November 17, 2001
AN END TO THE HIJACKING OF ISLAM?
President Bush has repeatedly declared the
U.S. war is not against Muslims, but against Osma bin Laden, who tried
to ''hijack'' Islam from its pacific past, the Al Qaeda international
terrorist network he created and the Taliban regime which allowed that
terrorism to flourish.
The extent to which bin Laden hijacked Islam
and distorted it to suit his own ambitions can be seen clearly in the
past remarkable week during which the Taliban (''Islamic students'') was
routed from most of Afghanistan.
In each of the cities liberated by the
Northern Alliance, men celebrated by shaving their mandatory
beards that had to be four inches long (but no longer). Women showed
uncovered faces on the streets for the first time in five years and
Taliban-banned Afghan music poured out of cafes. Grateful residents
draped flowers over tanks that liberated Kabul.
The extreme brand of Islam mandated by the
Taliban prohibited women from working or going to school or even leaving
their home without a male escort and required women to wear full-length
burquas. Up to 250 women have been beaten in a single day in Kabul for
dress code violations by religious police. Men with short beards were
thrown in jail until their beards grew to four inches. Television, music
and photos of people were illegal. Violators of these strict rules were
beaten by religious police, jailed, mutilated or killed.
A headline in ''The Washington Post'' summed
up the mood: ''We were in prison. Now we are free.'' The Taliban
religious police disappeared. Residents dug up once banned TV sets that
were buried in their back yards. Kabul residents danced to Afghan music
with joyous abandon.
The Taliban practices clash dramatically with
Islam as practiced by 1.2 billion Muslims around the world. ''That rigid
interpretation of the practice of Islam imposed by the Taliban has been
rejected by most of us,'' said Nihad Awad, director of the Council on
American Islamic Relations. ''Imagine if Muslim women did not become
''God does not judge people by their
appearance, but by looking into their hearts. To focus only on people's
appearance (such as seeing if men wear beards) is unhealthy and
unIslamic. The Koran says, `There is no compulsion in religion.'' See
Sura (Chapter) 2, verse 256.
No compulsion in religion? Islamic militants
killed 16 Christians worshiping on a Sunday in Pakistan. Why? Muslim
leaders issued fatwas (religious decrees) to kill two Pakistani
Christians for every Afghan Muslim dying in American bombing raids. In
eastern Indonesia, white-uniformed militiamen of Laska Jihad, who are
forcibly converting Christians to Islam, killed 5,000 Christians,
according to Paul Marshall of the Center for Religious Freedom. Churches
were burned in Bangladesh, the Phillippines and Sudan where 2 million
Christians have been killed.
Much of this Muslim violence can be traced
back to bin Laden and the Al Qaeda training provided to thousands of
young militants in Afghanistan and Sudan camps, who were then provided
financial and logistical support for terrorism by groups such as Laska
It has also become starkly clear this week
that the Taliban forces were not primarily Afghan troops, but thousands
of foreign Muslims called ''the Arab Brigade.'' They came from Saudi
Arabia, Egypt Iran, and Pakistan, inspired by bin Laden's record of
fighting Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, his anti-American rhetoric
and his success in bombing U.S. embassies.
These foreign troops were integrated into the
Taliban army and appear to have formed the core of its front line
defense. One of the first to report on this phenomenon was James
Phillips of the Heritage Foundation. He notes that bin Laden ''is more
of a threat to Muslims than non-Muslims. He has killed more Muslims (in
the Northern Alliance) in many different massacres (up to 500 at a time)
This explains the quick collapse of the
Taliban. Its imposition of extreme customs that were alien to Afghan
Islam pushed by young foreigners who had no sympathy for Afghanistan,
made them hated by other Afghanis.
Hopefully, the collapse of the Taliban will
thwart the hijacking of Islam by bin Laden. It should now be easier to
find him and Al Qaeda leaders. However, even if they are caught, what's
frightening is that thousands of bin Laden disciples are left behind in
Muslims in the U.S. need to be heard, such as
Dr. Sayyid Syeed, of the Islamic Society of North America, who says:
''America's greatness is not in its buildings, but in a society in which
everyone from different races and religions coexist. These ideals need
to be projected.''
Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.