House of Saud's internal struggle to reclaim key tenets of Islamic faith from Al Qaeda.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Ibrahim Al Maiman, a respected Muslim scholar, calls himself “a son” of Al Imam Muhammed bin Saud University, theological citadel of Saudi Arabia's ultraconservative version of Islam.
This makes Al Maiman singularly qualified for his new role in a crucial ideological struggle that is taking place in the kingdom and throughout the Muslim world. He is charged with organizing an international conference on the ancient Islamic practice of takfir. More than just another academic conference, it is part of a concerted effort by the House of Saud and top theologians here to reclaim core concepts of Islam that have been warped and misinterpreted by militants.
Simply put, takfir means declaring a fellow Muslim an apostate, or infidel, because of behavior deemed unIslamic.
In recent decades, extremist groups like Al Qaeda have used takfir — hijacked may be a better word — as the theological underpinning for their ideology and to justify murdering other Muslims.
Across the Middle East, they invoke takfir to kill and threaten women for not covering their hair, Iraqis for working with American occupiers, novelists for writing racy scenes, television executives for airing romantic soap operas and government officials for being part of what extremists call takfiri, or infidel, regimes.
“The danger of this ideology is greater now than it has ever been,” said Al Maiman on a recent rainy night in Riyadh. “It is the most dangerous because whoever adopts this ideology ... also believes that he has the duty of ... expressing it through acts. And they reach a stage where they pay [with] their own lives ... for this belief.”
Ibrahim Al Maiman, respected Muslim scholar. (Caryle Murphy/GlobalPost)