Many surveys have shown an increasing contempt for the hostility to the West, particularly the US, in the Muslim communities from turkey to Pakistan. It must be noted that the problem of extremism is not only confined to Islam, but it is also found in almost all the religions including Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and so on. The destruction of Babri mosque and the atrocities against Muslims in mainland India and occupied Kashmir by some radical Hindu manifest the level of extremism within Hinduism. Besides, the burning the Holy Quran by some bigot Christians is also an example of extremism in Christianity. The killing of Palestinian by Israelis to occupy their lands and the recent massacres of Rohingyas Muslims in Myanmar by Buddhists also reveal the extremism. Not all the followers, but some small number, adopt extremist views and contribute to the overall downgrading of their religions.
Islam is a religion of peace and rejects extremism. However, some factors have contributed to the rise of extremism within Islam that are mentioned below:
1. Atrocities against Muslims in Kashmir and Palestine:
The act of barbarity against the Muslims in Kashmir and Palestine is directly linked to the rise of extremism in Muslims. The actions have led to creation of hatred among them for India, Israel and the United States of America. Yes, the US because of its unwillingness to solve the issue of Kashmir and Palestine, despite having a capacity to do so. Muslims consider one another as brothers and feel pain when their brother in any corner of the world face cruelty. The problem is not their sympathy for the other Muslims. The issue is exploitation of their feelings by some militant organizations working in the region. Thus, if Kashmir and Palestine issues are resolved, it will take the wind out of sail of these militant organizations and promote the friendly feelings among Muslims towards the West.
2. Invasions of the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya:
Another major reason that caused the rise of hatred among some Muslims towards the West, particularly the US, is its series of invasions in Muslims countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya among others. The invasion of Afghanistan was aimed at dismantling the structure of Al-Qaeda that was becoming more aggressive in its terror attacks towards the West. However, its attack on Iraq was not a wise decision. Obama also acknowledged Afghan’s war as necessity and Iraq’s as mistake. The Iraq’s war dropped the feeling of love among Muslims towards the US. Besides, the contradictions policies of Washington further deteriorated its value among the Muslims. For instance, it attacked Iraq to remove dictator and install democracy, but at the same time it supported dictatorship in Pakistan to fight its war on terror. Hence, the different invasions of the US in Muslim countries escalated the feeling of hatred among Muslims towards it.
3. Soviet-Afghan war of 1979:
We often hear that the Soviet-Afghan war caused the rise of extremism, but fail to understand how. In many ways, the war contributed to the surge of radicalism. Firstly, Pakistan acted as front line state to train the Mujahedeen to fight with Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Under the strategy, thousands of Madrassas were constructed along Pakistan-Afghanistan border to prepare the students to fight with the godless country of Soviet. The US also printed magazines containing the radical materials to encourage them to wage a jihad for the sake of Islam. The war ended but it left the extremist teaching behind. It is said that when these people turned against the US, the same magazines, earlier printed by the US, were now used to encourage them to fight the new enemy of Islam__ the United States of America.
Secondly, thousands of Arab fighters came from Middle East in Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight the soviet. They brought with them a radical ideology. It was the culture of Afghan’s Pashtun to decorate the graves of their relatives and play music in their weddings. The Arabs soon destroyed the graves and influenced Pashtun to ban music. They settled after the war and organized under Osama bin Laden to carry out attacks against the west. Many Afghans including Mullah Omar disliked them. Omar said, to DG ISI Lt Gen. Ziauddin Butt, “Osama-bin-laden is like a bone stuck in my throat.” Taliban under Mullah Omar disliked the campaign of Osama against the West. However, over the years, Osama was able to hardened Mullah Omar’s already conservative views. Some Taliban sources credited Omar’s decision to blow up Afghanistan’s ancient Buddhist statues in 2001 to the growing influence of Osama.
Finally, the government of Zia in Pakistan also raised extremism within the country. To succeed Afghan’s war, it made a close alliance with the indigenous radical Islamic parties. The members of these parties were given important jobs in the judiciary, civil services and educational institutions that led to radicalism of these institutions. Besides, the promotions in army and civil services were based on Islamic knowledge during Zia. Tablegi jamaat was introduced in Army and units were required to take mullah with them. These reforms raised extremist elements to the key positions in the military and afterward, they framed pro-Jihadi policies and supported the growth of madrassas. As a result, Pakistan was caught in the vortex of terrorism and extremism.
4. Unchecked growth of madrasas:
In 1971, there were total 900 madrassa in Pakistan. By 1988, the number of registered madrassas raised to 8,000 and un-registered to 25,000. At present, the numbers of madrassas are above 50,000. Not all madrassas are problematic and contribute to the rise of extremism. However, the former interior minister, Choudary Nisar said that 15 per cent madrassas were involved in promoting extremist narratives in the country. Keeping in view their total numbers, 15 per cent figure is worth considering. These madrassas manipulate religion to brain wash children into becoming soldiers of irregular army. The policy was adopted during Soviet war, but was continued by the state that caused the rise of extremism. Under National Action Plan (NAP), the government decided to close such madrassas and register the all remaining. However, the efforts have not succeeded.
5. Drone attacks by the US:
Drone attacks were the major blunder done by the US during “War on Terror.” Apart from killing some key Al-Qaeda terrorists, these contributed to the growing human rights abuses. In July 2009, the Brookings Institution in Washington released a report stating that ten civilians died in the drone attack for every militant killed. Zahid hussain writes in his book, The Scorpion Tail, “The strikes have also spurred a significant in the number of recruits joining the militants groups, in part because according the tribal code, the families of the drones victims are required to seek revenge. Baitullah Mehsud [then head of TTP] often boasted that each drone attack brought him three or four suicide bombers.”
Besides, a poll by Gallup Pakistan in 2009 found only 9 per cent Pakistanis in favor of the attacks and 67 per cent against with a majority ranking the US as a greater threat to Pakistan more than its arch rival India or Pakistani Taliban. Moreover, the civilian causalities also encouraged even moderate Muslims to fight against the West. For instances, Pakistani born Faisal Shehzad attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, in the heart of New York city. He was a moderate Muslim who became angry at US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and CIA’s drone raids. Shahzad told the judge during the hearing of the case, “the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill every body. They are killing all Muslims.”
6. Failure of Muslim countries in term of their intelligence and police to prevent the circulation of extremist ideology:
Owing to the weak intelligence and police department, the majority of Muslims countries have failed to curb the spread of extremist ideologies in their educational institutions. Many Muslim preachers and thinkers possess some radical views and some even justify violence against non-believers and urge radical actions to seize power. One among such thinker was Syed Qutub of Egypt. He argued that all impure governments must be overthrown. All true Muslims should join the “Party of God. Muslim leaders who govern through non-Islamic systems such as capitalism or communism, those leaders, Qutb wrote, should be declared unbelievers and become a target of revolutionary Jihad. The supporter of Qutb ideology declared even Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan as Kafir (non-believer) and considered him unfit to run Pakistan. Although, Syed Qutb was executed in 1966, his ideology survived and also taught in King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah in classes attended by Osama-bin-Laden. It seems that Osama was giving a practical shape to his thinking and embarked on ruthless violence against the West. The ideology was also spread in other countries like Indonesia and the governments remained unaware of it due to their weak intelligence.
7. Silence of religious Scholars:
The silence of authentic religious scholars has given free space to the extremist elements to spread their ideology and exploit the emotions of some pliable Muslims. It is alarming to know that some prominent Islamic scholar did not directly issued their fatwass in Muslims countries to condemn the act of extremism by some elements. In Pakistan, Moulana Tariq Jamil was also criticized for its silence when the terrorists of TTP targeted Pakistan’s military and wanted to establish so called Islamic Sharia through violence and atrocities.
The factors that cause the rise of extremism in Muslims range from atrocities against Muslims in Kashmir and Palestine, invasions of the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, Soviet-Afghan war of 1979, unchecked growth of madrassa, drone attacks by the US, failure of Muslims countries in term of their intelligence and police to curb the spread of extremist narratives to silence of religious scholars. The Muslims as whole should work to address these issues to prevent radicalism within Islam.