May 30, 2002


Taliban, al-Qaeda linked to Kashmir (John Diamond, 05/29/2002, USA TODAY)
Al-Qaeda and Taliban members are helping organize a terror campaign in Kashmir to foment conflict between India and Pakistan, U.S. intelligence officials and foreign diplomats say.

Here's a paradoxical thing about al Qaeda : presumably they are trying to create a perfected Islam and they view this as an Islam that is fairly fundamentalist, but they are in the process of destroying the very states that are closest to their ideal.

Here's how Karen Armstrong describes the historic mission of Islam :

In Islam, Muslims have looked for God in history. Their sacred scripture, the Koran, gave them a historical mission. Their chief duty was to create a just community in which all members, even the most weak and vulnerable, were treated with absolute respect. The experience of building such a society and living in it would give them intimations of the divine, because they would be living in accordance with God's will. A Muslim had to redeem history, and that meant that state affairs were not a distraction from spirituality but the stuff of religion itself. The political wellbeing of the Muslim community was a matter of supreme importance. Like any religious ideal, it was almost impossibly difficult to implement in the flawed and tragic conditions of history, but after each failure Muslims had to get up and begin again.

Muslims developed their own rituals, mysticism, philosophy, doctrines, sacred texts, laws and shrines like everybody else. But all these religious pursuits sprang directly from the Muslims' frequently anguished contemplation of the political current affairs of Islamic society. If state institutions did not measure up to the Quranic ideal, if their political leaders were cruel or exploitative, or if their community was humiliated by apparently irreligious enemies, a Muslim could feel that his or her faith in life's ultimate purpose and value was in jeopardy. Every effort had to be expended to put Islamic history back on track, or the whole religious enterprise would fall, and life would be drained of meaning. Politics was, therefore, what Christians would call a sacrament: it was the arena in which Muslims experienced God and which enabled the divine to function effectively in the world. Consequently, the historical trials and tribulations of the Muslim community-- political assassinations, civil wars, invasions, and the rise and fall of the ruling dynasties-were not divorced from the interior religious quest, but were of the essence of the Islamic vision. A Muslim would meditate upon the current events of their time and upon past history as a Christian would contemplate an icon, using the creative imagination to discover the hidden divine kernel. An account of the external history of the Muslim people cannot, therefore be of mere secondary interest, since one of the chief characteristics of Islam has been its sacralization of history.

Presumably, for radical Muslims at least, the Taliban's brand of thoroughly Islamicized society and rather fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran would be some kind of a beau ideal. Yet, thanks to al Qaeda, the Taliban is gone and Afghanistan is on its way to becoming a somewhat secularized society.

Now al Qaeda has fled into Pakistan, which, though still fairly secular, has a strong fundamentalist movement and has therefore had to move in the direction of more thorough Islamicization. But by clustering there al Qaeda invites American attacks and by jumping ugly with India they may be courting the near annihilation of Pakistan.

Al Qaeda is practically causing its own domino effect, toppling the societies that most closely approximate its own vision for Islam. They can probably only find sanctuary in the most extremist regions of the Islamic world, but in so doing they make these regions targets of Western aggression. Having set out to extend fundamentalist Islam across the globe, they may end by having decimated it utterly. They have become a Judas goat, leading the lambs to the slaughter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 30, 2002 7:48 AM
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