Islamo-Fascist Bigotry: The Persecution of Believers
By Robert Spencer
FrontPageMagazine.com | 10/19/2007
Islamic jihad violence has captured worldwide attention when focused on unbelievers – in the Twin Towers, as well as in London, Madrid, Bali, and in so many other places. But the jihadists don’t hesitate to target fellow Muslims as well, when they regard them as insufficiently Islamic.
The most notorious example of this throughout Islamic history is the Sunni-Shi’ite strife that has broken out in many times and places – and today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Sunni suicide killers and Shi’ite death squads have targeted one another since the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Nor have they hesitated to target holy sites: Sunni jihadists destroyed the tenth-century Shi’ite Al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, in a two bombings in 2006 and 2007. Some estimate that 4,000 have been killed in Sunni-Shi’ite strife in Pakistan since the late 1980s, and in Afghanistan, while the Taliban was in power they waged relentless jihad warfare against the Shi’ite Hazaras.
The Qur’an forbids a Muslim to kill a fellow believer intentionally (4:92), but both sides justify these conflicts by appealing to the Islamic practice of takfir: the declaration that, because of some doctrinal deviation, some group of Muslims are not actually Muslims at all, and their blood can lawfully be shed. One of the chief characteristics of modern day Salafist movements – that is, movements to restore the purity of Islam – is their frequent use of takfir and subsequent targeting of those whom everyone in the world except they themselves would regard as their fellow Muslims. This phenomenon is playing out all over the world today, as Wahhabis and other Salafist preachers take an Islamic hardline into areas where a more relaxed cultural Islam has long prevailed. The result is often violent. In fact, the Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas explains that the controversial term “Islamo-Fascism” was “initially coined by Algerian people struggling for democracy, against armed fundamentalist forces decimating people in our country, then later operating in Europe, where a number of us had taken refuge.” These pro-democracy Algerians were, of course, Muslims – Muslims who were massacred by jihadists in the 1990s for being insufficiently Islamic. Over 150,000 were killed.
In November 2003, a Somali journalist named Bashir Goth complained in the Addis Tribune about a group of Islamic clerics, the “Authority for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” who were “trying to impose draconian moral codes on Somaliland citizens.” Goth was himself a Muslim, but he objected to the Wahhabi Islam that Saudi preachers were bringing into Somalia.
Wahhabism, said Goth, was “an austere and closed school of thought,” deviating from the established schools of Islamic jurisprudence. “Wahhabism,” according to Goth, “is the only school that compels its followers strictly to observe Islamic rituals, such as the five prayers, under pain of flogging, and for the enforcement of public morals to a degree unprecedented in the history of Islam.” He characterized it as “a closed mind sect that turned Islam into a fragile creed that lives in constant fear of children’s toys and games such as Barbie dolls and Pokemon.” Wahhabi clerics, Goth noted, were challenging Somali Muslims: “They want to tell us that over the LAST 14 CENTURIES, our people have been practicing the wrong religion; that since the dawn of Islam, Somali people had lived in vain, worshipped in vain and died in vain. God help them, they all will be burned in hell because they did not follow the correct path -- Wahhabism.”
Their devotion to this “correct path” led them to despise numerous manifestations of Somali culture, despite its Islamic character. “These people,” Goth continued, “are out to eradicate our culture, our traditions, our songs, our poetry and our folklore dances….If we let them have their way, these prophets of ‘purity’ would soon be on a mission to destroy what has remained of our culture.” He listed several female Somali singers, warning that “the cassettes of their songs will be burned in the streets. Just remember Taliban.” Goth went on to explain that the jihadists also wanted to eliminate co-ed schools and compel Somali girls to go out only “fully shrouded with black from head to toe.”
The Wahhabi-influenced Islamic Courts Union that held power in Mogadishu for seven months in 2006 bore out Bashir Goth’s fears. It criticized indigenous Somali practices as not sufficiently Islamic. One militia commander, Mohamed Ali Aden, explained: “We’ve neglected God’s verses for so long. We want our women veiled and we want them at home. We men have to grow our beards.” The Courts forbade music (which is prohibited according to strict Islamic law), dancing and soccer within days of taking power. Women began to don Saudi dress, which covered their faces, rather than traditional Somali garb, which did not.
ICU militiamen were ready to enforce Islamic law with an iron fist: after banning all movies and television viewing, jihadists shot and killed two people who were watching a World Cup soccer match in early July. Raids in Mogadishu led to sixty arrests for the crime of movie-watching. Islamic Courts militiamen also raided a wedding reception in Mogadishu because men and women were attending the celebration together and music was playing. “We had warned the family,” explained Sheikh Iise Salad of the ICU, “not to include in their ceremony what is not allowed by the sharia law. This includes the mixing of men and women and playing music. That is why we raided and took their equipment. What was going there was un-Islamic.” In September 2006, the ICU closed down Radio Jowhar, a station in a town about fifty miles from Mogadishu, because it was playing love songs. ICU Sheikh Mohamed Mohamoud Abdirahman explained that the programming was “un-Islamic.” The station was later allowed to return to the airwaves, without music. The Islamic Courts even decreed that Muslims who did not perform the five daily prayers would be executed.
Salafists target Muslims they regard as insufficiently Islamic also in Darfur, where Arab Muslims attack non-Arab Muslims whose Islam is closer to the cultural version that prevailed in Somalia than to Wahhabi austerity. Dr. Hassan Al-‘Audha of the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood explained in July 2007 that “we are not zealous for this land because of the rivers that flow in it. We are zealous for it because it is the land of Islam.” Another Sudanese leader situation the activities of the brutal Janjaweed militia within the larger struggle of the Muslims against the infidels: “Those scumbags want to play with us? They want to come to the children of Darfur? The children of Darfur will eat them alive. By Allah, there are some ferocious tribes there. They call them Janjaweed, and they want to attack them. There is a tribe called ‘Al-Masiriya.’ Are they men or not? By Allah, when we ride horses and make these battle cries... By Allah, the infidels die of fear. They die of fear.” In 2004, Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir charged that international efforts to aid Darfur were actually targeting Islam. Referring to the 1990s Sudanese jihad against the Christians in the southern part of the country, he said: “The door of the jihad is still open and if it has been closed in the south it will be opened in Darfur.”
That jihad in Darfur features Muslims targeting Muslims. Such episodes, whether in Somalia, Darfur, or anywhere else, emphasize the need for peaceful Muslims to stand up strongly, in deed as well as word, against global jihadist violence. The sword of takfir ought to cut both ways, with peaceful Muslims willing to distinguish themselves from their bloody-minded coreligionists, and to repudiate their murders not just of fellow Muslims but of non-Muslims also.
Meanwhile, Islamic jihadists and Sharia supremacists continue, with increasing confidence and brutality, to impose – violently – their vision of Islam upon their coreligionists.
Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of seven books, eight monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Religion of Peace?.