I really hate it when people all over the world show their lack of education and understanding about a subject. I particularly hate it when those people are in the United States and therefore reflect poorly on the rest of the American population. I hate to call it a bigoted idea, but I can’t think of a more accurate description. Trying to paint the entire religion of Islam as terrorists should be as unacceptable to the American people as trying to paint the entire religion of Christianity as terrorists.
I will also post this disclaimer to try to head off one of the standard counter arguments. I am not accusing all Americans of being bigoted. I am not accusing all Christians of being bigoted. I am not accusing all politicians of being bigoted. I am simply pointing out that our language is allowing condemning innocent people and driving our allies away.
ISIS is known by several different names. While I can understand the desire to call them something derogatory so that they look more unsympathetic, using the monicker of radical Islam is so inaccurate that it is insulting. It seems to be the equivalent of calling the KKK, the Branch Dravidians, or lynch mobs ‘radical Christians’ instead of a more accurate description. Each of these groups were composed either primarily or exclusively of Christians. I would argue that each of these groups are also radical. But if we called them ‘radical Christians’, not only would that be misleading, it would divert the blame for what they did to completely innocent bystanders.
While it’s true that ISIS is composed almost exclusively of Muslims, that absolutely misses the point and paints an innocent group of people as terrorists. ISIS is a group of extreme people that are skimmed off the top of an extreme ideology. The ideology of ISIS shares as much in common with Islam as the KKK shares with Catholics.
It would be more accurate to describe ISIS as a Wahhabi movement; but while more accurate, even that might be going too far. But even if we say that all Wahhabi followers are terrorists (they are not), they are still just a fraction of the people that call themselves Muslim.
From the Wikipedia entry on Wahhabism:
Estimates of the number of adherents to Wahhabism vary, with one source (Michael Izady) giving a figure of fewer than 5 million Wahhabis in the Persian Gulf region (compared to 28.5 million Sunnis and 89 million Shia).
Not only do the adherents to Wahhabism make up less than 5% of the Muslim population, they are also in deep disagreement with the remainder of the Islamic adherents, including both Shia and Sunni Muslims.
Among the criticism, or comments made by critics, of the Wahhabi movement are
- that it is not so much strict and uncompromising as aberrant, going beyond the bounds of Islam in its restricted definition of tawhid (monotheism), and much too willing to takfir (declare non-Muslim and subject to execution) Muslims it found in violation of Islam (in the second Wahhabi-Saudi jihad/conquest of the Arabian peninsula, an estimated 400,000 were killed or wounded according to some estimates);
- that bin Saud’s agreement to wage jihad to spread Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s teachings had more to do with traditional Najd practice of raiding — “instinctive fight for survival and appetite for lucre”—than with religion;
- that it has no connection to other Islamic revival movements;
- that unlike other revivalists, its founder Abd ul-Wahhab showed little scholarship—writing little and making even less commentary;
- that its contention that ziyara (visiting tombs of Muhammad, his family members, descendants, companions, or Sufi saints) and tawassul (intercession), violate tauhid al-‘ibada (directing all worship to God alone) has no basis in tradition, in consensus or in hadith, and that even if it did, it would not be grounds for excluding practitioners of ziyara and tawassul from Islam;
- that historically Wahhabis have had a suspicious willingness to ally itself with non-Muslim powers (specifically America and Britain), and in particular to ignore the encroachments into Muslim territory of a non-Muslim imperial power (the British) while waging jihad and weakening the Muslim Caliphate of the Ottomans; and
- that Wahhabi strictness in matters of hijab and separation of the sexes, has led not to a more pious and virtuous Saudi Arabia, but to a society showing a very un-Islamic lack of respect towards women.
Clearly, using the blanket referral of ‘radical Muslims’ to refer to ISIS is a mistake. ISIS is no more than a group that bands together to wage war and terror. Furthermore, ISIS only takes some of the teachings from a splinter group withing the Muslim population. Referring to ISIS as ‘radical Muslims’ is a travesty against language and the beliefs of the super majority of Muslims.