During the last two decades in particular, the concept of "Islamic
terror" has been often discussed. In the wake of the September 11
terrorist attacks on targets in New York and Washington which caused the
death of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, this concept has once
again returned to the top of the international agenda.
As Muslims, we completely condemn these attacks and offer our condolences
to the American people.
In this article, we will explain that Islam is by no means the source
of this violence and that violence has no place in Islam.
We strongly condemn the cruel terrorist
acts which targeted the innocent people of the United States.
One point that should be stressed at the outset is that the identities
of the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism which targeted the United
States are not yet determined. There is a chance that these horrible attackers
are linked to quite different centres. It may well be a communist organization
harboring rage and hatred against American values, a fascist organization
opposing federal administration or a secret faction in another state.
Even though the hijackers have Muslim identities, the questions regarding
by whom and for what purposes these people were used will probably remain
to be a mystery.
The fact remains however, that even if the terrorists have Muslim identities,
the terror they perpetrated cannot be labelled "Islamic terror",
just as it would not be called "Jewish terror" if the perpetrators
were Jews or "Christian terror" if they were Christians.
That is because, as we will examine in the following pages, murdering
innocent people in the name of religion is unacceptable. We need to
keep in mind that, among those who were killed in Washington or New York,
there were people who loved Jesus (Christians), Prophet Moses (Jews) and
Muslims. According to Islam, murdering innocent people is a great sin
that, unless forgiven by God, brings torment in Hell.
Thus, a religious person who has fear of God can never commit such an
In fact, the aggressors can commit such violence only with the intention
of attacking religion itself. It may well be that they carried out
this violence to present religion as evil in the eyes of people, to divorce
people from religion and to generate hatred and reaction against pious
people. Consequently, every attack having a "religious" facade
on American citizens or other innocent people is actually an attack made
All the three Theistic religions command love, mercy and peace. Terror,
on the other hand, is the opposite of religion; it is cruel, merciless
and it demands bloodshed and misery. This being the case, while looking
for the perpetrators of a terrorist act, its origins should be sought
in disbelief rather than in religion. People with a fascist, communist,
racist or materialist outlook on life should be suspected as potential
perpetrators. The name or the identity of the triggerman is not important.
If he can kill innocent people without blinking an eye, whatever his label
is, then he is a disbeliever, not a believer. He is a murderer with no
fear of God, whose main ambition is to shed blood and to give harm.
For this reason, "Islamic terror" is quite a erroneous concept
which contradicts Islam's message. That is because, the religion of Islam
can by no means concur with terror. On the contrary, Muslims are responsible
for preventing terrorist acts and bringing peace and justice to the world.
The Values of the Qur'an demands Goodness, Justice and
Terror, in its broadest sense, is violence committed against non-military
targets for political purposes. To put it in another way, the targets
of terror are entirely innocent civilians whose only crime is, in the
eyes of terrorists, to represent "the other".
This is an act bereft of any moral justification. This, as in the case
of murders committed by Hitler or Stalin, is a crime committed against
The Qur'an is a Book revealed to people as a guide to the true path and
in this Book, God commands man to adopt good morals. This morality is
based upon concepts such as love, compassion, tolerance and mercy. God
calls all people to Islamic morals through which compassion, mercy, peace
and tolerance can be experienced all over the world:
You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace (Islam).
Do not follow in the footsteps of Satan. He is an outright enemy to you.
(Surat al-Baqara :208)
The values of the Qur'an hold a Muslim responsible for treating all people,
whether Muslim or non-Muslim, kindly and justly, protecting the needy
and the innocent and preventing the "dissemination of mischief".
Mischief comprises all forms of anarchy and terror that remove security,
comfort and peace. As God says in a verse, "God does not love
mischief makers". (Surat al-Qasas: 77)
Murdering a person for no reason is one of the most obvious examples
of mischief. God repeats in the Qur'an a command He formerly revealed
to Jews in the Old Testament thus:
So We decreed for the tribe of Israel that if someone
kills another person - unless it is in retaliation for someone else or
for causing corruption in the earth - it is as if he had murdered all
mankind. And if anyone gives life to another person, it is as if he had
given life to all mankind. Our Messengers came to them with Clear Signs
but even after that many of them committed outrages in the earth. (Surat
As the verse suggests, a person who kills even a single man, "unless
it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the
earth", commits a crime as if he had murdered all mankind on
This being the case, it is obvious what great sins are the murders, massacres
and, attacks, popularly known as "suicide attacks", committed
by terrorists are. God informs us how this cruel face of terrorism will
be punished in the hereafter in the following verse:
There are only grounds against those who wrong people
and act as tyrants in the earth without any right to do so. Such people
will have a painful punishment. (Surat ash-Shura: 42)
All these reveal that organizing acts of terror against innocent people
is utterly against Islam and it is unlikely that any Muslim could ever
commit such crime. On the contrary, Muslims are responsible for stopping
these people, removing "mischief on earth" and bringing peace
and security to all people all over the world. Being a Muslim cannot be
reconciled with terror. Just the contrary, it is the solution and prevention
This being the case, how did the popular term "Islamic terror"
What has been examined so far reveals that it is not possible to talk
about an "Islamic" terror. Indeed, a closer look at the characteristics
of the perpetrators explicitly reveals that this terror is not a religious
but a social phenomenon.
Crusaders: Barbarians Who Trampled Their Own Religion
A helmet used by the Crusaders.
The true message of a religion or another system of belief can be at
times exposed to distortion by its pseudo-adherents. The Crusaders, who
constitute a dark episode of Christian history, set a good example of
Crusaders were European Christians who undertook the expeditions at the
end of the 11th century to recover the Holy Land (the area
around Palestine) from the Muslims. They set out with a so-called religious
goal, yet they laid waste each acre of land they entered with fear and
violence. They subjected civilians to mass executions and plundered many
villages and towns.
Their conquest of Jerusalem, where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived
under Islamic rule in peace, became the scene of immense bloodshed. They
violently killed all Muslims and Jews. The Crusaders' barbarism was so
excessive that, during the Fourth Crusade, they plundered Istanbul, also
a Christian city, and stole the golden objects from the churches.
Despite the fact that Christianity is a
religion of love and pacifism, the Crusaders slaughtered innocent
people in the name of Christ. They misunderstood their religion.
No doubt, all this barbarism was utterly against Christian political
doctrine. That is because, Christianity, in the words of the Bible, is
a "gospel of love". In the Gospel according to Matthew, it is
said that Jesus said "Love your enemies and pray for those who
persecute you" to his followers (Matthew, 5/44) In the Gospel
according to Luke, it is said that Jesus said "If someone strikes
you on one cheek, turn to him the other also." (Luke, 6/29) No
doubt, in no part of the New Testament, is there reference to the legitimacy
of violence; murdering innocent people, on the other hand, is unimaginable.
You can find the concept of "massacre of the innocents" in the
Bible; yet, only in the cruel Jewish King Herod's attempt to kill Jesus
while he was a baby.
While Christianity is a religion based on love that accommodates no violence,
how did Christian Crusaders carry out the most violent acts of history?
The major reason for this is that, Crusaders were mainly made up of ignorant
people who could better be defined as "rabble". These masses,
who knew almost nothing about their religion, who had never read or even
seen the Bible once in their lifetime, and who were therefore completely
unaware of the moral values of the Bible, were led into barbarism under
the conditioning of Crusaders' slogans as "God wills it".
It is worth mentioning that in that period, Eastern Christians
- the people of Byzantium, for instance - who were culturally far ahead
of Western Christians, espoused more humane values. Both before and after
the Crusaders' conquests, Orthodox Christians managed to live together
with Muslims. According to Terry Johns, the BBC commentator, with the
withdrawal of the Crusaders from Middle East, "civilized life started
again and members of the three monotheistic faith returned to peaceful
coexistence."  The example of the Crusaders
is indicative of a general phenomenon: The more the adherents of an ideology
are uncivilized, intellectually underdeveloped and "ignorant",
the more likely they are to resort to violence. This also holds true for
ideologies that have nothing to do with religion. All communist movements
around the world are prone to violence. Yet the most savage and blood-thirsty
of them was the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. That is because they were the
Just as ignorant people may take a violence-ridden opinion to the point
of insanity, so they may confuse violence with an opinion against violence
(or to religion). The Islamic world also experienced such cases.
The Bedouin Character in the Qur'an
In the period of our Prophet, there existed two basic social structures
in Arabia. City-dwellers and Bedouins (Desert Arabs). A sophisticated
culture prevailed in Arab towns. Commercial relations linked the towns
to the outer world, which contributed to the formation of "civilized
life" among Arabs dwelling in cities. They had refined aesthetic
values, enjoyed literature and, especially poetry. Desert Arabs, on the
other hand, were the nomad tribes living in the desert who had a very
crude culture. Utterly unaware of arts and literature, they developed
an unrefined, harsh character.
Islam was born and developed among the inhabitants of Mecca, the most
important city of the peninsula. However, as Islam spread to the peninsula,
all tribes in Arabia embraced it. Among these tribes were also Desert
Arabs, who were somehow problematic: their poor intellectual and cultural
background prevented them from grasping the profundity and noble spirit
of Islam. Of this God states the following in a verse:
The Desert Arabs are more obdurate in disbelief and
hypocrisy and more likely not to know the limits which God has sent down
to His Messenger. God is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat at-Tawba: 97)
The Desert Arabs, that is, social groups who were "obdurate in
disbelief and hypocrisy" and prone to disobey God's commands,
became a part of the Islamic world in the Prophet's lifetime. In latter
periods, they became a source of trouble for the Islamic world. The sect
called "Kharijis" that emerged among Bedouins was an example.
The most distinctive trait of this perverse sect (which was called "Kharijis"
the rebels because they greatly deviated from Sunni practises), was their
extremely vulgar, wild and fanatical nature. The "Kharijis",
who had no comprehension whatsoever of the essence of Islam or of the
virtues and the values of the Qur'an, waged war against all other Muslims
and based this war on a few Qur'anic verses about which they made distorted
interpretations. Furthermore, they carried out "acts of terrorism".
Caliph Ali, who was one of the closest companions of the Prophet and was
described by him as the "gate of the city of knowledge", was
assassinated by a Kharijite.
In latter periods, "Hashashis" (Assassins), another brutal
organization, emerged; this was a "terrorist organization" made
up of ignorant and fanatical militants bereft of a profound understanding
of the essence of Islam and thus who could be readily influenced by simple
slogans and promises.
In other words, just as the Crusaders distorted and misinterpreted
Christianity as a teaching of brutality, some perverted groups emerging
in the Islamic world misinterpreted Islam and resorted to brutality.
What is common to these sects and the Crusaders was their "Bedouin"
nature. That is, they were ignorant, unrefined, uncultivated, vulgar,
and isolated people. The violence they resorted resulted from this social
structure, rather than the religion to which they claimed to adhere.
The Actual Source of Terrorism: The Third World Fanaticism
These examples from history are enlightening for a better understanding
of the phenomenon, the so-called "Islamic terror", which is
nowadays on the top of the international agenda. That is because those
who emerge and carry out acts of terrorism in the name of Islam or those
who back such acts -these people, no doubt, represent a minority in the
world of Islam- stem from this "Bedouin character", not from
Islam. Failing to understand the essence of Islam, they try to make Islam,
essentially a religion of peace and justice, a tool of barbarism, which
is simply an outcome of their social and cultural structure. The origin
of this barbarism, which may well be called the "Third World Fanaticism",
is the benighted initiatives of people who are devoid of love for humans.
It is a fact that, for the last few centuries, Muslims in all corners
of the Islamic world, are being subjected to violence by Western forces
and their affiliates. The colonialist European states, local oppressive
regimes or colonialists backed by the West (Israel, for instance) caused
great suffering for Muslims at large. However, for Muslims, this is a
situation that has to be approached and responded to from a purely Qur'anic
In no part of the Qur'an does God command believers to "respond
to violence with violence". On the contrary, God commands Muslims
to "respond to evil with goodness":
A good action and a bad action are not the same. Repel
the bad with something better and, if there is enmity between you and
someone else, he will be like a bosom friend. (Surat al-Fussilat: 34)
It is no doubt a legitimate right of Muslims to react against cruelty.
However, these reactions should never turn into a blind hatred, an unjust
enmity. God warns about this in the following verse: "... Do not
let hatred for a people who debar you from the Masjid al-Haram incite
you into going beyond the limits. Help each other to goodness and heedfulness.
Do not help each other to wrongdoing and enmity. Heed God Allah (alone)..."
(Surat al-Ma'ida: 2)
Consequently, carrying out terrorist acts under the pretence of "representing
the oppressed nations of the world", against the innocent people
of other nations is by no means compatible with Islam.
Another point that deserves a special mention here is that all the Western
world cannot be held responsible for the aforementioned colonialist (or
"neo-colonialist) violence and oppression against Muslims. Actually,
the materialist, irreligious philosophies and ideologies that prevailed
in the 19th century are responsible for these dismal acts.
European colonialism did not originate from Christianity. On the contrary,
anti-religious movements opposing the values of Christianity led the way
to colonialism. At the roots of the greatest brutalities of the 19th
century lies the Social Darwinist ideology.
In the Western world today, there are still cruel, mischievous and opposing
elements as well as a culture dominated by peaceful and just elements
that have its roots in Judeo-Christian faith. As a matter of fact, the
main disagreement is not between the West and Islam. Contrary to the general
opinion, it is between the religious people of the West and of the Muslim
world on the one hand, and the people opposing religion (like materialists
and atheists.) on the other.
Another indication that Third World Fanaticism has nothing to do with
Islam is that, until recently, this fanaticism has been identified with
communist ideology. As is known, similar anti-Western acts of terror were
carried out in 1960s and 70s by Soviet-backed communist organizations.
As the impact of the communist ideology faded, some of the social structures
which gave birth to communist organizations have turned their attention
to Islam. This "brutality presented under the guise of religion",
which is formulated by the incorporation of some Islamic concepts and
symbols into the former communist rhetoric are entirely against the moral
values constituting the essence of Islam.
Anti-Western radicalism once used the communist
ideology to support its violence. Now it is trying to use religious
A last remark about this issue is that Islam is not peculiar to a particular
nation or geography. Contrary to the dominant Western perception, Islam
is not an "Eastern culture". Islam is the last religion
revealed to mankind as a guide to the true path that recommends itself
to all humanity. Muslims are responsible for communicating the true religion
they believe in to all people of all nations and cultures and making them
feel closer to Islam.
Consequently, there is a unique solution for people and groups who, in
the name of Islam, resort to terror or establish oppressive regimes and
turn this world into a dreadful place instead of beautifying it: revealing
the true Islam and communicating it so that the masses can understand
and live by it.
Conclusion: Recommendations to the Western World
Today, the Western world is concerned about the organizations that use
terror under the guise of Islam and this concern is not misplaced. It
is obvious that those carrying out terror and their supporters should
be punished according to international judicial criteria. However, a more
important point to consider is the long-term strategies that have to be
pursued for viable solutions to these problems.
The assessments above reveal that terror has no place in Islam. They
further show the inherently contradictory nature of the concept of "Islamic
terror". This provides us with an important vantage point:
1) The Western world, especially the United States, will surely
take the most dissuasive measures to cope with terror and it has the right
to do that. However, it has to state explicitly that this is not a
war waged against Islam and Muslims but, on the contrary, a measure serving
the best interests of Islam. The "Clash of civilizations",
the dangerous scenario envisioned in the 90's should be at all costs prevented.
2) Support should be provided for the spread of "True
Islam", which is a religion of love, friendship, peace and brotherhood,
and for its true understanding by Islamic societies. The solution
for radical factions in Islamic countries should not be "forced secularization".
On the contrary, such a policy will incite more reaction from the masses
and feed radicalism. The solution is the dissemination of true Islam and
the appearance of a Muslim role-model who embraces Qur'anic values such
as human rights, democracy, freedom, good morals, science and aesthetics,
and who offers happiness and bliss to humanity.
3) The source of terrorism is ignorance and bigotry and the solution
is education. To the circles who feel sympathy with terror, it should
be said that terror is utterly against Islam, that terror only does harm
to Islam, Muslims and to humanity at large. Besides, these people have
to be provided with education in order to be purified of this barbarism.
The United States' support to such an education policy will yield very
Our hope is that these measures will help to the world get rid of terrorism
and all other bigoted, brutal, barbarous structures. With its Christian-dominated
culture and population, the United States, which defines itself as "a
nation under God", is in fact a real friend of the Muslims. In the
Qur'an, God draws attention to this fact and informs us that Christians
are those who are "most affectionate to those who believe".
(Surat al-Ma'ida: 82)
In history, some ignorant people (for instance, Crusaders) failed to
understand this fact and caused conflicts between these two great religions.
To prevent the repetition of this scenario, true Christians and Muslims
need to come together and co-operate.