Islam is Not the Source of Terrorism, But its Solution
by Harun Yahya
During the last two decades in
particular, the concept of "Islamic terror" has been often discussed. In
the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on targets in New York and
Washington which caused the death of tens of thousands of innocent
civilians, this concept has once again returned to the top of the
As Muslims, we completely
condemn these attacks and offer our condolences to the American people.
In this article, we will
explain that Islam is by no means the source of this violence and that
violence has no place in Islam.
One point that should be
stressed at the outset is that the identities of the perpetrators of the
acts of terrorism which targeted the United States are not yet determined.
There is a chance that these horrible attackers are linked to quite
different centres. It may well be a communist organisation harbouring rage
and hatred against American values, a fascist organisation opposing
federal administration or a secret faction in another state. Even though
the hijackers have Muslim identities, the questions regarding by whom and
for what purposes these people were used will probably remain to be a
The fact remains however, that
even if the terrorists have Muslim identities, the terror they perpetrated
cannot be labelled "Islamic terror", just as it would not be called
"Jewish terror" if the perpetrators were Jews or "Christian terror" if
they were Christians.
That is because, as we will
examine in the following pages, murdering innocent people in the name
of religion is unacceptable. We need to keep in mind that, among those
who were killed in Washington or New York, there were people who loved
Jesus (Christians), Prophet Moses (Jews) and Muslims. According to Islam,
murdering innocent people is a great sin that, unless forgiven by God,
brings torment in Hell.
Thus, a religious person who
has fear of God can never commit such an act.
In fact, the
aggressors can commit such violence only with the intention of attacking
religion itself. It may well be that they
carried out this violence to present religion as evil in the eyes of
people, to divorce people from religion and to generate hatred and
reaction against pious people. Consequently, every attack having a
"religious" facade on American citizens or other innocent people is
actually an attack made against religion.
All the three Theistic
religions command love, mercy and peace. Terror, on the other hand, is the
opposite of religion; it is cruel, merciless and it demands bloodshed and
misery. This being the case, while looking for the perpetrators of a
terrorist act, its origins should be sought in disbelief rather than in
religion. People with a fascist, communist, racist or materialist outlook
on life should be suspected as potential perpetrators. The name or the
identity of the triggerman is not important. If he can kill innocent
people without blinking an eye, whatever his label is, then he is a
disbeliever, not a believer. He is a murderer with no fear of God, whose
main ambition is to shed blood and to give harm.
For this reason, "Islamic
terror" is quite a erroneous concept which contradicts Islam's message.
That is because, the religion of Islam can by no means concur with terror.
On the contrary, Muslims are responsible for preventing terrorist acts and
bringing peace and justice to the world.
The Values of
the Qur'an demands Goodness, Justice and Peace
Terror, in its broadest sense,
is violence committed against non-military targets for political purposes.
To put it in another way, the targets of terror are entirely innocent
civilians whose only crime is, in the eyes of terrorists, to represent
This is an act bereft of any
moral justification. This, as in the case of murders committed by Hitler
or Stalin, is a crime committed against "mankind".
The Qur'an is a Book revealed
to people as a guide to the true path and in this Book, God commands man
to adopt good morals. This morality is based upon concepts such as love,
compassion, tolerance and mercy. God calls all people to Islamic morals
through which compassion, mercy, peace and tolerance can be experienced
all over the world:
You who believe!
Enter absolutely into peace (Islam). Do not follow in the footsteps of
Satan. He is an outright enemy to you.
The values of the Qur'an
hold a Muslim responsible for treating all people, whether Muslim or
non-Muslim, kindly and justly, protecting the needy and the innocent and
preventing the "dissemination of mischief". Mischief comprises all forms
of anarchy and terror that remove security, comfort and peace. As God says
in a verse, "God does not love mischief makers".
(Surat al-Qasas: 77)
Murdering a person for no
reason is one of the most obvious examples of mischief. God repeats in the
Qur'an a command He formerly revealed to Jews in the Old Testament thus:
So We decreed for
the tribe of Israel that if someone kills another person - unless it is in
retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth - it
is as if he had murdered all mankind. And if anyone gives life to another
person, it is as if he had given life to all mankind. Our Messengers came
to them with Clear Signs but even after that many of them committed
outrages in the earth. (Surat al-Ma'ida: 32)
As the verse suggests, a
person who kills even a single man, "unless it is in retaliation for
someone else or for causing corruption in the earth", commits a crime
as if he had murdered all mankind on earth.
This being the case, it is
obvious what great sins are the murders, massacres and, attacks, popularly
known as "suicide attacks", committed by terrorists are. God informs us
how this cruel face of terrorism will be punished in the hereafter in the
There are only
grounds against those who wrong people and act as tyrants in the earth
without any right to do so. Such people will have a painful punishment. (Surat
All these 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. Being a Muslim cannot be reconciled with terror. Just the
contrary, it is the solution and prevention of terror.
This being the case, how did
the popular term "Islamic terror" emerge?
What has been examined so far
reveals that it is not possible to talk about an "Islamic" terror. Indeed,
a closer look at the characteristics of the perpetrators explicitly
reveals that this terror is not a religious but a social phenomenon.
Barbarians Who Trampled Their Own Religion
The true message of a religion
or another system of belief can be at times exposed to distortion by its
pseudo-adherents. The Crusaders, who constitute a dark episode of
Christian history, set a good example of this.
Crusaders were European
Christians who undertook the expeditions at the end of the 11th
century to recover the Holy Land (the area around Palestine) from the
Muslims. They set out with a so-called religious goal, yet they laid waste
each acre of land they entered with fear and violence. They subjected
civilians 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 violently killed all Muslims
and Jews. The Crusaders' barbarism was so excessive that, during the
Fourth Crusade, they plundered Istanbul, also a Christian city, and stole
the golden objects from the churches.
No doubt, all this barbarism
was utterly against Christian political doctrine. That is because,
Christianity, in the words of the Bible, is a "gospel of love". In the
Gospel according to Matthew, it is said that Jesus said "Love your
enemies and pray for those who persecute you" to his followers
(Matthew, 5/44) In the Gospel according to Luke, it is said that Jesus
said "If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also."
(Luke, 6/29) No doubt, in no part of the New Testament, is there reference
to the legitimacy of violence; murdering innocent people, on the other
hand, is unimaginable. You can find the concept of "massacre of the
innocents" in the Bible; yet, only in the cruel Jewish King Herod's
attempt to kill Jesus while he was a baby.
While Christianity is a
religion based on love that accommodates no violence, how did Christian
Crusaders carry out the most violent acts of history? The major reason for
this is that, 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 never read or even seen the Bible once in their
lifetime, and who were therefore completely unaware of the moral values of
the Bible, were led into barbarism under the conditioning of Crusaders'
slogans as "God wills it".
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
Johns, the BBC commentator, with the withdrawal of the Crusaders from
Middle East, " civilized life started again and members of the three
monotheistic faith returned to peaceful coexistence." 
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 blood-thirsty of them was the Khmer Rouge of
Cambodia. That is because they were the most ignorant.
Just as ignorant people may
take a violence-ridden opinion to the point of insanity, so they may
confuse violence with an opinion against violence (or to religion). The
Islamic world also experienced such cases.
Character in the Qur'an
In the period of our Prophet,
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 "civilized life" 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, harsh character.
Islam was born and developed
among the inhabitants of Mecca, the most important city of the peninsula.
However, as Islam spread to the peninsula, all tribes in Arabia embraced
it. Among these tribes were also Desert Arabs, who were somehow
problematic: their poor intellectual and cultural background prevented
them from grasping the profundity and noble spirit of Islam. Of this God
states the following in a verse:
The Desert Arabs
are more obdurate in disbelief and hypocrisy and more likely not to know
the limits which God has sent down to His Messenger. God is All-Knowing,
All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba: 97)
The Desert Arabs, that is,
social groups who were "obdurate in disbelief and hypocrisy" and
prone to disobey God's commands, became a part of the Islamic world in the
Prophet's lifetime. In latter periods, they became a source of trouble for
the Islamic world. The sect called "Kharijis" that emerged among Bedouins
was an example. The most distinctive trait of this perverse sect (which
was called "Kharijis" the rebels because they greatly deviated from Sunni
practises), was their extremely vulgar, wild and fanatical nature. The "Kharijis",
who had no comprehension whatsoever of the essence of Islam or of the
virtues and the values of the Qur'an, waged war against all other Muslims
and based this war on a few Qur'anic verses about which they made
distorted interpretations. Furthermore, they carried out "acts of
terrorism". Caliph Ali, who was one of the closest companions of the
Prophet and was described by him as the "gate of the city of knowledge",
was assassinated by a Kharijite.
In latter periods, "Hashashis"
(Assassins), 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, uncultivated, vulgar, and isolated people. The
violence they resorted resulted from this social structure, rather than
the religion to which they claimed to adhere.
Source of Terrorism: The Third World Fanaticism
These examples from history
are enlightening for a better understanding of the phenomenon, the
so-called "Islamic terror", which is nowadays on the top of the
international agenda. That is because those who emerge and carry out acts
of terrorism in the name of Islam or those who back such acts -these
people, no doubt, represent a minority in the world of Islam- stem from
this "Bedouin character", not from Islam. Failing to understand the
essence of Islam, they try to make Islam, essentially a religion of peace
and justice, 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 the "Third World Fanaticism", is the benighted initiatives
of people who are devoid of love for humans.
It is a fact that, for the
last few centuries, Muslims in all corners of the Islamic world, are being
subjected to violence by Western forces and their affiliates. The
colonialist European states, local oppressive regimes or colonialists
backed by the West (Israel, for instance) caused great suffering for
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 action and
a bad action 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. (Surat al-Fussilat: 34)
It is no doubt a
legitimate right of Muslims to react against cruelty. However, these
reactions should never turn into a blind hatred, an unjust enmity. God
warns about this in the following verse: "... Do
not let hatred for a people who debar you from the Masjid al-Haram incite
you into going beyond the limits. Help each other to goodness and
heedfulness. Do not help each other to wrongdoing and enmity. Heed God
Allah (alone)..." (Surat al-Ma'ida: 2)
Consequently, carrying out
terrorist acts under the pretence of "representing the oppressed nations
of the world", against the innocent people of other nations is by no means
compatible with Islam.
Another point that deserves a
special mention here is that all the Western world cannot be held
responsible for the aforementioned colonialist (or "neo-colonialist)
violence and oppression against Muslims. Actually, the materialist,
irreligious philosophies and ideologies that prevailed in the 19th
century are 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 elements as well as a
culture dominated by peaceful and just elements that have its roots in
Judeo-Christian faith. As a matter of fact, the main disagreement is not
between the West and Islam. Contrary to the general opinion, it is between
the religios people of the West and of the Muslim world on the one hand,
and the people opposing religion (like materialists and atheists.) on the
Another indication that Third
World Fanaticism has nothing to do with Islam is that, until recently,
this fanaticism has been identified with communist ideology. As is known,
similar anti-Western acts of terror were carried out in 1960s and 70s 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 rhetoric are entirely against the moral values constituting the
essence of Islam.
A last remark about this issue
is that Islam is not peculiar to a particular nation or geography.
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 or establish oppressive regimes and turn this world into a dreadful
place instead of beautifying it: revealing the true Islam and
communicating it so that the masses can understand and live by it.
Recommendations to the Western World
Today, the Western world is
concerned about the organisations that use terror under the guise of Islam
and this concern is not misplaced. It is obvious that those carrying out
terror and their supporters should be punished according to international
judicial criteria. However, a more important point to consider is the
long-term strategies that have to be pursued for viable solutions to these
The assessments above reveal
that terror has no place in Islam. They further show the inherently
contradictory nature of the concept of "Islamic terror". This provides us
with an important vantage point:
The Western world, especially the United States, will surely take the most
dissuasive measures to cope with terror and it has the right to do that.
However, it has to state explicitly that this is not a war waged
against Islam and Muslims but, on the contrary, a measure serving the best
interests of Islam. The "Clash of civilisations", the dangerous
scenario envisioned in the 90's should be at all costs prevented.
Support should be provided for the spread of "True Islam", which is a
religion of love, friendship, peace and brotherhood, and for its true
understanding by Islamic societies. The solution for radical factions
in Islamic countries should not be "forced secularisation". On the
contrary, such a policy will incite more reaction from the masses and feed
radicalism. The solution is the dissemination of true Islam and the
appearance of a Muslim role-model who embraces Qur'anic values such as
human rights, democracy, freedom, good morals, science and aesthetics, and
who offers happiness and bliss to humanity.
The source of terrorism is ignorance and bigotry and the
solution is education. To the circles who feel sympathy with terror, it
should be said that terror is utterly against Islam, that terror only does
harm to Islam, Muslims and to humanity at large. Besides, these people
have to be provided with education in order to be purified of this
barbarism. The United States' support to such an education policy will
yield very positive results.
Our hope is that these
measures will help to the world get rid of terrorism and all other
bigoted, brutal, barbarous structures. With its Christian-dominated
culture and population, the United States, that defines itself as "a
nation under God", is in fact a real friend of the Muslims. In the Qur'an,
God draws attention to this fact and informs us that Christians are those
who are "most affectionate to those who believe". (Surat al-Ma'ida:
In history, some ignorant
people (for instance, Crusaders) failed to understand this fact and caused
conflicts between these two great religions. To prevent the repetition of
this scenario, true Christians and Muslims need to come together and
Alan Ereira, David Wallace,
Crusades: Terry Johns Tell the Dramatic Story of Battle for
Holy Land, BBC World Wide Ltd., 1995.
is a prominent Turkish intellectual.
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