TIME magazine named Facebook’s Co-Founder and CEO Zuckerberg, 26, as Time’s Person of the Year 2010. Meanwhile Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, 28, was recently named the “Stockholm bomber” after he blew himself up in a street in Stockholm last week in a suicide attack. What a paradox, two young men of a similar age, living in the west, graduated in the same year, 2004; one chose to kill himself and others in the name of Islamic “Jihad”, the other one chose to “making things that help people connect and share what’s important to them” as he stated on his Facebook page. Both had the same basic opportunities to make a better world. Al-Abdaly chose to kill the people while Zuckerberg set up his goals of “making the world open” as he recently said to Wired magazine.
My point here goes beyond a comparison between al-Abdaly and Zuckerberg as people. I want to look at the set of ideals and values that Modern Society offers and the values that extremists have given young Muslim people. Before he was recruited by terrorists, Al-Abdaly’s goals were much closer to Zuckerberg’s, to be a successful in life. That is why Al-Abdaly spent three years studying for a university degree. Afterward, Al-Abdaly’s goals twisted to became the same as those of his brainwasher, Anwar al-Awlaki of Yemen.
Al-Abdaly is the father of three children from a Swedish wife who converted to Islam upon his request. He graduated from a British university. Al-Abdaly, who lived in Sweden since his childhood, in fairly good circumstances, certainly could have been a successful person, a happy father, and a faithful Muslim as well. What drove him to blow up himself and others? What make him a terrorist? What made him so hate the country that granted him citizenship, freedom and a financial safety net? It is absolutely not the Muslim faith that supported Al-Abdaly’s terrorist suicide. The culture of hatred, accusations of heresy, nullification of others, intolerance and violence that is widely spreading among Muslims by several perverted Imams.
Some of the Islamic movements are brainwashing the minds of young Muslims to transfer them to Al-Qaeda’s ideology. This ideology links Islam faith with violence in the minds of Muslims, causing a link between Islam and terrorism in the rest of the world. That is what drives Al-Abdaly and his fellow terrorists Omar Abdul Mutallab, the Nigerian Muslim who tried to blow up a plane last Christmas, and Major Nidal Hasan of Fort Hood. This ideology drives many other Muslims to commit the atrocities that they do. It is the influence of Al-Qaeda more than the teachings of Islam.
The big question now is determining the worldwide leader of the Muslim faith. Is it Osama bin Laden or the King of Saudi Arabia? Anwar al-Awlaki of Yemen or Al-Azhar of Egypt? Who are the leaders and mentors of young Muslim minds around the world? The official Muslim Muftis and other Muslim authorities need to speak out now to loudly and clearly condemn such terrorist attempts, and to unlink terrorism from the real notion of “Jihad” in Islam. The battle is now inside Islam between moderates and extremists. Al-Qaeda is more than ever standing against Islam; it is practicing a war against Islam.
I consider it a war to “demonize” Islam. Al-Qaeda is simply hijacking Islam, creating an existential threat against Islam. Al-Qaeda is at the point of brainwashing and recruiting Muslims, especially in the West, to practice what they called the “individual Jihad” like the case of Stockholm bomber, Omar Abdul Mutallab and to certain extent Major Nidal Hasan. Due to the high security measures taking after 9/11, and more recently the drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda can’t practice macro-terrorism anymore; it is committing “micro-terrorism” as Fareed Zakaria of Time magazine named.
It is the role of wise and courageous Muslim religious leaders to reverse the rhetoric, to define and defend their religion, to emphasize and sustain the moderate concept of Islam, which is compatible with other religions, to shore up mainstream Islam, and to get Muslim extremists back on track.
Recently, in a comprehensive interview with Jihad Alzein, the Op-Ed editor of An-Nahar (The Day) daily paper of Beirut, Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar of Egypt, condemned suicide bombings and terrorist attacks, and he added that “only the ignorance of the Islamic heritage leads to extremism”.
In his article entitled “The Revival of Al-Azhar” Jihad Alzein emphasizes the need to “restore Al-Azhar’s leadership toward Salafist and fundamentalist currents and even toward the Wahhabism”. Al-Azhar, the largest and oldest Islamic Sunni school has always being the symbol of “reason-ability and moderation” in Islam, el-Tayeb added.
Several months ago, the world widely condemned the call of Terry Jones of Florida to burn the Quran during Ramadan. In the US, the voices of religious leaders made a huge impact and won that battle. They made it clear that Jones is not a part of any major denomination of Christianity, he had not graduated from a recognized theological school and no one ordained him as Christian minister. Consequently Jones does not speak on behalf of any church in America; he only represented himself as such.
In that manner, Muslim religious leaders can and should condemn any person who commits an act of violence in the name of Islam. Moderate Muslim leaders need to collectively form a charter regarding what is and, almost more importantly now, what is not a part of the Islamic faith. This charter should then be made public to inform individual practitioners of Islam what authority Muslim leaders have. Widespread knowledge of the governing principles of their faith will prevent the more radical leaders from endorsing militant Jihad and terrorism as well as the more mundane fatwas that are created on demand. Without governing guidelines, I am afraid that Al-Qaeda and its actions will continue to link Islam with the devil in the minds of non-Muslims.