moral value, and who view these institutions as impediments to their designs. Bakunin also said, "Day and night dare he [a revolutionist] have only one thought, one aim: the unmerciful destruction; while he, cold-blooded and without rest, follows that aim, he himself must be ready to die at any time and ready to kill with his own hands any one who seeks to thwart his aims." In his Ground-Work for the Social Revolution, there is this description of what kind of person a terrorist must be:
Stringent with himself he must also be to others. All weak sentiment towards relation, friendship, love and thankfulness must be suppressed through the only cold passion of the revolutionary work.20These words lay bare the dark face of terrorism and show that it is completely opposed to the religion of Islam which is founded on peace, compassion and love. In this verse, Allah reveals that peace is the real salvation of humanity and that pursuing the opposite, that is war and conflict, is to walk in the steps of Satan:
O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you. (Surat al-Baqara, 208)
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 ignorant, unrefined and uncultivated nature, 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.
The Mass Psychology of Terrorism
Another important characteristic of terrorists is that they act with a collective spirit. Within this spirit, individual ideas and personal choice are disregarded as everyone is directed toward one single goal. Those who act within this collective spirit may do things they would never do in their right mind and commit acts without using their own will and consciousness. In many countries of the world, terror groups composed of a few unintelligent and uneducated people get caught up in the emotional hysteria of mass meetings, slogans, and without even knowing what they are doing or why, they get involved in committing mass atrocities. In one moment, such people can turn into killers with blood on their hands, and even terrorists who are able to commit inhumane acts. A person may seem quiet and calm when he is alone, but when he becomes a part of a terrorist group, he may become capable of committing acts of arson and assault for no apparent reason. Such spells are cast over individuals that they are even willing to be killed for their cause. The majority of those who take part in acts of terror often have weak wills and consciences, and they become like a flock of sheep under the influence of mass psychology. Good sense and judgment are substituted by excessive and extravagant emotionalism and a tendency toward violence and aggression. Such people are easily provoked, cruel and know no limitation set by any law.
The error of this mass psychology is revealed in the Qur'an where it says that human beings must act according to their own will and intelligence:
Do not pursue what you have no knowledge of. Hearing, sight and hearts will all be questioned. (Surat al-Isra', 36)
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" and Darwinist, atheist and materialist ideologies, not from Islam itself. Failing to understand the essence of Islam, which is essentially a religion of peace and justice, they try to 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 some of the Western forces and their allies. Some European states with colonialist understanding, local colonialists backed by some Western forces or local oppressive regimes 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 Allah command believers to respond to violence with violence. On the contrary, Allah 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. (Surah Fussilat, 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. Allah 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… (Surah al-Ma'ida, 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.
One of the most important characteristics of terrorism is that it selects its targets indiscriminately. The fact that it determines these targets without discrimination is one of the most important reasons for the spread of fear, because no one can feel secure. If people know that they are possible targets for no reasons, no one will feel safe from the terrorists. There is nothing potential targets can do to protect themselves, since terrorists act according to their own rules, in a time and place of their own choosing. Thus acts of terror in society are arbitrary and unpredictable.
Terrorist organisations attack their targets indiscriminately which means that innocent and defenceless individuals are killed or wounded. A typical example of this was the nerve gas attack in the Tokyo Metro on March 20, 1995.
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 Islamic morality 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 and the life of our Prophet Muhammad (saas). 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 Allah commands the believers to behave. When Allah 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 Allah to the Prophets Moses (as) and the Prophet Aaron (as) to go to the 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. (Surah Ta Ha, 43-44)
Pharaoh was one of the most cruel and rebellious unbelievers of his time. He was a despot who denied Allah and ignorantly worshipped idols; moreover, he subjected believers (the Israelites of the time) to terrible cruelties and murder. But Allah commanded His prophets to go to such a hostile man and speak to him gently.
You will notice that the way shown by Allah was the way of friendly dialogue, not the way of conflict with sharp words, angry slogans and agitated protests.
And to Madyan their brother Jethro. He said, "My people, worship Allah! 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 Allah is better for you if you are believers. I am not set over you as your keeper."
They said, "Jethro, 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 Allah alone. I have put my trust in Him and I turn to Him." (Surah Hud, 84-88)
Allah commands you to return to their owners the things you hold in trust and, when you judge between people, to judge with justice. How excellent is what Allah exhorts you to do! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.
When we examine what he says, we see that the Prophet Jethro (as) invited the people to believe in Allah and to adopt high moral principals and he did this with friendliness and humility. We can explain some of the reasons behind the things said in these verses:
If you examine the Qur'an you will see that a warm, gentle and compassionate disposition characterized all the prophets. Allah reveals that the Prophet Abraham (as) was "tender-hearted and forbearing." (Surat at-Tawba, 114) and in another verse, the Prophet Muhammad's (saas) moral principles are described in this way:
It is a mercy from Allah 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 Allah. Allah loves those who put their trust in Him. (Surah Al 'Imran, 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 Allah 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 – Allah loves the good-doers" (Surah Al 'Imran, 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 Allah and live according to moral principles, but this is possible only by the grace of Allah. No matter what we do, no matter how much we try to explain the truth to people, human hearts are in Allah's hands. Allah reminds Muslims of this very important fact in this verse, "... Do those who believe not know that if Allah had wanted to He could have guided all mankind? ..." (Surat ar-Ra'd, 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? (Surah Yunus, 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. Allah 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 Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (Surat al-Baqara, 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. Allah reveals in a few verses addressed to the Messenger of Allah (saas) 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. (Surah Qaf, 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." (Surah Yunus, 108)
Muslims are responsible only for explaining the religious morality, 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. (Surat al-Fath, 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, affectionate, calm and compassionate one. Muslims must set an example to the world and be admired for their maturity, compassion, moderation, modesty and peacefulness. Muslims must live Islam in the best possible way and introduce to the world the Islamic morality, 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, Allah 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. (Surat an-Nahl, 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 is 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, Allah 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. (Surat al-Baqara, 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.
... Allah'tan korkup-sakının. Şüphesiz Allah, yapmakta olduklarınızdan haberi olandır.
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. Allah 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 Allah's contract after it has been agreed and sever what Allah has commanded to be joined, and cause corruption in the earth, the curse will be upon them. They will have the Evil Abode. (Surat ar-Ra'd, 25)
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 disorder, 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 affection; 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.
Terrorists see their destructive acts as a means of propaganda; they hope to spread fear by destroying people and property.
The basic quality that terror and those who are infected by its cruelty have in common is that the fear and love of Allah is something completely alien to them. Their hearts have become hardened and they are spiritually ill. In the Qur'an, Allah 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. (Surat al-Qalam, 10-13)
To rebel for no cause and to commit acts of assault are forbidden by Allah. 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 Allah for which He has sent down no authority, and saying things about Allah that you do not know." (Surat al-A'raf, 33)
Allah calls to the Abode of Peace and He guides whom He wills to a straight path.