Islam ( AN essay of islamic basics)
Islamic Fundamentalism, diverse political and social movements in Muslim countries of North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, which have as their goal national government based on the principles and values of Islam. Although these movements all seek to restore social justice based on sharia (Islamic law), they differ in the form of government they seek and in how strictly they believe the government should interpret the law.
For many people in the West, the term “Islamic fundamentalism” evokes images of hostage crises, embassies under siege, hijackings, and suicide bombers. But these images hardly present a comprehensive picture. The ranks of Islamic fundamentalists include Muslims who provide much-needed services to the poor through Islamic schools, medical clinics, social welfare agencies, and other institutions. While some Islamic militants try to reach their goals through violence, the majority of Islamic activists work through political parties within the electoral process. At the fringes are those like Saudi-born millionaire Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network that engage in a global war of terrorism.
The reassertion of Islam and Islamic values in Muslim politics and society over the past 30 years is often referred to in the West as the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. However, the word fundamentalism, which originated in Christianity, can be misleading when it is used to describe Islam or Muslim countries. The conservative monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the radical socialist state of Libya, and clerically governed Iran have all been described as “fundamentalist,” but this description fails to take into account vast differences in their governments and policies. Political analysts prefer to use the expressions “political Islam” or “Islamism” when discussing Islam’s many-faceted roles in current social and political movements.
II ISLAM AND POLITICS
Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam originated in the Middle East. Adherents of all three religions are considered to be the children of Abraham. Muslims believe that God, whom they call Allah, sent his revelation first to Moses (through the Hebrew scriptures, the Torah), then to Jesus (through the New Testament of the Christian Bible), and finally to Muhammad (through the Islamic scriptures, the Qur'an). Islam is based on the Qur’an and the example of the prophet Muhammad. Islam’s involvement with politics dates back to its beginnings with the founding of a community-state by Muhammad in the 7th century AD. Under the political leadership of Muhammad and his successors, known as caliphs (see Caliphate), Islam expanded from its point of origin in what is now Saudi Arabia into Islamic empires and cultures that extend across North Africa, through the Middle East, and into Asia and Europe (see Spread of Islam). Islam today claims more than 1.2 billion followers, more than any religion except Christianity.
Islam has exercised considerable political and social influence throughout its history. Early rulers in the Middle East and elsewhere claimed legitimacy for their authority in the name of Islam, and Islamic teachings gave structure to almost every facet of society. But these early Muslim states and empires were not theocracies—that is, governments ruled by or subject to religious authority. There never was a theocratic or clergy-run state in the Middle East until the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.
A The Resurgence of Political Islam
The causes of Islam's resurgence vary by country and region, but there are several common threads. Among these is a widespread feeling of failure and loss of self-esteem in many Muslim societies. Most Middle Eastern and North African countries achieved independence from colonial rule by the mid-20th century, but the expectations that accompanied independence were shattered by failed political systems and economies and the negative effects of modernization. Overcrowded cities with insufficient social support systems, high unemployment rates, government corruption, and a growing gap between rich and poor characterized many of the newly independent Muslim nations. Modernization also led to a breakdown of traditional family, religious, and social values.
Many Muslims blamed Western models of political and economic development for these failures. Once enthusiastically pursued as symbols of modernity, these models increasingly came under criticism as sources of moral decline and spiritual malaise. Consequently, many countries became disillusioned with the West, and in particular with the United States. United States support for authoritarian Muslim rulers who backed Westernization, such as Iran's Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, as well as America’s pro-Israel policy, strengthened anti-Western feelings.
Israel's crushing victory over its Muslim neighbors in the 1967 Six-Day War became a symbol of this sense of failure. After defeating the combined forces of several Arab nations, Israel seized conquered territory from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. The loss of Jerusalem, the third holiest city of Islam, was particularly devastating to Muslims around the world.
The Islamic revival has affected both the private and public lives of Muslims. Many Muslims have recommitted themselves to Islam's basic tenets by attending mosque, fasting, wearing Islamic dress, emphasizing family values, and abstaining from alcohol and gambling. Publicly, the revival has manifested itself in the form of Islamic banks, religious programming in the media, a proliferation of religious literature, and the emergence of new Islamic associations dedicated to political and social reform.
As Islamic symbols, slogans, ideology, and organizations became prominent fixtures in Muslim politics in the 1980s, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, Pakistan’s General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, and other government leaders appealed to Islam in order to enhance their legitimacy and authority and to mobilize popular support. Movements in opposition to the government in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other countries did the same.
The most successful Islamic opposition movement culminated in the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. Throughout the 1980s, Iran inspired antigovernment protests in Kuwait and Bahrain, and helped create Islamic militias, such as Lebanon's Hezbollah (Party of God) and Islamic Jihad, both of which were involved in hijackings and hostage-takings. These acts, combined with the 1981 assassination of Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat by religious extremists, contributed to the image of a monolithic radical Islamic “fundamentalist” threat to governments in the Muslim world and the West.
Distinguishing between moderate Islamic groups that participate within society and violent revolutionaries is critical to understanding the resurgence of Islam. Many opponents of political Islam have charged that all Islamic movements are extremist groups that seek to “hijack democracy” and manipulate the political system in order to gain power and impose their will. Some experts argue that this type of reaction contributes to the radicalization of moderate Islamists.
B Beliefs Behind Political Islam
A number of beliefs and assumptions lie at the heart of the Islamic political revival. The first of these is that the Muslim world is in a state of decline, and the cause of this decline is departure from the straight path of Islam. The cure, therefore, is a return to Islam in personal and public life, which will ensure the restoration of Islamic identity, values, and power. Moreover, Islam is a total or comprehensive way of life as stipulated in the Qur’an, mirrored in the example of Muhammad and the first Muslim community-state organized by Muhammad at Medina, and embodied in the comprehensive nature of the sharia. Thus, the renewal and revitalization of Muslim governments and societies require the restoration or reimplementation of Islamic law, which provides the blueprint for an Islamically guided and socially just state and society.
Although political Islam condemns the Westernization and secularization of society, it does not condemn modernization as such. Science and technology are accepted, but the pace, direction, and extent of change are to be subordinated to Islamic belief and values in order to guard against the penetration of and excessive dependence on Western values.
C Beliefs of the Radical Minority
While the majority of Islamic activists seek to work within the system and bring about change from within society, a relatively small but significant radical extremist minority believe they have a mandate from God to carry out God’s will. This extremist minority further believes that because the rulers in the Muslim world are authoritarian and anti-Islamic, violent change is necessary. They seek to topple governments, seize power, and impose their vision or interpretation of Islam upon society.
Radical Islamic movements often operate on the assumption that Islam and the West are locked in an ongoing battle that reaches back to the early days of Islam, a battle that has been heavily influenced by the legacy of the Crusades and European colonialism, and that today is the product of a Judeo-Christian conspiracy. This conspiracy, they believe, is the result of superpower neocolonialism and the power of Zionism (support for a Jewish nation, now the state of Israel). These radical movements blame the West (Britain, France, and especially the United States) for its support of un-Islamic or unjust regimes and biased support for Israel in the face of the displacement of the Palestinian people (see Palestine). Thus, violence against such governments and their representatives as well as Western multinationals is regarded as legitimate self-defense.
Islamic radicals also believe that Islam is not simply an ideological alternative for Muslim societies but a theological and political imperative. Because it is God’s command, implementation must be immediate, not gradual, and the obligation to implement is incumbent on all true Muslims. Therefore, those who hesitate, remain apolitical, or resist—individuals and governments—are no longer to be regarded as Muslims. They are atheists or unbelievers, enemies of God, against whom all true Muslims must wage holy war in the form of jihad.
III THE FACES OF POLITICAL ISLAM TODAY
At the beginning of the 21st century, Islam remains a major presence and political force throughout the Muslim world. The question is not whether Islam has a place and role in society, but how best for it to assume that role. While some Muslims wish to pursue a more secular path, others call for a more visible role of Islam in public life. The majority of Islamic activists and movements function and participate within society. A distinct minority are radical extremists who attempt to destabilize or overthrow governments and commit acts of violence and terrorism within their countries.
During the late 1980s and the 1990s Islamic political organizations began to participate in elections, when allowed, and to provide much-needed educational and social services in a number of countries. Headed by educated laity rather than the clergy, these Islamic organizations attracted a broad spectrum of members, from professionals and technocrats to the uneducated and poor. Candidates with an Islamic orientation were elected to high office in several countries. In Turkey, the leader of the Islamist Welfare Party held the office of prime minister from 1996 to 1997. In Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, a founder of the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (ABIM), served as deputy prime minister from 1993 until his dismissal in a power struggle in 1998. In the first democratic elections in Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, leader of perhaps the largest Islamic movement, the Nahdlatul Ulama, was elected president in 1999. But popular support for him eroded as Indonesia’s economic problems worsened, and he was removed from office in 2001.
The primary concerns of Islamic movements are domestic or national, although international issues also have shaped Muslim politics. Among the more influential issues have been the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem; the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980s; the devastating impact of United Nations sanctions against Iraq following the Persian Gulf War (1991) and the consequent deaths of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children; and forceful efforts to suppress Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Kashmīr. In addition, countries such as Iran, Libya, and Saudi Arabia have sought to extend their influence internationally by supporting government Islamization programs as well as Islamist movements elsewhere.
A review of the current situation in key areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwestern Asia indicates the directions and diverse forms that Muslim politics has taken during recent decades.
Until the late 1980s analysts believed that North Africa, like Turkey, was beyond the reach of any serious challenge from Islamic activism. Tunisia had had one-man rule after gaining independence from France in 1957; Habib Bourguiba served as the country’s president from 1957 to 1987. In 1987 Tunisia’s prime minister Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali seized power from Bourguiba, who had been declared senile.
Ben Ali promised democratization and held parliamentary elections in 1989. Islamic candidates won 14.5 percent of the vote nationwide and a stunning 30 percent in several cities. The Tunisian government responded by suppressing the most effective Islamic opposition movement, Ennahda, through widespread arrests and trials held before specially created military courts. International human rights organizations strongly criticized these repressive actions. The government’s brief flirtation with democratization came to an end as President Ben Ali in 1994 and 1999 won reelection by 99 percent of the vote.
Whereas the Tunisian government decapitated the Islamic movement, driving its leaders into exile or underground, in Algeria the military set in motion an escalating spiral of indiscriminate violence and counterviolence. Under its constitution Algeria had single-party rule by the National Liberation Front (Front de Libération Nationale, FLN), the group that won independence from France in 1962. A revised constitution in 1989 permitted other political parties to challenge the FLN. That year the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) became North Africa’s first legal Islamic political party.
Led by a university professor, Shaykh Ali Abbasi al-Madani, the FIS flourished as the FLN-led government failed to resolve Algeria’s social and economic problems. Through mosques and an effective social welfare network, the FIS built a national organization and emerged as the strongest opposition party. Substantial support for FIS came from the unemployed, at a time when Algeria’s unemployment rate had surpassed 30 percent, and from socially marginalized youths. But FIS supporters also included small-business owners and prosperous merchants, civil servants, university professors, physicians, lawyers, and other professionals
In 1990 Algeria held local elections, its first multiparty election since independence. The FIS captured 54 percent of the vote, and it scored an even more surprising victory in 1992 in the first round of parliamentary elections. As Islamists celebrated after the elections, the Algerian military intervened and forced the resignation of Algeria’s president. The military arrested more FIS leaders, outlawed the FIS, seized FIS assets, and imprisoned more than 10,000 Algerians in desert camps. These actions led to a protracted civil war in which the majority of Algerians found themselves caught between extremist factions. On one side were hardline military and security forces whose only strategy was the eradication of Islamism; on the other, the equally uncompromising radical Armed Islamic Group.
Brutality and bloodshed continued into the late 1990s and early 2000s. The FIS was excluded from 1997 elections for the National Assembly (lower house of the Algerian legislature), but two other Islamically oriented parties together won 107 of the 380 seats. Presidential elections in 1999 were flawed by the last-minute withdrawal of all six opposition candidates, who charged that the military had rigged the elections.
Political Islam in Egyptian society includes a spectrum of organizations, from radical and violent to mainstream and nonviolent. The Muslim Brotherhood gained strength during the 1970s under Egypt’s president Anwar Sadat and began participating in the political process during the 1980s under his successor, Hosni Mubarak. Radical Islamic organizations, such as Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Group (al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya), turned to violence in the 1990s, attacking government officials, institutions, fellow Muslims, Christians, and foreign tourists. Their goal was to destabilize and overthrow the Egyptian government.
The Mubarak government launched a counteroffensive against the radical groups, imprisoning more than 20,000 Islamists, many of them without charge. Military courts not subject to law were created, and laws were enacted to restrict freedom of the press, take control of mosques, and prevent elected Islamists from heading professional associations. The slaughter of 58 foreign tourists at the historic town of Luxor in 1997 seemed to indicate the powerlessness of the government. By 2000, however, the Mubarak government had gained the upper hand and weakened the radical movements.
Despite the government’s apparent success in containing Islamic radicalism, Egyptian society has become more Islamized by moderate Islamists at the grassroots level, however. Young, university-educated professionals preach to middle- and upper-class audiences. Physicians, journalists, lawyers, and political scientists—male and female—speak out and write on issues of Islamic reform, such as pluralism (different beliefs) within Islam, women’s rights, and social justice for the poor. Islamic schools, clinics, hospitals, and social services, as well as Islamic banks and publishing houses, offer an alternative set of institutions and an indirect indictment of the government’s inability to meet peoples’ needs. Elections in 2000 were the first to be supervised by Egypt’s independent judiciary and thus free of the ballot tampering that characterized previous elections. Although the Muslim Brotherhood was banned from participating as a legal party, its members, running independently or with other parties, won 17 of the 444 contested seats in the legislature.
In 1979 Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an aging, white-bearded Muslim cleric came to power in Iran, having toppled Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, a modern ruler and close ally of the United States. The Iranian revolution was the product of a long, slow buildup of opposition to the shah, who came to power in 1941. In 1953 the shah was forced to flee the country by supporters of Iran’s prime minister, who sought to nationalize Iran's oil industry. But the shah was reinstated within a week with the help of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He maintained a close relationship with the United States and Europe afterward.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the shah used his country's enormous oil revenues to finance a modernization program. But the reforms tended to benefit urban areas and the educated elite rather than Iran's thousands of rural villages. Opponents warned that the shah’s uncritical economic, military, and cultural dependence on the West, referred to as “Westoxification,” threatened Iranian identity, autonomy, and culture.
The Iranian revolution (1978-1979) was supported by a broad-based alliance of religious and political opponents, mobilized under the umbrella of Shia Islam, the dominant form of Islam in Iran. An existing network of clergy, mosques, and seminaries in every city, town, and village provided necessary organization and a means for communication and mobilization of the people. Although the government banned political meetings, it could not close the mosques, where Iranians heard sermons denouncing injustice and oppression. Khomeini, exiled in 1964 for criticizing the shah, became a symbol of the opposition. The shah's military and security forces responded with increased ferocity against opponents. The shah's unyielding stance transformed his opponents into revolutionaries. As a stunned world looked on, the shah's government fell. Khomeini returned from exile, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was born.
Although many Iranians expected the clergy would return to their mosques and seminaries soon after the revolution, Iran became a clergy-governed state within a year. Khomeini sat at the apex of power and served as the final authority on all domestic and international matters. He silenced all effective opposition, secular and religious, and many Iranians fled the country.
After Khomeini's death in 1989, Iran witnessed an expansion of political participation and dissent. Public discussion and debate became more open, and the number of independent newspapers, magazines, and journals grew significantly. But perhaps the most stunning example of increased moderation and pluralism in Iran was the victory of Muslim cleric Mohammed Khatami in Iran's 1997 presidential election.
Widely seen as moderate and progressive, Khatami pursued two major policies: creating a more open and tolerant society at home and promoting dialogue with the West abroad. In January 1998 Khatami proposed cultural exchanges with the United States as a means of breaking down the “wall of mistrust” between the two countries. As a result, Iran and the United States embarked on more open communication and exchange.
In its third decade, the Islamic Republic of Iran is locked in a struggle to redefine its political and economic future at home and abroad. Reformists jockey with antireform forces for political power. In elections in 2000, pro-Khatami progressive candidates gained a plurality of seats in parliament. After this victory conservative forces flexed their political muscle, leading many of Khatami’s key supporters in government to resign. Some government officials were imprisoned, and the judiciary closed down more than 30 reformist newspapers and journals. Conservative clergy retained control of the major institutions of power. Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme spiritual leader, expanded his authority to encompass parliamentary affairs and the once independent seminaries. Thus, the significance and impact of President Khatami’s quiet revolution and the future direction of Iran and its posture in international politics remained difficult to fully assess or predict in late 2001.
Pakistan moved toward greater Islamization of state and society under General Zia ul-Haq, the country’s president from 1978 to 1988. A side effect of Pakistan’s Islamization was increased conflict between different religious communities and organizations, especially between the Sunni Muslim majority and the Shia Muslim minority. Although anti-Shia sentiment had existed in Pakistan, the 1990s saw a dramatic upsurge of religious radicalism and violence. Armed with automatic weapons and explosives, militant Sunni organizations fought equally militant Shia organizations.
During this period of religious violence, Pakistan, long regarded as a stable ally of the United States, became a training ground for guerrilla warriors and Islamic terrorists. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and a ten-year Soviet-Afghan War followed. Afghan rebels set up camp in Pakistan, where Muslims from other countries joined them to train as guerrillas. Known as mujahideen, the guerrillas were regarded as freedom fighters in their campaign against Soviet forces, and they received substantial financial and military assistance from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other countries throughout the 1980s. After the war ended with Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, many of the mujahideen returned home to such countries as Algeria, Egypt, and Pakistan. There they contributed to the spread of radical Islam. Others remained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s military, Islamized under Zia, supported the mujahideen. The military developed close ties with the Taliban (the movement that controlled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until November 2001) and with militant Pakistani groups. So did many of Pakistan’s madrasas (religious seminaries). Pakistan and Afghanistan together supported the mujahideen in their struggle against India in Kashmir, disputed territory claimed by both Pakistan and India.
Although Afghanistan’s mujahideen succeeded in driving out Soviet occupation forces in 1988 and 1989, their victory did not bring peace to Afghanistan. The rebels ousted Afghanistan’s central government in 1992, but civil war then broke out among factions within the mujahideen. The shared Islamic identity that had served to inspire, mobilize, and unify the mujahideen in their jihad against the Soviet Union was eclipsed by Afghanistan’s age-old tribal, ethnic, and religious (Sunni-Shia) differences and rivalries.
F1 Rise of the Taliban
A new militia, Taliban, first appeared in late 1994 and subsequently swept across Afghanistan, uniting 90 percent of the country under its rule and declaring the Islamic State of Afghanistan in 1996. Taliban, which means “group of madrasa students,” included many veterans of the Afghan-Soviet war who had returned to the madrasas after the departure of the Soviet troops. Although portrayed as seminary students with no military background, they were in fact a highly trained force.
The Taliban were initially hailed as liberators who secured towns, made the streets safe for ordinary citizens, and cleaned up corruption and graft. But they also imposed puritanical doctrines. The Taliban barred women from school and the workplace, required that men wear beards and women the full-length all-enveloping chador, banned music and television, and imposed strict physical punishments on those who deviated from these policies.
The Pashtun, Afghanistan’s dominant ethnic group, dominated the Taliban. Using religion for legitimacy, the Pashtun Taliban fought “holy” wars to subdue other ethnic and Muslim groups in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s intolerance led to the slaughter of many of Afghanistan’s Shia minority, whom the Taliban disdained as heretics. Many Muslim religious leaders denounced the Taliban’s policies as too extreme and a deviation from Islam. Muslim governments as diverse as Iran’s and Egypt’s condemned the Taliban’s violations of human rights, as did Western governments and international human rights organizations. Neither the United Nations nor most of the global community acknowledged the Taliban’s legitimacy as Afghanistan’s governing body.
The Taliban brand of Islam produced a “jihad culture” of Islamic radicalism and revolution. The classical Islamic belief that jihad is a defense of Islam and the Muslim community against aggression was transformed into a militant worldview that targets Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This worldview feeds off political fragmentation and economic failures as well as religious and ethnic differences and conflicts. Many groups that embrace the jihad culture have received support from Saudi Arabia. With the funding has come the influence of Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative Wahhabi reform movement, which promotes a narrow, militant worldview.
Afghanistan under the Taliban provided a sanctuary and training ground for young Islamic rebels in Southeast and Central Asia. The effects are felt from Chechnya, an autonomous republic in Russia, to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. Afghanistan also has provided a haven for Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born veteran of the Afghan-Soviet war, and his export of global terrorism.
F2 Osama bin Laden and Global Terrorism
Attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, on September 11, 2001, provided a grim reminder of Osama bin Laden’s reputation as the godfather of global terrorism. The Afghanistan-based multimillionaire and his umbrella organization of international terrorist groups, al-Qaeda, were soon identified as the prime suspects in the attacks. Intelligence analysts have linked bin Laden and al-Qaeda to a series of attacks, many of them in his self-declared jihad against the United States.
American intelligence experts regard Osama bin Laden as a major funder of terrorist groups involved in the following attacks: bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993; firefight in Somalia in 1993 that left 18 Americans dead; bombing of a military training center run by the United States in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1995; bombing of the Khobar Towers, an apartment complex that housed U.S. servicemen in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996; the killing of 58 tourists at Luxor, Egypt, in 1997; bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998; and an attack against the USS Cole while it refueled in Yemen in 2000. He has admitted his complicity in the attacks in Somalia; expressed his admiration for the “heroes” responsible for the Riyadh and Dhahran bombings, while denying his involvement; threatened attacks against Americans who remain on Saudi soil; and promised retaliation internationally for cruise missile attacks. In 1998 he announced the creation of a transnational coalition of extremist groups known as The Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders.
After the September 11 attacks, the United States declared a war on terrorism to capture bin Laden, destroy al-Qaeda training bases in Afghanistan, and replace the Taliban with a government less friendly to terrorists. Aerial bombing attacks destroyed al-Qaeda bases and helped a coalition of anti-Taliban forces called the Northern Alliance gain control of Afghanistan. The whereabouts of bin Laden, however, remained unknown.
Osama bin Laden’s message resonates with the feelings of many in the Arab and Muslim world. A sharp critic of U.S. policy toward the Muslim world, bin Laden has denounced U.S. support for Israel, which he blames for the failure of the Middle East peace process. He has condemned U.S. refusal to censure Israel’s 1996 shelling of civilians in Qana, Lebanon, and U.S. insistence on continued economic sanctions against Iraq, which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, especially among children. He has been equally critical of what he dismisses as “new crusades” in the Persian Gulf, in particular the substantial U.S. military and economic presence and involvement in Saudi Arabia. He has embraced populist causes such as the “liberation” of Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir, Kosovo, and other areas.
Bin Laden and other Islamic extremists justify their use of violence with the claim that most Muslim and Western governments are corrupt oppressors that themselves resort to violence and terrorism. These extremists use Islam to motivate their followers and rationalize their actions. However, they misinterpret and misapply Islamic beliefs. Claiming that Islam and the Muslim world are under siege, they call for a jihad. Although jihad refers to the right and duty of Muslims to defend themselves, their community, and their religion from unjust attack, extremists use the concept to legitimate acts of violence and terrorism.
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