All religions are open to more than one interpretation. This ambiguousness causes them to split into groups and sub-groups disguised as sects and sub-sects. Often militant-minded, extremist religious groups interpret religions to justify their actions. This means a religion in itself may not be radical, but the way it is interpreted makes it so. Christian Identity groups in Christianity and Vishwa Hindu Parishad in Hinduism are some groups which use religion to justify their extremist agendas.
The creation of Al-Qaeda by the United States was a step in the direction of creating one such group. Al-Qaeda not only interpreted Islam militantly, but also used it to radicalize and inspire many Muslims to join them.
The American war on terror strengthened Al-Qaeda's claims of being the only true representative of the Muslim world. From a Muslim perspective, America killed innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and no Muslim country spoke. The Koran was desecrated and no significant action was taken. Unfair trade and diplomatic double standards made the feeling worse. Poverty, lack of education and absence of basic amenities of life were some other factors which made life hard for these people.
This situation of frustration and chaos was exploited by Al-Qaeda, which, by releasing its inspirational videos and pamphlets, using its cogent mullahs in the neighborhood mosques, and, most importantly, taking retaliatory action in return to the 'subjugation', portrayed itself as the only ray of hope in the backdrop of silence from many Muslim governments. This means Al-Qaeda kept (and still keeps) getting the crucial supply of disillusioned, frustrated young Muslims who want to wage a 'holy war' against the Western 'oppression' and die as 'heroes' and 'martyrs'.
The scenario here indicates that a group of extremist Muslims and its radical interpretations of Islam, with support from America, turned international. The economic and political dynamics in the Muslim world, influenced by American policies, worked in their favor. An increasing number of simple desert dwellers, for which Islam was only a five-times-a-day of prayer, grew discontented and set out on a conquest to spread Islam all over the world and prove its supremacy. Hence, the followers of Islam were turned into radical beings by the political and economic circumstances of their countries. This radicalization causes Islam–a religion teaching its followers to be good Samaritans–to be interpreted as a radical religion.
Links worth visiting:
- The Vishwa Hindu Parishad Website
- Profile: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (BBC News South Asia)
- The Politics of Rage: Why Do They Hate Us? (Farid Zakaria)
- Christian Identity Movement (ReligiousTolerance.org)
Tags: Islam, Terrorism, War on terror, Religion, Politics, Koran