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Interview: The Koran and Islamic extremist movements
Interview: The Koran and Islamic extremist movements
Two types of Islamic movementsThe war between Israel and Hezbollah made it very clear just how deep the radical Shiite group has penetrated into Lebanon, especially in the south. Similar phenomena can be seen with Hamas in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia.
Thursday, September 7,2006 00:00
by Shinkichi Suzuki and Hind el Hallage, World Peace Herald

Two types of Islamic movements
The war between Israel and Hezbollah made it very clear just how deep the radical Shiite group has penetrated into Lebanon, especially in the south. Similar phenomena can be seen with Hamas in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia.

World Peace Herald interviewed Mr. Diaa Rashwan, Director of the Comparative Politics Unit at Cairo’s Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, and Editor-in-Chief of the "Directory of World Islamic Movements." Mr. Rashwan is an expert in Islamic extremist groups. He was asked about the future of these groups, the relationship between them, and their ideology. He also discussed their interpretation of the Koran, as well as what he believes are the distorted Western perceptions of Islam.

Q: Israel’s war in Lebanon revealed the popularity of Hezbollah among the people of south Lebanon. Just as Hamas was able to gain authority and political power in Palestine, international experts believe that Hezbollah intends to claim political power in Lebanon.
Just what are the goals and beliefs of Hezbollah? How do they relate to the goals and beliefs of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood?

A: When we start talking about Islamic movements, we should first provide a nonnegotiable definition. The term "Islamic movement" is considered to be a trauma of political, scientific and cultural dimensions. I tend to differentiate between two main categories of Islamic movements in general.

First, "the sociopolitical Islamic course" that tends to act peacefully and functions within a multidimensional behavior (socially, politically, educationally, etc). Whenever this course takes the shape of a political party (left or right), it adopts a peaceful Islamic course in launching a propaganda program. This is originally inspired by Islamic law (Sharia), which is actually not a holy text. Sharia is a man-made religious discipline that is well known as "jurisprudence," and it includes contradictory internal beliefs.

The Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt is considered to be a sociopolitical Islamic movement. Although they belong within the same category, both Hamas and Hezbollah pursue a special course of their own, as both countries have been subject to foreign occupation. Hence, claiming independence for their countries comes as their first priority. As a result, both have had to function national resistance groups as in the first order, besides being sociopolitical Islamic movements. As a result, we should categorize them as national resistance movements rather than terrorists or extremists.

In addition to being resistance movements, Hezbollah and Hamas function as sociopolitical Islamic movements, providing civilians with social services, etc, which in turn helps them claim both political and social success.

We should recognize that Hezbollah and Hamas did not react violently except against foreign occupation forces within their countries. In other words, they never launched an international Jihad beyond their borders

To conclude, the sociopolitical Islamic course movements, including the recent ones, are considered to be the major part of modern Islamic history.

The Jihad groups


The other category of Islamic movements are called, "Islamic religious movements." These include various sub-categories such as, extremists and Jihad groups. These movements are still limited in number. They did not exist before, nor did they have any arms or significant power.

The tactical ideology of Jihad groups is to define a certain target against with to launch their aggression. These targets can be local or international, with or without the existence of an occupation. They believe that Jihad is the only method by which they can set up an Islamic regime and discard a corrupted ruler.

The ideology of Jihad can be divided into Jihad based on defense, and Jihad based on conquest or "Fatah,” which has no place in recent history. The Jihad category as a whole is not interested in providing social services and claiming political powers, and instead aims at setting up Islamic regimes through adopting different methods.

Throughout the past five years, 15 elections have taken place in different countries of the Islamic world. By tracing them, we can clearly recognize the significant success of Islamic movements and individuals throughout all Islamic countries.

I think the main reason for their success comes as a backlash against the "unwise" policies by which Bush administration has waged its so called “war on the terror." In other words, the U.S. made a unilateral decision to wage a semi-third world war, without giving a justified definition for the "terror" it targets.

Having witnessed periodic wars launched against Islam, Muslims tend to give their backing to Islamic sociopolitical movements, giving them powers and political positions to enable them to defend their beliefs and homelands.

If we compare the numbers of both Islamic categories, we will find that the category of moderate sociopolitical movements is in the majority, the very ones which the "extremists" of the Bush administration seek to control and limit.

The West does not understand Islam

Q: Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood all aim at setting up an Islamic regime based on Sharia, and consider the Koran to be the main source of guidance in all aspects of life. However, the Koran urges the idea of holy war, and extremists use this to justify their goals and violent tactics. Does Islam today need a modern interpretation that rejects violence?
A: Unfortunately, in my experienced view and longtime study of Western media, I recognize a sense of ignorance and foolishness regarding Islam and its nature. It seems quite strange that, when it comes to Islam, Western media fails to operate objectively and intelligently as it usually does. I assume that it intentionally ignores and distorts major facts about it, consequently setting up political strategies based on ignorance or intended falsehoods.

We should keep in mind that, the three main holy religions are Islam (1400 years old), Christianity (2000 years old) and Judaism (about 3000 years old).

The question can be posed: “If it were to contain "faults,” or contradictions with "modernity" or "views of daily lives," how could a holy religion such as Islam exist for such a long time and be embraced by billions?"

"Extreme" concepts and "militant" trends are always being limited, abandoned and repudiated. Thus, it is obvious that the nature of Islam stands against aggression and violence, and the non-stop spread of its ideology stands as solid proof of this.

Furthermore, Christianity and Judaism include many creeds presented in their various denominations. Yet Islam was shaped within a unique framework of parties and beliefs that are nearer to each other in their approach.

To assume a modern interpretation for Islam means to repeat the past Christian conflict among Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. The Christian conflict was based on interpretations of the Old Testament (Judaism) and the new one (Christianity), but Islam stands as one unique entity that cannot be modified nor re-interpreted.

Logically, we perceive that each religion might include contradictions regarding their creeds, methods and beliefs. Accordingly, extremists strive to search for justifications for their goals and methods, and relate it to the Koran and Islam. We should understand that this can be a marginalized part of any religion that could be misused and misinterpreted intentionally, and yet not be a main characteristic of it.

For example, the approach of Christian fundamentalists cannot be considered to be in the mainstream of Christianity, yet it is still a part of it. Accordingly, militants and extremists are minorities that should be differentiated from the whole and judged separately.

Throughout the last parliamentary elections, the majority of Egyptians voted for moderate sociopolitical Islamists and excluded the extremists, which stands again as plain evidence for what I have been saying.
Telling people that the Koran urges jihad, bloodshed and holy wars is ultimate foolishness, and should have nothing to with great thinkers, Western scientists, scholars and media leaders, unless it is an intentional distortion of the truth for some other reason.

In seeking a better knowledge of and acquaintance with Islam, one should review and resort to the trusted studies and writings of noted Western scholars (if one cannot trust Middle Eastern sources), who write objectively and realistically about Islam, rather than trust the views of harsh sarcasm or criticism built upon ignorance and malicious intentions.

tags: Hamas / Palestine / MB / Israel / Hezbollah / Lebanon / Somalia
Posted in Interviews  
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