“One day not very far, Europe will wake up to a nightmare”. I made this comment to friends during a 2012 visit to Europe. They swiftly dismissed it. Yet just two years later, with DAESH (Islamic State) supporters demonstrating in Europe’s streets, and European citizens joining DAESH to fight in Syria and Iraq, the nightmare seems to be upon them.
What is more dangerous to Europe is not the state itself but rather “the DAESH within”. Europe’s governments seem at a loss to know how to address this, how to stop it happening. Their responses are ineffective, even futile. There are no easy solutions, but Europe must tackle the main roots of the problem: finances, fanatical doctrines controlling the preaching of Islam in Europe, and European policies towards the Middle East and immigration.
These issues are complex, and the history, doctrines, and aims of DAESH, along with some of the main differences in the mindset of its Western European supporters must be grasped if the magnitude of the problem facing Europe is to be understood.
The beliefs of DAESH are rooted in Wahhabism, a branch of Islam founded in the 19thcentury which has spawned several branches since then. Its founder Muhammad ibn Abd Al-Wahhab made an alliance with Muhammad bin Saud to revolt against the Ottoman Empire and establish the first Saudi state, based on the “true” Islam: the Wahhabi doctrine. Wahhabism advocates returning to the earliest Islamic fundamentals and regards anything that came after the first three generations of Muslims as an unnecessary innovation. That is why attempts by Saudi rulers to bring modernism, and their alliance with the USA have been considered a betrayal of Wahhabi principles. This perceived betrayal produced Al-Qaeda, which later developed to DAESH.
Parallel to Wahhabism,Islamic Modernismwas developing, primarily in Egypt’s Al Azharand was pioneered by scholars such as Rifa’a Al-Tahtawi, Jamal ad-Din Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh. They tried to integrate Islamic principles with European social theories and advocated critical reexamination of classical concepts of Islam and the revival of Islam through re-reading it with nineteenth century eyes.
The Finances (Money Talks)
Islamic Modernism was dominant in the Islamic world, through Al-Azhar, up until the 1960s. This changed with the 1973 oil crisis quadrupled the price of oil: it provided Wahhabism with all the resources it needed to reign and even take-over the Al-Azhar University. Since then, the Wahhabi movement has spent billions of dollars on printing books, sending missionaries, financing scholars all over the Islamic world and the wider world. This same petrodollar still finances DAESH today.
Sugar Coated Poison
Many of the texts and explanations of Wahhabi scholars went beyond the views of resistance to modernity and critical thinking. The views of early scholars like Ibn Taymiyyah and modern ones like Abul A’laMaududi go beyond the early Islamic teaching of tolerance, introducing a harsh fanaticism based on their own social and political circumstances. For example, Ibn Taymiyyah’s comments that Druze are infidels and thus “their women can be taken into captivity, and men should be killed wherever they be and cursed as they were described” are still referenced today in the most prestigious Saudi Fatwa institution (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta’).
In his book, “Jihad in Islam”, Maududi wrote:
“Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam, regardless of the country or the nation which rules it…. the objective of the Islamic ‘ jihād’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of state rule.”
One of the main concepts DAESH’s Jihad relies on is Al-Hakimiyyah or sovereignty of God. In his book Milestones, Sayyid Qutb, one of Muslim Brotherhoods’ most respected scholars and one that inspired Al-Qaeda founders, advocates Al-Hakimiyyah and puts the milestones and steps for Islamic Jihad as means by which to enforce Shari’ah. He writes, “to proclaim the authority and sovereignty of God means to eliminate all human kingship”, “the bringing about of the enforcement of the Divine law (Shari’ah) and the abolition of man-made laws cannot be achieved only through preaching”. He goes on to assert an offensive Jihad: “This cannot be attained unless both ‘preaching’ and ‘the movement’ are used”. Regarded by Europe as a – Democratic Moderate Political Islamic group – the Muslim Brotherhood operates freely in Europe and has a pivotal role in the spreading of Islamic preaching, together with these radical concepts through a well planned, organized, tightly connected network.
In dealing with “the DAESH within” Europe needs to understand that preaching the tolerant teachings of Islam through Wahhabi scholars’ texts and by Wahhabi sheikhs paves the way for later accepting the violent fanatic interpretations.
Western colonialism, Europe’s carving up of the Middle East in the aftermath of both world wars, and the fall of the one united “Islamic State” (Ottoman Caliphate) have left many Muslims feeling disempowered, bitter and resentful. The Sykes-Picot Agreement, which divided Ottoman lands between Britain and France in the aftermath of the First World War, as well as the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 are two manifestations of this onslaught. It is very important that Europe understands the role of this history in the popularity of DAESH. Fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam provides some Muslims with both a sense of power, and a rhetorical and physical means by which to confront the object of their resentment: the West.
While Europe has gone a long way in separating religion from state, Wahhabism on the other hand considers Islam as “a religion and a state”: there is no separation, the state must adopt and implement what Islam – more precisely the Wahhabi version – dictates. Hassan El Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, preached that the Islamic State incorporates “an Islamic nationalism that is far superior to any local nationalism.”. This is the main aim for the Muslim Brotherhood . This is why today DAESH do not recognize borders and aim at removing them.
While laws are drafted by the will of the people in Europe, according to Wahhabism only Islamic Sharia is the law: “Those who rule by secular laws believing that they are more appropriate and propitious than the revealed Laws of Allah are Kafirs (disbelievers) according to the unanimous view of Muslim scholars”.
Western post-Enlightenment liberal thought acknowledges that society and its values are in constant development, on the other hand according to Wahhabism society and its values must return and remain confined to teachings of 7th century Arabic peninsula.
These differences constitute conflicts to many European Muslims adopting the Wahhabi doctrine, and are some of the reasons why they endorse DAESH and join efforts in establishing the “Islamic State” that Wahhabism preaches. DAESH is the answer to all these conflicts they face and struggle with living in Europe. While aspiring to a united large Islamic state can be a legitimate goal, destroying all other states, killings, beheadings and terror are not legitimate means. The problem is that teachings of Wahhabism incorporate both.
Mopping the floor while leaving the tap running is futile. That is why seizing the European passports of DAESH fighters or trying to rehabilitate them will not solve the problem but merely touch upon its salient symptoms. Military intervention in Syria and Iraq will not address “the DAESH within” either, if anything it will maybe stir the furies of DAESH supporters in Europe and will not stop them embracing the idea. The problem is, at its heart, an idea; a doctrine that is heavily financed with petrodollars and preached in Europe, without much – if any – effort to criticize itor control its financing.
Integration, Tolerance and Liberties
Putting all the blame on “immigrants” is totally missing the point as well.There is a considerable number of ethnic Europeans who converted to Islam, but have also become radicalized and joined DAESH. Early Muslim immigrants to Europe came with various versions of Islam, Sufism, Deobandi, Barelwi, to name a few. It was again after 1973 oil crises that their children, the second and third generation immigrants that were subjected to the intense Wahhabi missionaries and finances; most DAESH supporters, thus, are of the younger generation of immigrants and even converts that were extremely radicalized by the Wahhabi doctrine and were recruited for Jihad.
Letting Europe be a breeding ground for DAESH endangers the very fabric of European society. Allowing a Jihadist to lead an educational institution promoting a radical interpretation of Islam like in the case of Jermaine W in the Netherlands, or hosting Jihadists as political asylum seekers, can only produce generations of European DAESH supporters and will end up backfiring on European citizens.
While tolerance of Islam can help integrating immigrants, preaching radicalized versions of Islam can have the opposite effect and should not be tolerated. In a Norwegian village, after a Mosque managed by radical sheikhs opened, the social interaction between ethnic Norwegians and Somalis decreased, the Somalis became less involved in organized sport and leisure activities.The reason was that the sheikhs told Somalis who showed signs of integration into Norwegian society that they are not abiding to Islam and were excluded from the Somali community when they did not abide to the sheikhs’ demands.
While freedom of speech and religious freedoms are values Europe must not give up on, Europe also must not allow these freedoms to be abused and further used in preaching teachings that defy those liberties. One must never support the liberty of taking away liberties.
Finances, freedom of preaching radical, fanatical versions of Islam, European policies towards the Middle East, cultural differences among young radicalized European Muslims and failure to contain and integrate second and third generation immigrants are some of the main roots of the problem. Only by addressing the roots of the problem, with the help of its moderate Muslim community and Islamic Modernism, can Europe deal with “the DAESH within”.
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As 2014 draws to a close your piece reminds me of how far we’ve come in understanding the fundamental linkages between historical change, social alienation, fundamentalism, European nationalism and the importance of protecting individual liberty – including religious freedom. Europe, north Africa and the Middle East are among many regions in the world where people seek meaningful peace, despite overwhelming challenges. While your piece does not provide a definitive path to ‘dealing with the DEASH within’ it certainly raises awareness about key linkages and opportunities for change. Thank you for contributing to the ongoing dialogue. Peace.
As 2014 draws to a close your piece reminds me of how far we’ve come in understanding the fundamental linkages between historical change, social alienation, fundamentalism, European nationalism and the importance of protecting individual liberty – including religious freedom. Europe, north Africa and the Middle East are among many regions in the world where people seek meaningful peace, despite overwhelming challenges. While your piece does not provide a definitive path to ‘dealing with the DAESH within’ it certainly raises awareness about key linkages and opportunities for change. Thank you for contributing to the ongoing dialogue. Peace.