An Anatomy Of Muslim Revolutionary Extremism And Roadmap Leading Out Of The Islamist Labyrinth

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Arif Humayun*


(This paper will explore the colonial and post-colonial historical narratives that underlie Islamist extremism, the evolution of the ideologies of extremism, the corruption and despotism that characterize many Muslim-majority societies today, the socio-economic conditions that underlie religious-political extremism, and the global influences that have nurtured terrorism. Moreover, the political and military responses to Islamism and religious-based terrorism will be examined and recommendations will be presented for both Muslims and non-Muslims to counter Islamist narratives and countermand the violence occurring under the guise of Islam. The proposals constitute a virtual roadmap designed to close the widening gap between Muslims and the rest of the world, and to return Islam to its rightful home – the unadulterated Holy Qur’an, and the exemplary life and teachings of Prophet Mohammadsa. – Author)

In the 21st century, the Muslim world has convulsed into conditions of terrorist violence and internecine wars, with radical extremist groups having literally hijacked the second most populous religion in the world. The frequent, increasingly vicious, and brutal terrorist attacks on soft Western targets is a relatively new phenomenon and has created a wave of anger and political backlash against Muslims. Through misrepresentation and misinterpretation, Muslim terrorist groups have redefined Islamic concepts to justify their criminal actions which they blame on Western conspiracy theories. The terrorist’s interpretation, commonly referred to as Islamism or political Islam, is very different from the teachings of Islam contained in the Qur’an and the practices of Prophet Mohammadsa1. The Muslim world must come together to differentiate between the real teachings of Islam and the radicals’ interpretation.

The Muslims’ failure to challenge the terrorists’ interpretation and to enhance their own understanding of the Qur’an in line with modern standards and knowledge, has now become a critical prerequisite. This has to happen from within the house of Islam. Without this, centuries old conflicts like the Sunni-Shia divide, which started as a political division in the 7th century and evolved into ideological differences, cannot be resolved. Significant sectarian divisions within Sunni and Shia Islam have further subdivided the Muslims. The landmark Iranian nuclear deal with Western countries has become reality. The consequent lifting of economic sanctions on Iran can sharpen these differences and reshape the political and economic landscape in the Middle East in unpredictable ways. Under these circumstances, the future of Muslims is foreboding.

From the 8th to 16th centuries, the Islamic world was the foremost military and economic power and was at the forefront of human achievement in the fields of science, philosophy, navigation, architecture and engineering. In fact, the Golden Age of Islam, as this period is known, was the foundation of the European Renaissance. From their vantage point of strength, Muslims did not consider Christian Europe as a threat and did not consider them to be a source of knowledge. The Muslims’ arrogance was shattered and fortunes reversed during the European Age of Enlightenment following the European Renaissance from the 18th century when the Europeans defeated the Muslim empires, first on the battlefield and then in the marketplace, and ended up colonizing the Muslim lands. The looming question is: what happened to Islam and Muslim societies that led to their rapid downfall from the pinnacle of human civilization to the debilitating conditions in present-day Muslim-majority states that threaten civil societies worldwide? These questions bring us to the heart of the dangers of political interpretation of Islam (Islamism) that threaten societies throughout the world today.

This paper will explore the colonial and post-colonial historical narratives that underlie Islamist extremism, the evolution of the ideologies of extremism, the corruption and despotism that characterize many Muslim-majority societies today, the socio-economic conditions that underlie religious-political extremism, and the global influences that have nurtured terrorism. Moreover, the political and military responses to Islamism and religious-based terrorism will be examined and recommendations will be presented for both Muslims and non-Muslims to counter Islamist narratives and countermand the violence occurring under the guise of Islam. The proposals constitute a virtual roadmap designed to close the widening gap between Muslims and the rest of the world, and to return Islam to its rightful home – the unadulterated Holy Qur’an, and the exemplary life and teachings of Prophet Mohammadsa.


The dreadful terrorist attacks in Paris (November 13, 2015) and San Bernardino, California (December 2, 2015) leaving around 150 dead and many others injured, has reignited the debate on the role of Islam in promoting terrorism. Graeme Wood2 implicates Islam as being inherently violent and provides convincing arguments to support his point; these resonate with the non-Muslims who believe that to be the case. On the other hand, Muslims proclaim Islam to be a religion of peace and an equally convincing article by Mehdi Hasan3 refutes Graeme Wood’s hypothesis, rejecting the terrorists’ claims to be Muslim and denying any links between Islam and terrorism; he attributes terrorism to flawed Western policies and other geopolitical factors. The unintended consequences of both extreme positions are (1) Donald Trump’s statement that Muslims be surveilled and barred from entering the US till a methodology can be determined to identify terrorists amongst us, and (2) the continued Muslim denial and failure to persuasively refute the terrorist’s Islamic credentials.

Reading both referenced papers is akin to hearing the prosecution and defense lawyers’ testimonies who massage facts to prove their respective points. The judge understands that the truth lies between the extreme positions presented by the opposing legal experts and renders judgement after considering all facts. Both Wood and Hasan have done excellent research to defend their respective positions and both authors are partially correct. The readers should become the judge and form their own opinions after considering the facts that both sides have concealed. The purpose of this paper is twofold: (1) highlight those pertinent but critical facts to enable the reader to fully comprehend the motivation for these senseless acts of violence as exemplified by terrorist attacks by Muslims around the world and, (2) develop a roadmap to reject the enabling radical ideology that terrorists use to justify their acts as Islamic and the right wing non-Muslim extremists use to fan Islamophobia.

Although this paper will focus on terrorist acts by Muslims, we must admit that terrorism has broader dimensions. It is the ugly face of instinctive human behavior and a universal phenomenon. It is important to acknowledge that acts of terrorism are also committed by adherents of other faiths (Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, etc.); even atheists have committed their share of death and destruction. All terrorists are criminals and murderers and are driven by hate. Religious affiliation serves as a fig leaf to cover their nefarious acts and seek support from ignorant adherents of that faith. In this connected global village, we are all victims and must work together to eliminate the root cause(s) that drive hatred. Education and objective understanding of different faiths and cultures are critical components for defeating ideologies that radicalize individuals or groups and lead them towards senseless acts of terrorism.

Claiming to be victims of Western conspiracies against Islam, the Muslim world has convulsed into an unenviable state where radical groups have hijacked the spiritual discourse and become infamous for adopting violence as a tool for survival. The root causes of this strong association between radical Muslim ideology and violence must be identified and that is where the solutions for dealing with this self-destructive mentality will be found. People are shocked and frightened by the behavior coming out of the Muslim world – not only because it is violent, but also because it is seemingly inexplicable. The why for this transition must be understood by Muslims through deep introspection, rather than finger pointing, and claiming to be victimized by Western colonial powers.

After decades of violence, Muslims feel the pain of unnecessary killings by their coreligionists but have failed to effectively differentiate between Islam – their faith and Islamism – the political ideology based on hate. Although governments in Muslim majority countries and prominent members of the clergy have condemned these terrorist acts – which are symptoms – they have failed to condemn the ideology – the cause – that leads to these actions. Thus the situation has not changed significantly. It will not change till the root causes (misrepresented and engineered concepts) are identified and an implementable roadmap to refute the radicals’ doctrine is developed. Without refuting the radicals’ ideology, violence under the guise of Islam or closing the widening gulf between Muslims and the rest of the world will be difficult to achieve.Two US Muslim groups have launched reform movements condemning the radicals’ ideology. The AIFD led Muslim Reform Movement4 launched on Dec 4, 2015 and the True Islam Movement5 led by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on December 30, 2015.

This paper will identify the root cause(s) that radicalize Muslim groups and drive them to terrorism. It will describe the flawed Islamist ideology and the contributing political and other factors that has given birth to radicalism among Muslims. It will also introduce the Muslim Reform Movement launched on December 4, 2015 in Washington DC as a means to defeating the ideology of Islamism. Starting as an introduction to Islam – for Muslims and non-Muslims alike – the article will separate the core Islamic teachings from the cultural and tribal practices that have become part of the faith. It will describe the Islamic meaning of the commonly used terminologies of jihad, sharia, blasphemy and apostasy and contrast them with the radicals’ engineered interpretations to conceal their criminal acts behind the Islamic façade. This will hopefully foster a clearer understanding of the faith (Islam) and contrast its inconsistencies with the radicals’ contrived meaning which forms the basis of their ideology of hate – Islamism. This distinction will enable people to reject any link between the radicals and the faith and law enforcement can deal with them like any other criminal. A joint human approach must be developed to find a permanent solution to radicalism and terrorism by severing any links between religion and radical ideologies.

Islam – An Overview

Islam is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion and means “submission” to the will of God. A Muslim is an adherent of Islam as “one who submits to the will of God”. The Qur’an, addressed to all humankind, was revealed to the prophet Mohammadsa through the angel Gabriel between 610 and 632 CE.6 Muslims consider the Qur’an to be the undisputed scripture, the Word of God, and the Prophet Mohammadsa as the final law-bearing prophet. Retained in its original form in the Arabic language and without variants, the Qur’an confirms that prophets have been sent to all people throughout the world to sustain humanity in all ages. The Qur’an describes God as the Lord and Sustainer of the worlds, the Prophet Mohammadsa as “the messenger for mankind”,7 refers to itself as the “message for the world”8 and Muslims as people “…raised for the good of mankind”.9

The Prophet’s functions are described as the creation and strengthening of faith through drawing attention to Divine Signs, the moral and physical uplift of the people, teaching them the Law, furnishing them with guidance, and expounding the philosophy underlying the Law and their guidance.10 Without claiming monopoly over truth, Islam acknowledges all prophets11 (including earlier Judeo-Christian prophets starting with Adam) and scriptures and confirms that the teachings originally revealed to the previous prophets are included within its message.

Islamic teachings are encapsulated in the articles of faith,12 acts of worship,13 codes for social and moral behavior,14 and the philosophy of life.15 This framework of beliefs, duties, obligations, exhortations and sanctions seeks to stimulate and deepen human consciousness by emphasizing duties and obligations to safeguard freedom, justice and equality for all and promote and foster human welfare and prosperity in all spheres — social, economic, moral and spiritual. The Teachings seek to establish a pattern of society, which, in all the changing and developing circumstances of a dynamic world, would maintain its character of beneficence in individual, domestic, national and international affairs. The Qur’an prescribes only essential details and leaves considerable room for development and to safeguard against restrictive rigidity. Indeed, it expressively commands against seeking to regulate everything since that might render the framework rigid and inelastic and, therefore, burdensome.16 That which Allah has “left out” is meant to be devised, in accord with the prescribed principles through mutual consultation, always bearing in mind the overall standard of fostering equity (ma’roof), and eschewing iniquity (munkar).17

Prophet Mohammadsa summarized the message of Islam during the Farewell address to Muslims in 632 CE during his last pilgrimage (Appendix 1). Declaring all humans as equals, he urged spouses to respect each other, treat Muslims as brothers, safeguard their interests, honor trusts, support orphans, proper treatment for the poor, forgive people’s shortcomings, shun tribal or cultural practices, forgive vendetta, act with justice, promote mutual respect, and be united. Cancelling any outstanding usury and blood reparations, he exhorted Muslims to obey those in authority, adopt Islamic teachings and practices, and personal accountability to God for all actions. He further asked that his message be conveyed to those who were not present that day. Upon completing this address, he received the last revelation.18 Prophet Muhammadsa also granted protection and other privileges to the Christian monks of Saint Catherine’s Monastery (Appendix 2)19.

The purpose of Islamic teachings is to progressively elevate human behavior from its lowest – instinctive – level to the intermediate – moral – level and then a gradual enhancement to the highest – spiritual– level.20 Humans have dual responsibilities – towards their Creator and the creation. In a way, Islam emphasizes the importance of obligations towards the creation because the Creator is forgiving and can forgive any shortcomings. The religion of Islam is thus a personal matter – a training tool – for individuals to become a better human being.

Islam supports the concept of religious revival in the latter days through a divinely guided messenger. While the Qur’an clearly alludes to that possibility,21 the Prophet’s exhortations22 23 (ahadith) confirm and provide additional details, even identifying the promised reformer(s) as the guide (Mahdi) and the Messiah (referred to as the Second Coming of Jesus, son of Mary). While some Muslim sects may interpret the details of this Qur’anic verse differently, most Muslims, including Sunni sects, believe in the advent of the Messiah (Second Coming of Jesus from the heavens) and the Mahdi. This unresolved topic needs detailed discussions but most Sunni Muslims have shut the door on this topic. The expectation of the imminent advent of these reformers was ripe until the end of the 20th century (14th century of the Muslim calendar) but has now subsided; many Muslims now characterize the referenced Prophet’s traditions as false or malicious conspiracies to match the Christian belief of the Second Coming of Jesus. Shi’a Muslims use the concept of Hidden Imam to explain this latter-day revival. This is referred to in Graeme Wood’s article referenced earlier.

Readers should note that the dreaded and misrepresented doctrines propagated by the radicals – jihad, sharia, blasphemy and apostasy – are not included in either the five pillars or the articles of faith in Islam. The flawed interpretations of these concepts, put forth by the Islamists, are absolutely against the primary Islamic scripture the Qur’an. A comparison of the Islamic and radicals’ Islamist interpretation is presented in Table 1.

It is important to highlight that fragmentation amongst Muslims is high; by some counts, six dozen sects exist amongst Muslims, each presenting their own version of these doctrines. Conceptual differences in the interpretation of Qur’anic injunctions are the basis of sectarian divide; such divisions are shunned by the Qur’an.24 Muslims can and should reconcile their differences through intellectual discourse by referring to the Qur’an which is unanimously accepted as its undisputed primary source. Unfortunately, these sects have grown in isolation and their deeply entrenched conceptual differences have been further reinforced over time. In their attempts to retain power and control over their followers, sectarian groups have often declared competing Muslim sects non-Muslim and invoking the malicious and false doctrine of apostasy to justify their killing. Needless to say, such criminal actions are contrary to Qur’anic teachings.

The Radicals’ (Islamists’) Doctrine

The driving force behind the Islamist’s ideology is the formation of an Islamic State, ruled by a Caliph. Integral parts of the mythical Islamic State are sharia, jihad, apostasy and blasphemy (schematically shown in Figure 1). The Radicals believe that the Islamic State will enable the Muslims to defend themselves against their non-Muslim enemies. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood proposed this ideology in 1924 as reaction to the termination of the Ottoman Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk25 and the Jama’at-i-Islami in undivided India co-proposed it in the same time frame as reaction to the colonization of Muslim lands. Needless to say, this idea of a Muslim State was in reaction to geopolitical transformations when the industrial era was ushering in and replacing the agrarian era in which the entire Muslim system of governance (caliphate and legislative sharia) was developed. Since then, many Muslims have migrated to Western democracies to benefit from the fruits of the industrial era (education, employment, etc.) or to escape persecution in their home countries where the legislation is increasingly being Islamized. The growing migration from Muslim majority countries to the secular West is voluntary which shows that the reactionary demand for the Islamic State is now outdated.

The Munir Commission Report published in 1954 in Pakistan examined this ideology in detail, after extensive rioting in parts of Pakistan for the implementation of Islamic system of governance, and refuted its basis in stark legal and moral terms. It identified Jama’at-i-Islami as the main culprit but also indicted several other scholars who supported this demand. The British Government’s Policy Paper, Muslim Brotherhood review, published in December 201526 and the British PM’s report to Parliament to improve the government’s understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood27 also indicted the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jama’at-e-Islami as the root cause behind this flawed ideology. While being cautious, the British Government’s findings are consistent with those of the Munir Commission Report.

The sad fact is that the Western world has reinvented the proverbial wheel after more than six decades. During this time, the flawed ideology has been further refined and camouflaged behind the facades of Islam and democracy. Several splinter and more violent radical groups have since emerged and caused untold destruction and misery to human beings around the world; geopolitical events, demographics, poor governance, corruption and the lack of social and economic-infrastructure, have further sharpened the rhetoric. Regional and world powers exploited this ideology for political purposes and trained and financed cadres of terrorists till this monster got out of hand. Had the world paid attention to the findings of the Munir Commission Report, much of the subsequent misery could have been avoided.

Practical Considerations for Implementing Radicals’ Ideology

Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, and several similar groups have aspired to establish the mythical Islamic State and the Caliphate; ISIS, (or ISIL) have renamed themselves as Islamic State and actually declared the Caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq. As alluded to earlier, the multiple and conflicting interpretations of Islamic teachings, as excerpted from the Qur’an, the Prophet’s exhortations, and the legislative sharia developed during the 8th and 9th centuries, make it impossible for all Muslims to agree on the structure and procedures of the so-called Islamic State. The two fundamental issues in establishing a political system of governance, under the radicals’ proposed Caliphate, are:

  1. whose interpretation of Islam will this Caliph follow, and
  2. what would happen to Muslims when non-Muslim states reciprocate with establishing their own religious states and deal with Muslims and minorities with diminished rights of citizenship in their countries, as exemplified by Donald Trump’s position on restricting and excluding Muslims from entering the US.

Before delving into the internal differences among Muslims, the overall concept of the Islamic State and its pillars must be examined.Per the general definitions put forth by radical Muslims, legislative sharia will be the legal system of governance, jihad will be the tool of war for subduing the enemy and expanding the boundaries of the state, and blasphemy and apostasy will be the tools for quelling dissent and criticism against the state and government. This mythical state will be Dar-ul-Islam (the land of peace) where peace, equality and justice and the basic necessities for a good life will be provided to all citizens. These engineered interpretations of Islamic concepts are contrary to the Qur’an and summarized in Table 1 and discussed in detail elsewhere.28

The immediate issue then becomes whose interpretation of Islam will be applicable to this mythical state? Sunni or Shi’a? And which sect or subsect of Sunni or Shi’a Islam will be adopted. The differences between the six dozen or more Muslim sects are huge and irreconcilable. Most have declared competing sects as heretic or apostate and liable to be killed as an Islamist religious obligation. These differences emerged very clearly in the Munir Commission’s investigation where several so-called scholars could not even agree on a simple definition of a Muslim:29 This report is an excellent resource for understanding the internal divisions among Muslims and gives a glimpse of their ignorance and arrogance in matters of faith.

“Keeping in view the several definitions given by the ulama [scholars], need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim [scholar] but kafirs [idolaters] according to the definition of everyone else.”

The evidence which forms the basis of the radicalizing ideology, as presented above, is self-explanatory and needs no further commentary;its convoluted basis is obvious. In the Muslim world, such discussions are prohibited; in the West, political correctness prevents people from discussing it. Our inability to discuss such matters provides the space in which the radicals thrive and grow.

Fast forwarding to the 21st century, the destructive ideology documented by the Munir Commission Report is deeply ingrained in the minds of Muslims around the world. This was established by a Pew Research Survey in 2013 which interviewed more than 38,000 people in 39 countries and in 80 languages.30 Results of this survey are summarized in Figures 2-5 and highlight the high degree of confusion in the average Muslims’ mind. The support for implementing legislative sharia as the official law varies geographically – it is low in countries influenced by the West e.g., eight percent (8%) in Azerbaijan to near unanimity (99%) in Afghanistan which has largely remained isolated (Figure 2). This demand has solid support in the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia where the majority of Muslims live. This widespread support for legislative sharia is based on the misunderstanding that it is the revealed word of God (Figure 3). A majority of Muslims believe that sharia must have a single interpretation (Figure 4). However a minority believes that it is a human effort and can have multiple interpretations. Figure 5 shows the confusion of whether sharia law should be applied to Muslims only or to non-Muslims as well.

Results show that a majority of Muslims believe that Islam is the only true faith leading to eternal life in heaven and that belief in God is necessary to be a moral person. Many also think that their religious leaders should have some influence over political matters. And several express a desire for legislative sharia – considered by many as traditional Islamic law – to be recognized as the official law of their country. The major misconception that the politicized clergy has successfully created in the Muslims’ mind is that the legislative sharia is part of the faith. It is not. This system was developed by the Abbasid Caliphate between the 8th and 9th century when rationalist Muslims prevailed and was terminated in the 10th century when traditionalists took control. Details of legislative sharia are discussed elsewhere.31 The legislative sharia was developed when the basis of global economics was agrarian. This changed in the 18th century with the industrial revolution. The Abbasid-era legislative sharia did not evolve to deal with industrial-era issues and is thus inapplicable today. Alternate forms of governance have since been developed to cope with issues of nation states and the industrial economy. This point needs to be understood and the increasing chorus for implementing sharia must be rejected.

The Fundamental Questions

The Muslims’ failure to refute the Terrorist’ Claim of being Islamic

The questions to elicit intelligent response can be posed as follows:

  1. Why is it that the Islamic civilization, which sprang up with such an abundance of energy in the seventh century, and which spread across North Africa and the Middle East to produce cities, universities, libraries, and a flourishing courtly culture which has left a permanent mark on the world, is now in so many places mute, violent, and resentful?
  2. Why does Islam today seem not merely to tolerate the violence of its fiercest advocates (radicals), but to condone and preach it?
  3. Why is it that Muslim minorities in Europe, who migrate in order to enjoy the benefits of a secular jurisdiction, call for another kind of law altogether, even though so few of them seem able to agree what that law says or who is entitled to pronounce it?

Needless to say, these questions will have to be resolved by Muslims themselves. And the ultimate resolution will come when scholars sit across the table and debate these matters in a civilized and objective manner. They will then realize that some of their stated positions, based on sectarian divides and evolved within intellectual silos, are contrary to the scripture. Rather than engage in intellectual discourse, each scholar hides behind their sectarian position and resorts to violence when they are unable to reconcile their position with the Qur’an. Some leading Pakistani scholars are on record for claiming that parts of the Qur’an, which refute their illogical position, have been abrogated.32 This claim is absolutely contrary to the Qur’anic claim that it is the Final Word and God Himself guarantees its accuracy till the end of time.33

A response to these questions requires an understanding of the Muslim mindset as it has evolved over the past 14 centuries. The rapid transformation of the Arab wasteland during the life of the Prophet Mohammadsa and the mercurial expansion of the Arab Empire in the years following the Prophet’s death led to the creation of caliphates – a form of government headed by a caliph34. In the absence of any succession plan, a leader – or caliph – was selected by the Muslims to fill the leadership vacuum created by the Prophet’s death. Three others were similarly selected. The collective reign of the first four caliphs lasted about thirty years. Contrary to its false projection as a utopian period, that period had its share of conflicts – the first caliph died after two years in office after subduing tribal uprisings and the other three who followed were murdered while in office. After this initial phase, the caliphate devolved into a hereditary monarchy with the victor becoming the caliph. Muslim dynasties were soon established and subsequent empires such as the Abbasids, Fatimids, Almoravids, Seljukids, Ajuran, Adal, Mughals, Safavids, and Ottomans were among the largest and most powerful in the world. The Islamic world created numerous sophisticated centers of culture, arts, and science with far-reaching mercantile networks, travelers, scientists, hunters, mathematicians, doctors and philosophers, all contributing to the Golden Age of Islam. Islamic expansion in South and East Asia fostered cosmopolitan and eclectic Muslim cultures in the Indian subcontinent, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.35 For many centuries the world of Islam was in the forefront of human civilization and achievement. There was thus no need to reflect and correct the inaccurate recording of the utopian early period.

During this phase of rapid growth, Muslims had no rivals because Europe was in what is generally referred to as the Middle Ages which lasted from roughly the 5th to the 15th century beginning with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. While in power during that time, the Muslims developed a view that Islamic teachings were the real reason for their successes because the Qur’an had superseded all previous scriptures. They thus developed a sense of superiority and considered those beyond their borders as barbarians and infidels. The Muslim disdain for the Christian West is illustrated by the fact that Western (Christian) travelers came to the Muslim lands to visit holy places, as traders or to serve under the Muslim rulers; they also maintained embassies and consulates in Muslim capitals and major cities and had first-hand knowledge of the state of affairs of the Muslim world. By contrast, travel to the Christian West was discouraged by the Muslim clergy and thus Muslims did not travel to the West.36 Muslims thus remained ignorant of the 300-to 400-year long process during which Europeans transformed their economies and ushered in the Industrial Revolution. Muslims did travel extensively to countries to the South and East in search of merchandise or knowledge. Having pursued knowledge, as mandated in the Qur’an, but failing to advance it to the next logical step –industrialization – Muslims failed to lay the foundation for future developments. This was in stark contrast to the Christian West who brought home the knowledge they gained in Muslim lands sparking the Renaissance and Reformation period that led to the period of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason, introducing new paradigms of morality and beginning the age of discovery in science, mathematics and technology. The authority in the West moved from Church and God to research and science where the West valued truth and the acquisition of knowledge as worthwhile pursuits that informed philosophy. The Christian West thus rejected the dogma that had shackled their intelligence and embarked on a journey towards education and industrialization.

The period of Enlightenment combined with the redistribution of wealth and the establishment of a literate middle class in the wake of the Black Plague in Europe began a process of major transformation towards industrialization that would enable the West to dominate the world. The industrial revolution focused on education, technological developments, financial systems, industrialization, and a myriad of associated fields.

This transformation created a new economic system and enabled the European nations to defeat Islamic governments, colonize their lands, and assume global ascendancy.

The Muslims required but failed to institute a similar transformation to recreate a new social structure – economic, educational, religious, spiritual, political, and intellectual – within their societies to become integrated and succeed in the industrialized environment. The prevailing mindset, developed by Muslim clergy, was that they have deviated from the good old ways of Islamic and Ottoman practices and the remedy was to return to them.37

Having been convinced that the Muslims’ would have to learn from the previously despised infidel, the Ottoman rulers sought permission from the Muslim clergy (scholars) to accept infidel teachings and allow them to teach Muslim students. The clergy reluctantly agreed to this “innovation of staggering magnitude that went contrary to the mindset developed over centuries that infidels and barbarians have nothing of any value to contribute” to the Muslims.38 Seeking clergy’s permission, even in trivial, individual matters, is still prevalent in the Muslim world; this mindset allows the clergy to monopolize religion and assume unnecessary authority over individuals or policies that govern the citizens of Muslim countries. Interestingly, Islam does not sanction any intermediaries like the clergy; religion is a private matter between the individual and God.

Colonial and Post-Colonial Narrative

Robert Reilly39 traces the development of this mindset from the early days of Islamic history. According to him “the principal reason for the sudden ossification was the rise of the traditional Ash’arite40 sect in the tenth century and the defeat of the rival rationalist sect of the Mu’tazalites41. lmam al-Ghazali (d. 1111), an Ash’arite, thought that reason was the enemy of Islam, because Islam requires absolute and unquestioning submission to the will of Allah, implying that they have exclusive knowledge of Allah’s will. In his celebrated treatise The Incoherence of the Philosophers, al-Ghazali sets out to show that reason, as enshrined in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and their followers, leads to nothing but darkness and contradiction, and that the only light that shines in the mind of man is the light of revelation. Although al-Ghazali’s arguments are soundly refuted by Averroes (lbn Rushd) – a rationalist – in his The Incoherence of the Incoherence, Muslims rushed to embrace the Ash’arite doctrine, which made so much better sense of the ruling idea of submission. Averroes was sent from Andalusia into exile, and the voice of reason was heard no more in the courts of Sunni Muslim princes.”

As already stated, legislative sharia was developed under the Abbasid Caliphate during the 8th and 10th century. During this time, the Rationalist thought prevailed and encouraged the rulers to critically review and update any legislation based on reason. This ongoing process made it difficult for the rulers to keep the legislation updated as knowledge evolved. The Ash’arite’s assault on philosophy thus went hand-in-hand with an equally determined assault on law and jurisprudence (fiqh). The early Islamic jurists had sought to reconcile the Qur’an and the traditions with the demands of ordinary justice, and had developed a system of law which could be applied in the developing circumstances of social and commercial life. The interpretation of the law was subject to study and amendment by the individual effort (ijtihad) of the jurists, who were thereby able to adapt the brittle interpretations of the Holy Book to the reality of Muslim societies. In the tenth or eleventh century CE, it became accepted that “the gate of ijtihad is closed” – as alGhazali­ himself declared. Since then Sunni Islam has adopted the official position that no new interpretations of the law can be entertained, and that what seemed right in twelfth-century Cairo or Baghdad must seem right today. Should we be surprised, therefore, if nobody can find a clear way of reconciling the legislative Shari’a with the facts of modern life and government, or that a current leading jurist from al-Azhar, the ancient [and prestigious Islamic] university in Cairo, can rule that it is okay for a man and a woman who do not know each other to be alone together, provided he sucks her breasts?42 This fatwa has since been retracted43 but shows the depraved intellectual state of those who claim to be authorities in this field.

The gradual decline and the ultimate defeat, dismemberment, and colonization of the Ottoman and Mughal Empires after the two World Wars left deep wounds on the psyche of the once powerful and supposedly invincible Muslim Empires. The subsequent dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate – a symbol of unity among Muslims – and the creation of dozens of Muslim countries in those lands only deepened those wounds. The cumulative effect of these major setbacks was a severe identity crisis among Muslims. Without addressing the major cause for failure – education and reforming societies for the Industrial Era – succeeding leaderships in these new countries failed to heal the deep psychological wounds and gave rise to religiously-inspired political movements (e.g., Muslim Brotherhood and Jama’at-i-Islami) in the Muslim world. These groups engineered religious doctrines (Table 1) to present Islam-based alternatives for governance but failed to deliver in their own countries where they resorted to violence.

Muslim Brotherhood members were accused of assassinating the Egyptian PM Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha in 1948 and shortly thereafter its founder, Hassan Al-Banna, was killed in Cairo. In 1952, Muslim Brotherhood was accused of participating in arson that destroyed several hundred buildings — mainly night clubs, theatres, hotels, and restaurants frequented by British and other foreigners — in downtown Cairo. The Brotherhood then supported the military coup that overthrew the monarchy in 1952, but the military regime was unwilling to share power with them. Muslim Brotherhood was then accused of attempting to assassinate the President, Gamal ‘Abd al-Nasser, in 1954. The Egyptian Government then banned Muslim Brotherhood and imprisoned and punished thousands of its members. Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, relaxed some restrictions but he was also murdered by some Islamist group.

After fleeing Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood established their office elsewhere in the Middle East and Europe. The main catalyst for the movement’s spread beyond Egypt, including European countries, was the suppression campaign launched against it by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954. In the 1950s, two large, well-organized Muslim Brotherhood groups fled from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. A third, less cohesive group of Muslim Brotherhood activists fled to the U.S. and several European countries, including [West] Germany. They established new roots and adopted strategies to propagate their message and attain their goal of global dominance. Mingling with the immigrant Muslim communities in Europe and the US, the Muslim Brotherhood established their presence on university campuses and with left-wing opposition activists. Muslim Brotherhood thus gradually became the distributor of radical Islam and de-facto representative of Muslim immigrant communities who had a need to find spiritual guidance in non-Muslim lands.

An illuminating example of rewriting or the reinterpretation of Islamic doctrines (referenced above) as documented by Oliver Roy, was published in a five-part article in the Dawn Newspaper44 in Pakistan. The fourth article of this series, published on November 2, 2015 titled Blasphemy and the death penalty: Misconceptions explained includes an annotated timeline of every Hanafi45 jurisprudence text of significance that has discussed non-Muslim blasphemy. Based on over 200 commentaries this timeline shows the gradual evolution of blasphemy as a “not punishable” crime to the punishment being at “the judge’s discretion” and then to the absolute reversal of the initial position with blasphemy carrying a “mandatory death sentence”. This rewriting or transformation of Islamic ideology (from blasphemy carrying no punishment to capital punishment) happened over the past 14 centuries. This example shows how objective interpretations of Islamic ideologies were transformed to draconian laws due to political and prejudicial considerations. The cause of the average Muslim’s continued silence over this centuries long transition could be attributed to their declining knowledge or interest or the increasing political control by vested interests over their faith. The cumulative and unintended consequence of the average Muslims’ silence has resulted in the radicals’ success in hijacking the faith and stigmatizing Muslims as the perpetrators of hate.

Connivance by Silence46 summarizes the results of Oliver Roy’s works47,48 to document the broader phenomenon of what he calls neo-fundamentalism, i.e., growing radicalism among [culturally] rootless Muslim youth, particularly among second and third-generation migrants in Western democracies. He argues that the absence of cultural pressure from, what he calls, pristine cultures in Western democracies has allowed radicals to invent and rewrite Islamist doctrines which are promoted as Islamic.” The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino show how these engineered doctrines affected the terrorists’ acts.

Initially financing their efforts for establishing networks of mosques, research centers, Islamic, social and educational-institutions primarily through assistance from Middle Eastern countries, these movements expanded their proselytizing (da’wah) network in Europe and the U.S. thereby spreading their radical-political Islam within Muslim communities living in Western democracies. As an example, Muslim Brotherhood in Europe seeks to turn Islam into the dominant force among Europe’s multi-cultural society, as part of the overarching vision of a global Islamic takeover. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a senior Sunni cleric affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, has recently expressed his confidence that Islam will eventually take over Europe — not by means of war, however, but through preaching and education efforts (da’wah).49 He has argued that “Islam will return to Europe as a conqueror and victor, having been expelled twice”. He qualified his statement, however, by saying that “it is possible that the next conquest, Allah willing, will take place by preaching and ideology”.50

Personal Accounts of Individuals – How They Became Radicalized and Reformed Themselves

Two fascinating first-hand accounts of the radicalization of college -educated Muslim youngsters in the UK provide chilling details of how they became recruiters for radical organizations. Both authors, Ed Husain 51 and Maajid Nawaz,52 came from regular peace-loving immigrant families from South Asia. Fortunately, these individuals realized their mistakes and cofounded the Quilliam Foundation53 in the UK to help de-radicalize Muslims. Ed Husain’s account is summarized in Connivance by Silence 54 and describes how he was radicalized by the flawed interpretations in the British School System; it provides a chilling account of how youngsters are drawn toward terrorism under the guise of Islam. As a teenaged student in Britain in the 1990s, he enrolled in the school-offered Religious Education course. His first English textbook was Islam: Beliefs and Teachings by Mr. Gulam Sarwar in which it was stated that “religion and politics are one and the same in Islam. They are intertwined. We already know that Islam is a complete system of life . . . Just as Islam teaches us how to pray, fast, pay charity and perform the Haj, it also teaches us how to run a state, form a government, elect councilors and members of parliament, make treaties and conduct business and commerce.” The book informed students that “there was no Islamic state in the world today in which Islam was a system of government” and commended the efforts of organizations dedicated to the creation of ‘truly Islamic states’ and made particular reference to the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and Jamaat-e-Islami in the Indian subcontinent, who were working for the “establishment of Allah’s law in Allah’s land.” The Muslim Educational Trust (MET) held alternate assemblies for Muslim students and also offered exams in religious education; success was acknowledged by awarding trophies and medals. Through a Religious Education classmate, Husain was introduced to the Young Muslim Organization UK (YMO) and both volunteered time to manage events at the East London mosque. Husain identifies Jamaat-e-Islami activists behind these otherwise innocuous and benign activities at school and also the link between Saudi Arabian support and funding for the East London mosque. Maajid Nawaz’s book provides another independent and first-hand account of his journey towards radicalism and then to the founding of the Quilliam Foundation.

Maajid Nawaz similarly explains his journey that attracted him towards radicalism. He describes himself as a liberal who was radicalized after experiencing racial discrimination and gang violence while growing up in the UK.

An example highlighting the depth of penetration of this depraved ideology and the unintended consequences of mixing religion and politics was exhibited on 29 December 2015 during the 201st meeting of the constitutionally mandated Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) in Pakistan. First established as the Advisory Council of Islamic Ideology on August 1, 1962 under the Constitution of Pakistan, it was re-designated as Council of Islamic Ideology and retained in the new Constitution adopted in 1973. This 53 year old constitutional body is required to review all laws and advise the legislature whether or not a certain law is repugnant to Islam, namely to the Qur’an and Sunna. The CII is thus the constitutionally appointed custodians of Islam in Pakistan.

The proceedings of its recent meeting were described as “disgraceful” after a “physical altercation” between the chairman and a member where “ugly exchange of street language, expletives” was used between the two “after disagreement over agenda items.”55 The agenda item that caused this altercation was the status of Ahmadis Muslims56 in relation to Islam, and whether the current members of the community are to be termed murtad (apostates) and how to classify those born after the 1974 constitutional amendment. The implication of this classification – according to the radical’s ideology – is that: (1) as apostates, Muslims are obligated to kill Ahmadis, and (2) future generations of Ahmadi Muslims, born after 1974, should be treated as non-Muslims and subject to jizya (poll tax) for seeking protection under the law! Terming the “behavior of the men of learning” – and not the constitutional amendment that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims – as unacceptable and their “penchant for indulging in explosive debate rather than giving progressive solutions to the country’s many faith-related problems,” the Editorial calls for the dismemberment of this body.

The CII was actually fulfilling its constitutionally mandated responsibility to review the laws and advise the legislature about them being in compliance with Islam. The CII had intended to address the status of those children born in Ahmadi Muslim households after the constitutional amendment that had declared their parents non-Muslims and apostates. The status of the children born subsequent to the new law had to be defined because they were born as non-Muslims and could not be termed apostates! The Chairman of CII was thus finishing the unfinished business of the 1974 constitutional amendment to leave his legacy on the Islamization of Pakistan. The member, probably anticipating the ugly outcome, the attendant dangers, and unintended consequences of that decision, did not want the matter discussed. As has been highlighted earlier, the two-fold problem facing the CII is the understanding of Islam which is not a monolith and the use of religion for political purposes. This unintended consequence of blending religion  and politics is an excellent example of how this ideology will implode under its own weight.

This entrenchment of this flawed ideology is not limited to the third world or Muslim majority countries. It is also deeply entrenched in the US, even in premiere educational institutions. I experienced this first hand on December 2, 2015 at Georgetown University in Washington DC while attending a seminar. A recently converted Caucasian Muslim professor and Chair of a department commented to me that the imposition of sharia was the only way to resolve the current issues facing the Muslim world. On seeking clarification the professor confirmed that he was referring to the Abbasid era developed legislative sharia! Similarly, while traveling from Delhi to London a few years ago, a leading South African Muslim scholar seated next to me explained that the sad plight of the Muslims was due to bad leadership. I questioned if the 56 or so Muslim countries (members of the OIC57) all had bad leadership and the non-Muslim countries had good leadership? I asked that if we extend his reasoning to the past 50 or 100 years, it is statistically impossible to accept that the leadership in Muslim countries was all bad. Unable to refute my point, the scholar conceded that the Muslims’ situation will improve after the Second Coming of Jesus, Son of Mary. He even identified the location – a mosque in Syria – where Jesus would descent and usher in peace. I questioned if Jesus would continue to preach the Law of Moses, which he did before his ascent, or would have accepted Islam and will preach the Qur’an. Needless to say, he had no response and we had nothing more to discuss and remained quiet throughout the journey.

This fourteen-century summary of distortions and engineered interpretations of Islamic doctrines provides several insights into the radicals’ mindset. Any permanent solution to disconnect the religion of Islam from its political manifestation and rid the world of Islamist terrorism must be a global, multi-faceted effort where each individual plays their respective role as outlined in the next section.

Enabling factors for spreading radical ideology in the Muslim World

Many Muslim colonies gained independence during the mid-twentieth century. The post-independence regimes in these countries retained the legacy of their colonial masters and did not foster democratic governments, institutions, or values; rather they became authoritarian employing the colonial rules for controlling their “free” citizens. Instead of focusing on educating their societies towards industrialization, these governments relied on Western support and adopted Western political, economic, and military models. The Western models had evolved as the consequence of industrialization. Without the same industrial-base and educational background in the Muslim countries, these models were bound to fail which they did; these failures caused disillusionment with Western models in the Muslim world.

By the 1970s, the hopes and dreams of many Muslims were shattered by a series of failures – political, economic, and military – resulting in discredited governments. Israel’s decisive victory over the combined Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, during the six-day war in 1967 was a devastating blow to Arab pride and power where each of the three Arab partners lost territory to Israel. The 1971 India-Pakistan war, and the creation of Bangladesh, undermined any notion of Muslim nationalism, the glue that was supposed to hold together the ethnically and linguistically different Muslim populations of West and East Pakistan.

Additionally, the strong US support for Israel in the six-day war and their not preventing the breakup of Pakistan despite, what Pakistan believed to be defense pacts with the US – the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (Cento), led many to conclude that excessive dependence on the West, as a model for development or as an ally, had weakened rather than strengthened the Muslim world. These crises reinforced a prevailing sense of impotence and inferiority among many Muslims, the product of centuries of European colonial dominance that left a legacy of admiration (of the West’s power, science, and technology) as well as deep resentment (of its penetration and exploitation).

The failed “imported” models of governance and the overwhelming defeats in wars mentioned above gave rise to Islamist revival movements. These were not about religion per se, but were a response to political, economic, social, and military failures, which led the Muslim world towards a loss of identity, values, or meaning and profound disillusionment or despair. The lure of revivalism is a return to an idealized utopian past and was an attempt to re-appropriate those principles, beliefs, and values that represent divine guidance, a sense of purpose, meaning, and success.

The Muslim world’s demographics too contributes to the spread of radical ideology. According to Pew data (Figure 6), 77% of the global Muslim population lives in Asia-Pacific and sub Saharan Africa where they are faced with poor education and bad governance ripe with widespread corruption. They are deprived of basic necessities like clean water, sanitation, health care, or employment opportunities because most of these countries have not yet transitioned from the agrarian to the industrial economy. Moreover, the high birthrate and lower life expectancy in these countries has created a population bulge where half the population is under 20 years and 60% is under 30 years old. A majority of these people live below the poverty line with high illiteracy rates and an outdated educational system, still based on the agrarian model where rote learning, rather than critical analysis is the norm. These impressionable minds are led to believe that their enemies – non-Muslims – are responsible for their plight because they are afraid of eventual Islamic dominance and want to defeat Islam.

Madrassas were a traditional form of schooling in the Muslim world before any formal school systems were established. Madrassas provided religious and secular education relying on the teachers abilities. Political divide within the Muslim world and the sectarian jostling for influence has given a new lease of life to madrassas which claim to cater to the educational needs of a majority of youngsters from low income families. Many of these madrassas are well funded and, in addition to education, also provide meals and in some cases a stipend, to the students. Their curriculum is driven by Islamist ideology where the creation of an Islamic State ruled by a Caliph, the implementation of legislative sharia, and jihad would be the ultimate objective, where the honor of the Prophet will be safeguarded through capital punishment for blasphemy and apostasy. Many government funded schools also teach the same message in their pre- to high school curricula. In short, they feel that the Islamic State would usher in a utopian era where all their needs would be met. This flawed system has produced a pool of students with passive minds who are primed for radicalism.

High illiteracy rates and lack of employment opportunities turn these pre-radicalized youth towards militancy and crime. Geopolitical developments in the Muslim world, especially after the Iranian revolution of 1979, drew in regional and global powers who tapped into this pool of pre-radicalized youth and provided funding and training for them to participate in the jihad against the Soviet Union who had occupied a Muslim country, Afghanistan. That is the beginning of Afghan Mujahidin, al-Qaida and Taliban. Buoyed by their military successes against the Soviets, regional powers, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iran representing Sunni and Shi’a interests, also funded and trained their respective cadres for proxy wars for dominating the Islamic discourse. This cycle of creating armed militants for proxy wars continued and several Sunni and Shi’a sects had their own armed militias for “protecting their turfs.” After the Soviet’s defeat, these battle hardened so called holy warriors could not be wished away. They are still fighting to achieve their ultimate objectives and the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, or ISIL) is an outcrop of this short sighted approach.

It is important to realize that while most Muslims are not Islamists the organized minority, which is radicalized, dominates the discourse. Islamism had been creeping upon Muslims for about a century (since the defeat of the Ottoman Empire), and little had been done by the “silent majority” to directly challenge it. Yes, certain Muslim associations have been stressing a tolerant and inclusive interpretation of Islam, but this was not sufficient because they lacked a narrative to effectively counteract the Islamist ideology and show that the religion of Islam is not a political ideology. In his book Radical,58 Maajid Nawaz defines the critical elements of the counter narrative that is required to defeat the Islamist doctrine. These include: respect for basic human rights, pluralism, individual freedoms, faith, and democracy which had to be reconciled with Islam not in the ivory towers of academics but out there in the hearts of the masses. To do that, we needed to permeate all elements of society with the counter narrative: politics and policy, media, the arts, social media, academia, and public opinion. We needed the backing of states, parties, coalitions, and movements, and we needed ideas, narratives, leaders, and symbols, all pooled together, just as Islamism had been doing since the 1920s.

The Overall Solution

Terrorism knows no boundaries; it is a global phenomenon where innocent human beings are the victims. Ironically, Muslims themselves form the largest single victim group. The fact that radicalism leads to terrorism is undeniable and the root causes of radicalism are multi-dimensional. These must be identified, acknowledged and dealt with accordingly with the clear understanding that radicalism undertaken by Islamists’ ideology is only a part of the overall problem. Eliminating Islamists’ ideology will not bring an end to terrorism because peace will only be restored when justice and fair-play in society and geopolitical matters is restored. And this can only happen in an ideal world! As already stated, all human beings will have to play their role in eliminating radicalism. The ultimate solution will have to be multi-faceted, with individuals and governments, playing their respective roles. It has to be a long-term team effort with Muslims leading the initiative to defeat the Islamist ideology. Other factors are beyond the scope of this paper.

A three-part solution for defeating the Islamists’ ideology is presented in the next section. It defines the role for Muslims, their non-Muslim neighbors, and joint effort by all to address the unintended consequences which, for lack of a better term, are referred to as environmental.

Unless Muslim communities come together to reclaim the faith, there will be no chance of challenging this ideology that has grown among Non-Muslim neighbors can also assist by asking critical questions about the Islamist ideology. However, the onus is on all Muslims to take a stand by closing their doors to Islamism. For decades Islamists have spread their ideology at the grassroots, while Muslim liberals have detached themselves from this debate. Due to this indifference, Islamism had become the most effective social phenomenon among Muslims in the world, in dictatorships and democracies alike. Dictators either try to co-opt it, as was done in Pakistan throughout its history or brutally suppress it, as was done in Egypt. Both tactics inevitably aided its growth. In democracies, electoral politics only react to votes, and if the most organized bloc is the Islamist bloc, they will have their way, intimidating government after government with their opportunistic use of Islam to influence policy.

Fortunately, a group of North American and European Muslim leaders adopted a Declaration and started the Muslim Reform Movement to launch this initiative.59 The three guiding principles of this movement are:

Peace: We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. We invite our fellow Muslims and neighbors to join us.

Human Rights: We reject bigotry, oppression and violence against all people based on any prejudice, including ethnicity, gender, language, belief, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression.

Secular Governance: We are for secular governance, democracy and liberty. Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam. Ideas do not have rights. Human beings have rights.

As already stated, the seeds of Muslim radicalism were initially sown around the 10th century with the defeat of the rationalists. The process however accelerated after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the termination of the Caliphate which happened in 1924 – just about 100 years ago. While the root cause is the flawed ideology (described above), several external factors – political and environmental – have also contributed to its rapid growth. The ideology and these factors must be considered as part of the solution with the goal to break the perceived bond between radicalism and Islam. Force alone cannot defeat this ideology; education over the long term has to be an integral part of any permanent solution. A New York Times Op-Ed forcefully argues this point stating that “[the West’s fight against terrorism] targets the effects [of terrorism] rather than the cause.” Aptly titled Saudi Arabia, as ISIS that has made it60 the article draws parallels between the Saudi Arabian and ISIS positions and questions why we [the West] befriend the former and fight the latter.

The Solution – Part 1: The Muslims’ role

The Muslims must first understand their history factually – explore historical facts and not the utopian version as taught throughout the Muslim world. They should understand that history, like a coin, has two sides. They should research and understand the other side – the ignored side – as well. The irony of this suggestion is the poor literacy rates and the lack of desire within the educated Muslims to uncover and reconcile harsh facts with their virtual reality. This thus puts the onus for correcting the historical misrepresentations on motivated Muslims who can comprehend facts from multiple and authoritative sources and share them with their peers. Sadly, the majority of Muslims – leaders and intellectuals – will not unequivocally condemn the engineered doctrines of jihad, sharia, blasphemy and apostasy which are the foundations for the destructive ideology that all Muslim terrorist groups (Taliban, al -Qaeda, Islamic State, etc.) propagate. Those engineered doctrines have evolved and gone unchallenged over the past several decades and are now considered part of the faith. Those who have spoken against any of these misrepresented concepts in some Muslim countries (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) have been killed, jailed, or forced to flee to safer (non-Muslim) countries. Thus the first and the most critical action item for Muslims is to understand and reject the four pillars of radicals’ ideology i.e. the engineered doctrines of Islamic State, political Caliphate, Jihad, Sharia, Apostasy and Blasphemy. Instead, as proposed in the Muslim Reform Movement Declaration, Muslims must propagate and support the UN Declaration of Human Rights that was adopted in 1948. The UN Declaration of Human Rights has been cross referenced to the Qur’an and the Prophet’s traditions and is fully consistent with Islamic teachings.61

As part of the radicals’ ideology, Muslims cannot wage jihad against fellow Muslims; jihad has to be fought against non-Muslims and the ultimate jihad has to be declared by the Caliph. That is the urgency for establishing and monopolizing the Caliphate. It is for this reason, the 200,000 strong Iraqi army, trained and equipped by the US over several years at a cost of $25 billion,62 has been unable to stand up against a much smaller IS force because it has a Caliph who has declared jihad against the infidel trained and supported Iraqi Army. The engineered doctrines of blasphemy and apostasy enable leaders of competing Muslims sects to declare their opponent non-Muslims. This gives them the right to kill dissenters and curb independent thinking and free speech. These leaders demand absolute obedience and denounce critical analysis and decision making.

A sad but illuminating news item highlighting the ignorance and blind following was published in a prestigious Indian newspaper on September 5, 2006.63 It highlights the irreconcilable differences between two Sunni sects, whose headquarters are less than 200 miles apart in Northern India. Per the newspaper report, 200 marriages were annulled by a fatwa from the Deobandi sect because their adherents had attended a funeral service led by an imam from the opposing Barelvi sect who was the deceased man’s nephew. The Barelvi Imam led his uncle’s funeral service because the Deobandi imam was unable to be there for the service. Thinking the Deobandis as too radical, the Barelvis approached their leaders and were surprised that they upheld the Deobandi fatwa of annulment of marriages. Thus 200 couples were remarried. And this happened in India where Muslims are a minority within the dominant Hindu majority. The resolution of such irreconcilable differences, sharpened over centuries, is no easy task. This absolute obedience commanded by the religious leadership, and the total submission by common people who have not been brainwashed by radicals, highlights the severity of the issue.

Various radical Muslim groups talk about the implementation of legislative sharia. They must understand that sharia was not a static law but a dynamic one during the time it was being framed under the Abbasid Caliphate in the 8th and 9th centuries. Details of sharia development can be found elsewhere.64 The critical question they do not discuss is whose sharia will they implement? As sharia development was a dynamic process, various schools of thought interpret it differently.Serious conflicts exist in different interpretations as depicted by short video clips.65, 66

The radicals’ interpretation of apostasy and blasphemy67 are similarly flawed. The most significant recent reversal of the Muslim world, and the win for the radicals’ ideology, is their rejection of the UN Declaration of Human Rights in 2005. This Declaration was originally signed by virtually all countries in 1948 and is simply a statement of ideals for human rights. Sadly, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – a group of 57 member countries claiming to be the collective voice of the Muslim world – rejected the UN Declaration as un-Islamic and instead adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam (CDHRI). The OIC version provides an overview on the restricted Islamic perspective on human rights, and affirms Islamic sharia – legislative sharia as developed in the 8th and 9th century – as its sole source. This reversal in matters of Human Rights and over lapping it with sharia reinforces the radicals’ position. Interestingly, the Saudi Arabian and Islamic State’s laws, based on sharia, are identical (Figure 7). As the leader of the Sunni Muslim world, Saudi Arabia carries legitimacy and thus Muslims find it difficult to criticize Islamic State’s laws but not those of Saudi Arabia.

The Solution – Part 2: The Neighbors’ role

Non-Muslim neighbors must first understand that the flawed doctrine drives Muslims to radicalism. Neighbors must engage Muslims and befriend them to understand their perspective on radicalism and ask probing questions about this ideology. They should realize that the 1.6 billion Muslims population is very diverse and cannot be painted with a broad brush after each terrorist incident. An excellent example of this myopic view was highlighted by CNN in their interview with Reza Arsalan.68 Another recent example, in the post San Bernardino, California attacks was the detention and interrogation of a Muslim doctor, Bilal Rana, who was dressed in a typical Pakistani outfit as he disembarked from a flight in Houston, Texas.69 Fellow passengers reported him as suspicious only because of his looks and the dress. Per the referenced Time article, Dr. Rana is very active in helping the society to understand the differences between the religion of Islam and the radicals’ interpretation. Such insensitive behavior must end and rather than putting Muslims on the defensive, the society must partner with them to resolve this issue. Leaving political correctness aside, non-Muslim and Muslims must discuss these issues with the goal of understanding – rather than berating – each other. After all we are human beings and are vulnerable to the terrorist acts irrespective of our faith and color. This has repeatedly been demonstrated by terrorist attacks, from major cities and small towns, around the world.

A survey published by Brookings70 in December 2015 shows an interesting cross section of Americans’ view of Muslims and Islam. Polling for the survey was conducted between November 4 and 10, 2015—after a reported ISIS bomb brought down a Russian civilian airplane over Egypt but before the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. Needless to say, these attitudes have been affected by the Paris and San Bernardino attacks and the subsequent political rhetoric. Shibley Telhami,71 the researcher, highlighted the following major observations:

  • Americans differentiate between the “Muslim people” and the religion of Islam; they view Muslims more favorably than they do Islam (Figure 8). The negative view of Islam remained nearly identical in 2015 compared to 2011, with 61 percent of Americans also expressing unfavorable views (Figure 8a). The view of Muslims, as people, improved slightly with 53% expressing favorable views (Figure 8b). Views of both the Muslim people and the religion Islam are divided across party lines. A large majority of Democrats (67%) have favorable views of Muslims, compared to 41% and 43% for Republicans and Independents respectively. (Figure 8b).
  • Only 39% Americans say Western and Islamic religious and social traditions are incompatible, while 57 percent say most people in the West and the Islamic world have similar needs and wants (Figure 8c).
  • Majorities of those who know some Muslims—even if not well— have favorable views of Muslims; this holds across the political spectrum. For example, only 22 percent of Republicans who know no Muslims have favorable views, compared with 51 percent of Republicans who know some Muslims but not well, and 59 percent of those who know some Muslims well (Figure 8d).

There are many non-Muslims, especially in the West, that have never met a Muslim. They also live in intellectual silos, communicate fear and hate-filled messages within their groups as demonstrated by Figure 8. The object of these emails is nothing more than hate mongering. Contrary to the content of one of the hate emails I received, Muslims seek God’s blessing equivalent to their Semitic Cousins (Jews and Christians who are followers of Abraham) in their daily prayers (see below) and do not pray for anyone’s destruction.

“Bless, O Allah, Muhammad and the people of Muhammad, as Thou didst bless Abraham and the people of Abraham. Thou art indeed the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.

Prosper, O Allah, Muhammad and the people of Muhammad, as Thou didst prosper Abraham and the people of Abraham. Thou are the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.

The Solution – Part 3: Unintended Consequences of Flawed Ideology and Political Exploitation

The media’s role – both print and electronic – must be viewed in the context of their commercial ratings and the biases of the reporter or the publication. Using events to promote political or spiritual biases does lasting damages. Representing things out of context and classifying them on biases or persuasions should be prevented. Understanding that freedoms of expression and choice are critical elements of free societies, the attendant responsibilities and objectivity must also be considered. For example, a justifiable complaint of Muslims is that whenever an act of terrorism is committed by non-Muslims, it is labelled as an act by deranged individual while acts of terrorism conducted by Muslims are automatically classified as Islamic terrorism despite the widespread condemnation of the act by Muslims. The terrorist attack at the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado72 was an individual’s act similar to the San Bernardino California attack but was not referred to as a terrorist attack although both were conducted within a few days of each other. John Esposito73 discusses the media bias against Muslims in more detail.

Concluding Comments

A summary of the historical events of the Muslim world shows that:

  • The failure to transition from the agrarian to the industrial era was the cause of the Muslims’ loss of power to the West. After independence, the leadership’s failure in the newly-formed Muslim majority countries included their neglect to educate their societies while they adopted authoritarian practices and imposed Western models of governance without preparing the people for the change. With rampant corruption, mismanagement, failed economies, military defeats, and without the people’s support, these imported models failed to improve the standard of living for the average citizen. The gap between rich and poor increased and the dreams of a utopian life as independent citizens were shattered. Thus an identity crisis for the average Muslim.
  • Muslim radical groups have successfully exploited the situation proposing Islamic solutions to improve the situation. Using engineered doctrines and Islamic terminology, they silenced the peaceful Muslims to justify their criminal activities under the guise of Islam.
  • The majority of Muslims are either confused, or lack the knowledge about their faith, or have lost interest in reclaiming their faith from the terrorists. Another more logical explanation is Muslims’ inability to rationalize the Islamic doctrines independently and determine their compatibility with the standards of the industrial world. Rather they rely on sectarian dogmas or the politicized clergy and become disillusioned and blame their failures on conspiracy theories hatched by their perceived or real non-Muslim enemies.
  • Muslims must clearly differentiate between the faith and the engineered doctrines and forcefully discredit the pillars of the ideology of Islamic State by rejecting their interpretation of jihad, sharia, apostasy and blasphemy.
  • The peaceful Muslims must speak up and discredit the radicals’ narrative not by hollow rhetoric and fatwas alone but by direct reference to the primary scripture and substantiated by the Prophet’ssa If they cannot do so based on their understanding of the faith, they should expand their horizons and explore alternate meanings and understanding of their faith. Classical Arabic in which the Qur’an was revealed is a complex language and the translation and interpretation has always been restricted by the knowledge of the translator. For example, the Quran speaks of tiny, insignificant particles which are described as storehouses of energy, as though the fire of hell was locked within them.74 It could have meant flint till recently when the phenomenon of radioactivity was not understood. With that knowledge, these insignificant particles could mean nuclear particles.75 This clearly illustrates how the meaning of the Qur’anic verses evolves with knowledge and why seeking knowledge is a critical part of the Islamic faith.

The three part solution proposed by the Muslim Reform Movement provides a practical roadmap for Muslims to reform themselves and for their non-Muslim neighbors to help them come out of this unenviable position.

Table 1. Fundamental Differences between Islam and Islamism

Table 1b: Islamic State

Table 1c: Jihad


Table 1e: APOSTASY


Figure 1. Schematic depiction of Islamic State concept

Figure 2. An overwhelming majority in the Muslim world supports shar’ia law

Figure 3. Although legislative shar’ia was developed by humans, majority of Muslims feel it is the revealed word of God.

Figure 4. Although legislative shar’ia can have multiple interpretations, majority of Muslims feel it has a single interpretation.

Figure 5. Confusion about the applicability of shar’ia to the population. Majority wants to have a duplicate legislative system.

Figure 6 Muslim population distribution ( mapping-the-global-muslim-population/)

Figure 7. Legislative Sharia – Saudi Arabia vs Islamic State. The virtual identity between the two is alarming.

Figure 8a. American attitudes towards Islam.

Figure 8b. Americans’ attitude towards Muslims.

Figure 8c. Americans’ attitude towards Islam’s compatibility with Western systems.

Figure 8d. Knowing Muslims improves favorability towards Muslims. Figure

8. American attitudes towards Islam and Muslims

Appendix 1.

Prophet Muhammadsa’s Final Sermon76

After praising, and thanking God, the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said “O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. God has Judged that there shall be no interest, and that all the interest due to Al-Abbas ibn Abd’el Muttalib shall henceforth be waived…

Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God, perform your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and offer Zakat. Perform Hajj if you have the means.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and it may be that the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O God, that I have conveyed your message to your people.

”Thus the beloved Prophet completed his Final Sermon, and upon it, near the summit of Arafat, the revelation came down:

“…This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My Grace upon you, and have chosen Islam for you as your religion…” (Quran 5:3)

Appendix 2

English Translation of the Ashtiname by Richard Pococke77

  1. Muhammad the son of ‘Abd Allah, the Messenger of Allah, and careful guardian of the whole world; has written the present instrument to all those who are in his national people, and of his own religion, as a secure and positive promise to be accomplished to the Christian nation, and relations of the Nazarene, whosoever they may be, whether they be the noble or the vulgar, the honorable or otherwise, saying thus. Whosoever of my nation shall presume to break my promise and oath, which is contained in this present agreement, destroys the promise of God, acts contrary to the oath, and will be a resister of the faith, (which God forbid) for he becomes worthy of the curse, whether he be the King himself, or a poor man, or whatever person he may be.
  1. That whenever any of the monks in his travels shall happen to settle upon any mountain, hill, village, or other habitable place, on the sea, or in deserts, or in any convent, church, or house of prayer, I shall be in the midst of them, as the preserver and protector of them, their goods and effects, with my soul, aid, and protection, jointly with all my national people; because they are a part of my own people, and an honor to me.
  1. Moreover, I command all officers not to require any poll-tax on them, or any other tribute, because they shall not be forced or compelled to anything of this kind.
  1. None shall presume to change their judges or governors, but they shall remain in their office, without being deported.
  1. No one shall molest them when they are travelling on the road.
  1. Whatever churches they are possessed of, no one is to deprive them of them.
  1. Whosoever shall annul any of one of these my decrees, let him know positively that he annuls the ordinance of God.
  1. Moreover, neither their judges, governors, monks, servants, disciples, or any others depending on them, shall pay any poll-tax, or be molested on that account, because I am their protector, wherever they shall be, either by land or sea, east or west, north or south; because both they and all that belong to them are included in this my promissory oath and patent.
  1. And of those that live quietly and solitary upon the mountains, they shall exact neither poll-tax nor tithes from their incomes, neither shall any Muslim partake of what they have; for they labor only to maintain themselves.
  1. Whenever the crop of the earth shall be plentiful in its due time, the inhabitants shall be obliged out of every bushel to give them a certain measure.
  1. Neither in time of war shall they take them out of their habitations, nor compel them to go to the wars, nor even then shall they require of them any poll-tax.
  1. In these eleven chapters is to be found whatever relates to the monks, as to the remaining seven chapters, they direct what relates to every Christian.
  1. Those Christians who are inhabitants, and with their riches and traffic are able to pay the poll-tax, shall pay no more than twelve drachms.
  1. Excepting this, nothing shall be required of them, according to the express order of God, that says, ‘Do not molest those that have a veneration for the books that are sent from God, but rather in a kind manner’ [29:46]. Give of your good things to them, and converse with them, and hinder everyone from molesting them.
  1. If a Christian woman shall happen to marry a Muslim man, the Muslim shall not cross the inclination of his wife, to keep her from her church and prayers, and the practice of her religion.
  1. That no person hinder them from repairing their churches.
  1. Whosoever acts contrary to my grant, or gives credit to anything contrary to it, becomes truly an apostate to God, and to his divine apostle, because this protection I have granted to them according to this promise.
  1. No one shall bear arms against them, but, on the contrary, the Muslims shall wage war for them.
  1. And by this I ordain, that none of my nation shall presume to do or act contrary to this my promise, until the end of the world.


1 “sa” is the Arabic appellation meaning peace be on you. Muslims use such appellation for all prophets.

2 wants/384980/

3 islamic-islamic-state



6  The revelation was memorized and recited in daily prayers. The revelation was  recorded by designated scribes during the Prophet’s life. It was assembled in one volume by the first caliph Abu Bakr (632-634 CE), immediately after the prophet’s death and later standardized by the third caliph Uthman (644-656 CE). A team of people who had memorized the Quran verified the authenticity of the text which is the only version available.

7  Ch 7, verse 159

8  Ch 81, verse 28

9  You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil and believe in Allah. And if the People of the Book had believed, it would have surely been better for them. Some of them are believers, but most of them are disobedient (Ch 3, verse 111)

10  Ch 62, verse 3

11  Muslims believe that God sent more than 124,000 (or innumerable) prophets,beginning with Adam

12  Belief in God, angels, all prophets, revealed books, Divine Decree, and Day of Judgment

13  Declaration of God’s unity and acknowledgement that Mohammadsa is God’s prophet, five obligatory prayers, fasting during the designated month, charity,and pilgrimage.

14  Honesty, justice, kindness, helping the needy, laws about marriage, divorce,inheritance, war and peace, human and animal rights, environment, prohibition of social vices, etc., and elevation from instinctive to moral and spiritual behavior

15  Purpose of existence, God’s worship, transitioning from instinctive to moral to spiritual behavior, service to humanity, and ‘finding’ God

16  Ch 5, verse 102-3

17  Ch 3, verse 100; Ch 42, verse 39

18  “This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed upon you my favor and have chosen for you Islam as Religion” (Ch 5, verse 4)

19 (reviewed on 23

January 2016)

20  Qur’an Ch 16, verse 91

21  He it is Who has raised among the Unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves who recites unto them His Signs, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom, although they had been, before, in manifest misguidance; And among others from among them who have not yet joined them. He is the Mighty, the Wise. That is Allah’s grace; He bestows it on whom He pleases; and Allah is the Master of immense grace. (Ch 62, verses 3-5; emphasis added)

22  How would it be with you when the son of Mary will descend among you and you will have a leader raised from among you?( Bukhari, “Kitabul Anbiya” Chapter: Nazul Isa bin Maryam)

23  “The Umma can never die which has met me at one end, and the Messiah, son of Mary, at the other.” (Kitab ibn Majah, Babul Etisam bil Sunnat)

24  Qur’an Ch 6, v 66

25  Atatürk is the founder of modern day Turkey. He established a provisional government in Ankara in 1921 after the Ottoman defeat by Allied forces and embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. He formally abolished Ottoman Sultanate in 1923 and the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924 and made Turkey a secular republic.

26 main-findings

27 statement-by-the-prime-minister

28 pdf

29  Report of the Court of Inquiry constituted under Punjab Act II OF 1954 to enquire into the Punjab Disturbances of 1953, p 218 (see also p 215-218)

30 society-exec/


32  Report of the Court of inquiry constituted under Punjab Act II of 1954 to enquire into the Punjab disturbances of 1953 (aka Munir Commission Report), pg 223

33  Qur’an Ch 15, v 10

34  a person considered a political and religious successor to prophet, Muhammad, and a leader of the entire Muslim community

35  “Eastern Islam and the ‘clash of civilizations’”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved  15 February 2015.

36  What Went Wrong? Bernard Lewis, p 25

37  Ibid, p 23

38  Ibid, p 21

39  The Closing of the Muslim Mind – How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis, p x

40  Traditionalists, hold that human reason was unable to make such judgements, hence all rules had to be entirely based on revelation

41  Rationalist theologians who stood for the primacy of reason, hold that human reason was capable of recognizing good and evil; they concluded that although religious obligations, such as prayers, had to be based entirely on revelation

42  The Closing of the Muslim Mind, – How Intellectual Suicide created the Modern Islamist Crisis, p xi. Also reported in NY Times http://www.nytimes. com/2007/06/11/world/africa/11iht-fatwa.4.6098135.html?pagewanted=all&_ r=0 and BBC


44 (This is part 4 of the five part article being published by Dawn Newspaper.

45  One of the four major schools of thought in Sunni Islamic Jurisprudence; the one with the largest following in the world, as well as the predominant theological orientation to which an overwhelming majority of Pakistani Sunnis subscribe.

46  Arif Humayun, Connivance by Silence: How the Majority’s failure to challenge politically motivated [mis]interpretations of the Qur’an empowered radicals to propagate extremism;, Xlibris Corp (; 2010

47  Oliver Roy, The Failure of Political Islam, 1994

48  Oliver Roy, The Global Islam, 2004

49  Ehud Rosen, “Mapping the Organizational Sources of the Global Delegitimization Campaign against Israel in the UK”, published in late 2010 on the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website, hereinafter “Ehud Rosen”; p 12 (http:// europe/global-islam/2011/) Ch 10.

50  Special Dispatch No. 447, Ehud Rosen, MEMRI, December 6, 2002. (http:// europe/global-islam/2011/)

51  Ed Husain, The Islamist: Why I Became an Islamic Fundamentalist, What I Saw Inside, and Why I Left, product/0143115987?keywords=the%20islamist%20ed%20husain&qid=14512 58350&ref_=sr_11&s=books& sr=1-1; 2009

52  MajidNawaz,Radical:MyJourneyOutOfIslamistExtremism; com/Radical-Journey-Out-Islamist-Extremism/dp/0762791365/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451258485&sr=1-1&keywords=majid+nawaz;2013


54  Arif Humayun, Connivance by Silence: How the Majority’s failure to challenge politically motivated [mis]interpretations of the Qur’an empowered radicals to propagate extremism;, Xlibris Corp (; 2010

55  Dawn Editorial

56  A moderate sect of Islam that rejects violent jihad. This sect was declared non-Muslim by a constitutional amendment to the Pakistani constitution in 1974.

57  Organization of Islamic Cooperation

58  Maajid Nawaz, Radical p 212-3


60 Arif Humayun

61  Zafrullah Khan, Islam and Human Rights, Islam International Publications.

62  Farid Zakaria in CNN Program Broadside: How ISIS shook the world broadcast Monday Nov 23, 2015 (

63 fatwa/articles how/1960258.cms








71  A nonresident senior fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World and the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland. He is an expert on U.S. policy in the Middle East, particularly on the role of the news media in shaping political identity and public opinion in the region.


73  John L. Esposito; The Future of Islam, p 30-33

74  Qur’an Ch 104, v 2-10

75  Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, p 613. IslamInternational Publications, 1998



*The author is “president and co-founder of Circle of Peace, an international initiative to strengthen the bonds of humanity and compassion across faith communities.”