January 2, 2006


Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam:Muslims and non-Muslims must unite to defeat the Wahhabi ideology (ABDURRAHMAN WAHID, December 30, 2005, Opinion Journal)

The Sunni (as opposed to Shiite) fundamentalists' goals generally include: claiming to restore the perfection of the early Islam practiced by Muhammad and his companions, who are known in Arabic as al-Salaf al-Salih, "the Righteous Ancestors"; establishing a utopian society based on these Salafi principles, by imposing their interpretation of Islamic law on all members of society; annihilating local variants of Islam in the name of authenticity and purity; transforming Islam from a personal faith into an authoritarian political system; establishing a pan-Islamic caliphate governed according to the strict tenets of Salafi Islam, and often conceived as stretching from Morocco to Indonesia and the Philippines; and, ultimately, bringing the entire world under the sway of their extremist ideology. [...]

The formidable strengths of this worldwide fundamentalist movement include:

1) An aggressive program with clear ideological and political goals; 2) immense funding from oil-rich Wahhabi sponsors; 3) the ability to distribute funds in impoverished areas to buy loyalty and power; 4) a claim to and aura of religious authenticity and Arab prestige; 5) an appeal to Islamic identity, pride and history; 6) an ability to blend into the much larger traditionalist masses and blur the distinction between moderate Islam and their brand of religious extremism; 7) full-time commitment by its agents/leadership; 8) networks of Islamic schools that propagate extremism; 9) the absence of organized opposition in the Islamic world; 10) a global network of fundamentalist imams who guide their flocks to extremism; 11) a well-oiled "machine" established to translate, publish and distribute Wahhabi/Salafi propaganda and disseminate its ideology throughout the world; 12) scholarships for locals to study in Saudi Arabia and return with degrees and indoctrination, to serve as future leaders; 13) the ability to cross national and cultural borders in the name of religion; 14) Internet communication; and 15) the reluctance of many national governments to supervise or control this entire process.

We must employ effective strategies to counter each of these fundamentalist strengths. This can be accomplished only by bringing the combined weight of the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims, and the non-Muslim world, to bear in a coordinated global campaign whose goal is to resolve the crisis of misunderstanding that threatens to engulf our entire world. [...]

Those who seek to promote a peaceful and tolerant understanding of Islam must overcome the paralyzing effects of inertia, and harness a number of actual or potential strengths, which can play a key role in neutralizing fundamentalist ideology. These strengths not only are assets in the struggle with religious extremism, but in their mirror form they point to the weakness at the heart of fundamentalist ideology. They are:

1) Human dignity, which demands freedom of conscience and rejects the forced imposition of religious views; 2) the ability to mobilize immense resources to bring to bear on this problem, once it is identified and a global commitment is made to solve it; 3) the ability to leverage resources by supporting individuals and organizations that truly embrace a peaceful and tolerant Islam; 4) nearly 1,400 years of Islamic traditions and spirituality, which are inimical to fundamentalist ideology; 5) appeals to local and national--as well as Islamic--culture/traditions/pride; 6) the power of the feminine spirit, and the fact that half of humanity consists of women, who have an inherent stake in the outcome of this struggle; 7) traditional and Sufi leadership and masses, who are not yet radicalized (strong numeric advantage: 85% to 90% of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims); 8) the ability to harness networks of Islamic schools to propagate a peaceful and tolerant Islam; 9) the natural tendency of like-minded people to work together when alerted to a common danger; 10) the ability to form a global network of like-minded individuals, organizations and opinion leaders to promote moderate and progressive ideas throughout the Muslim world; 11) the existence of a counterideology, in the form of traditional, Sufi and modern Islamic teachings, and the ability to translate such works into key languages; 12) the benefits of modernity, for all its flaws, and the widespread appeal of popular culture; 13) the ability to cross national and cultural borders in the name of religion; 14) Internet communications, to disseminate progressive views--linking and inspiring like-minded individuals and organizations throughout the world; 15) the nation-state; and 16) the universal human desire for freedom, justice and a better life for oneself and loved ones.

Though potentially decisive, most of these advantages remain latent or diffuse, and require mobilization to be effective in confronting fundamentalist ideology.

Note that none of Islamicism's strenghts involve compelling universal ideals, which even Marxism had going for it to some degree.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 2, 2006 2:59 PM

Their strength comes not from wanting, or caring about compelling universal ideas, but eliminating you. Don't forget it.

Posted by: AllenS at January 2, 2006 4:20 PM

How's that a strength? Who has it ever worked for?

Posted by: oj at January 2, 2006 4:47 PM

The Mongols.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at January 2, 2006 5:27 PM

They have no strength; they have only our weakness.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 2, 2006 5:38 PM

Their strength comes from their commitment to Salafi Islam. They don't care about you and your compelling universal ideas. Whether or not it will work, is beside the point. There has been, and will continue to be a lot of blood shed.

Posted by: AllenS at January 2, 2006 5:39 PM

. . . preferably theirs by the gallon.

Posted by: obc at January 2, 2006 5:41 PM

Their way to "universal ideals" is to kill everyone who doesn't share in their ideals. Then, of course, the much smaller group who's left will all share the same ideals, thus making them, by default, "universal". QED

The real question for them is how small does that group have to be?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 2, 2006 5:49 PM


For them, one is probably the right answer. That is one of their weaknesses.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 2, 2006 7:05 PM

Islamicism is universalist in the same ways that other religious fundamentalisms are; There is a way for everyone to get to heaven, but there is only ONE way. The tyranny of the number one is not unique.

Posted by: Grog at January 2, 2006 9:55 PM


No, Islam is universal. Islamicism isn't.

Posted by: oj at January 3, 2006 3:15 AM