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When Religion Becomes an Excuse

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Throughout time, men have coveted their religious beliefs above all others. This has led to the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and the Holocaust. Thousands upon thousands have died in the defense of their religion, or because they didn't have the "proper" religion according to an opponent.

By deciding that one religion is more worthy than another, over the years, men have set out on foot, horseback, trains or planes across the world to spread "the good news" from one to another. Those who are doing "the spreading" care little whether the people on the receiving end want to receive what is being spread.

Someone's faith is a very personal and sensitive part of their being. You would think with all of the horrible atrocities that have been carried out in the name of religion, we would be more evolved human beings today. But it isn't true! Human beings still covet what they believe in as the "right thing," and want to ridicule, humiliate, or beat down any other religion that doesn't fit their ideology.

Competing doctrines proselytize new believers to expand their base, often in a tone that takes on the sound of a campaign. It can get so bad that it propagates "hate". On the other hand, there are those who act in "the name of religion" when in fact "their acts are far from religious."

In November 2012, I wrote a blog post about an intentional campaign of hate against a religion that was leaked as an unreleased movie by the US Federal parolee Nakoula Basseley Nakoula or "Sam Bacile" who produced "Innocence of Muslims." Leaks about this movie ended up with conservative Egyptian radio hosts who started a domino effect of Muslim anger and terror attacks by al-Qaeda linked groups. My hypothesis at the time was that this anger was what boiled up the extremist group that ended up with the killing of US Ambassador Stevens & staff in Libya.

Americans might relate extreme radio hosts to US media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Rilley who rant on the radio regularly about any number of topics. The two tend to stir up issues often in a reckless manner regardless of which innocent by-stander might be hurt from their zealous tongue lashings.

Why Talk About This Again?

If you are living in any country where an extremist group like al-Qaeda is "moving in" or has been "invited in" either clandestinely or by force, this is a very relevant topic. Al-Qaeda groups use Islam as a cover to enforce their extremist militant agendas. There is nothing religious about how these organizations work, although they have no problem making up rules and doling out punishments based on fantasy interpretations of Islam.

In Syria, the al-Qaeda group ISIS has not only "moved in" on a mission to establish an "independent state," they are in violation of their own al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri who has labeled then infidels. They have now gone rogue and are operating in Syria against Zawahiri's will. Al-Zawahiri has "ordered ISIS back to Iraq" which is their designated terror space. He also said that al-Nusra who is also operating in Syria is the rightful al-Qaeda terror agent for Syria. It is interesting to note that al Zawahiri equally thinks of the United States as infidels. Clearly ISIS has fallen from grace.

ISIS is now operating on their own in Syria and has become a brutal force, leaving a trail of bedlam, death and destruction wherever they go. They punish those who will not bend to their cruelty using "failure to comply to the teachings of the Prophet" as their cover. It is not the Assad regime that they are trying to bend. ISIS is fighting the innocent citizens of Syria, However, there should be no mistake, extremists use Islam as a cover, they are not following Islamic teachings. ISIS is more interested in satisfying their need for pride, greed and jealousy through their own version of jihad.

A Philosophical Problem

A perfect example of how al-Qaeda has kidnapped the Islamic religion as a front for their nefarious plans, is how they have molded "Jihad" to fit their requirements. Jihad being the holy war, the war according to ISIS.

"Jihad" has to be one of the most misunderstood philosophies between Islam and the Western cultures. When most Westerners hear about or read about "Jihad" the assumption is that there is an extremist involved and there is a mission to be wary of.

In fact, "Jihad" literally means "exerted effort" to most Islamic scholars and Muslims, and represents a range of activities. In the Quran, Jihad is projected as "exerting effort to change oneself," and also in certain situations "physically standing against oppressors if that's the only way." Sheikh Jaafar Idris, of the Saudi Arabian Embassy has said, "Religiously, jihad is the expending of utmost effort in upholding and defending justice."

Jihad is of the "heart and soul." It is a "struggle for self-improvement that is little known among non-believers" [those who are not Muslims]. Noha Aboulmagd-Forster, who teaches Arabic at the University of Chicago's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, has said it is the most common interpretation of the term. According to the National Geographic News, "Something widely quoted by the Muslim 'man on the street' is that the most difficult jihad is the one of the soul," she said. "The biggest trouble is not with your enemy but with yourself."

Jihad also "by the tongue" which is a mission of "defending Islam and spreading Islam by scholarly lectures, speeches and debates." It often overlaps with "Da'awah which is an invitation to Islam, or spreading the message of Islam." This can easily be recognized by Christians with theology and missionary work.

Jihad can also be "by the pen or by knowledge." This form of Jihad involves "scholarly research on Islam in aiding the spread and defense of Islam; and publishing written articles in clearing misconceptions and correction of lies against Islam." Examples of such Jihad include the research and discovery of scientific evidence, literature, miracles and proven evidence from the Quran.

Jihad "by the hand" is of action rather than words. It often overlaps with Zakart (charity) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Some examples of Jihad that is "action rather than words" might include giving charity to the poor and needy, saving a person's life, or performing Hajj.

Finally, there is the most confusing Jihad and probably the most abused by extremists. Jihad by the sword, in contrast to Jihad of the "heart and soul" is often referred to as "the lesser Jihad." Jihad of the sword does include the usage of arsenals and engaging in combat, however, it is never to be used as a "misuse of arms to create violence." There are only two situations were Jihad by the sword is allowed to be undertaken:

  1. When someone "attacks you or your nation has been attacked;" making the engagement self-defense. An example of this is attack to a person or persons is the Syrian Government's three year systematic and escalating genocide. Women should not take up arms unless it is specifically in self-defense, in other words they should not join military groups.
  2. When there is an injustice being done, it is a sin for a Muslim to walk away from an evil or unjust act without trying to stop it. Examples of an "injustice" would include massacres against innocent people, especially children, and acts carried out by terrorists.

What Jihad Is Not

  • Jihad is NOT Holy War
  • Jihad is NOT blowing up one's self (Suicide is a sin in Islam)
  • Jihad is NOT killing innocent people
  • Jihad is NOT fighting out of anger and hatred
  • Jihad is NOT killing others just because they don't agree with you

One hundred and seven of the most well-known Muslim scholars from various countries, representing various Islamic groups and organizations signed a statement that was issued on February 7th, 2012. These notable scholars call on Muslims and free people all over the world to support the Free Syrian Army and at the same time call on the Free Syrian Army "to be disciplined in order not to stray from its mission to protect the Syrian people - they should steer clear of harming innocent people and carrying out revenge attacks." Not only is this clearly consistent with the meaning of Jihad, it is consistent with the meaning of "Right to Protect."

"The scholars also announced their support for any sincere effort to curtail the bloodshed in Syria and to protect the Syrian people from a prolonged civil war which could destroy the country. Such support, they said, is a fundamental Islamic requirement. They said that they supported the holding of free elections which would express the will of the people." While these scholars were certainly thinking of this statement in the terms of Islam, it is equally consistent with the Geneva Convention.

Bringing It Back To Syria

Muslims must take care not to fall into the wrong path and initiate a false Jihad. Obviously, in the case of Bashar al-Assad this means not "making up reasons to declare war on citizens by calling them terrorists." That does not absolve him of the sin. In the teachings of the Quran, Allah [God] has said, "don't harm civilians, children, or even infrastructure." Clearly, Assad is doomed to a full after life in the bowels of hell. This is no different than Christians who fall Into the wrong path that end up doing any number of false missions in the name of God such as bombing abortion clinics, attacks on Muslims and Mosques, or the attack on Sikhs and their Temples.

Al-Qaeda groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra are clearly also on their way straight to Satan's fiery bowels of hell. ISIS is a classic terrorist group that makes up rules "on-the-fly." ISIS terrorizes civilians, kills those who won't follow their ideology, and imagines an "Islamic State" [Terrorist State] in Syria. They promote car bombing and other suicide bombing by their al-Qaeda recruits, making them believe they will be glorified in the eyes of Allah and have a direct path to paradise. The unfortunate thing about these suicide bombers is that there is likely a high correlation between the suicide victim and poor religious teaching, depression, low education, poverty and / or abuse. They are pre-conditioned to be prime candidates for al-Qaeda's "suicide bomber force."

The al-Qaeda extremists, both ISIS and al-Nusra, have their own agendas. They are clearly on two different paths. Activists have said "al-Nusra is more moderate than ISIS and does not dream of their own State within Syria." In order to "use Islam as their foundation," they twist what is said in the Quran to justify their wicked plans, spread their brand of hate, and attract the kind of members that will follow their direction without question. Al-Qaeda is the worst kind of hate group; possibly in the US they could be related to the Aryan Nations who follow the teachings of Wesley Swift, a significant figure in the early Christian Identity movement. Swift combined British Israelism, extreme antisemitism and political militancy.

NEWSNIGHT: "This is the duty on me" - exclusive interview with 23-year-old British jihadi in Syria

Published Nov 20, 2013
23-year-old Ifthekar Jaman from Hampshire tells Richard Watson why he traveled to Syria to fight with Al Qaeda-linked ISIS

Rebel or Rogue?: US Army vet charged for joining al-Qaeda militants in Syria

Published on Apr 1, 2013

A US Army veteran has been charged with conspiracy for fighting alongside a Syrian rebel group linked to al-Qaeda. Eric Harroun, known to Syrians as 'the American', has appeared in numerous videos with members of the al-Nusra Front, designated by the US as a terrorist group. His father claims his son was working for the CIA, and would never join a militant group. RT's Gayane Chichakyan examines where the US draws the line between terrorists and so-called freedom-fighters.

Kimberly Jones is a global nomad who writes about international issues, however, she has a special interest in Middle East and North Africa affairs. Read more stories by Kimberly Jones.

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