Islam and radical Islam June 26th

Conversations with a Muslim

I checked with the Eugene Islamic Center about finding someone of the Muslim faith that would be willing to address our class. No one was available but one member Drew, was kind enough to answer some of my questions. I have rearranged these questions and answers in the form of a conversation. Jerry

Jerry: “Thank you very much for doing this. First of all I have heard that some vandalism has occurred to the center. If that is true I would like to express my sorrow about that, and I would like to ask you what you would like to say that would allay the fears and Islamophobic hatred of people in the community.”

“In my class I usually show about half an hour of youtube videos that explore the topic. Are there any videos that you would recommend that would help nonbelievers like us to understand why there is so little to fear.”

Drew: “With regards to specific videos about why people should not fear Islam or Muslims they are too many to count. However, Omar Suleiman and Dr. Jonathan A.C. Brown give great detailed explanations of many of the questions western peoples have. They are both prominent Islamic Scholars and have a lot of videos on YouTube that could answer some of your questions.”

Jerry: “I am doing some research and will make up a handout for the participants describing the 5 pillars of Islam (for Sunnis). I understand that Sunnis make up between 80% and 85% of Islam. For the Shiites I don’t understand  the difference between Twelvers,  Ismailis, and Allewites. They have beliefs and practices that are similar to the 5 pillars but also include Jihad. Jihad freaks a lot of people out because they think that means declaring war on infidels.  Could you explain a bit about personal Jihad?”

Drew: “Regarding Jihad and personal Jihad. The word Jihad means “struggle” and this can refer to internal and external struggles. Historically, Muslims have seen internal jihad as something one should take part in on a day to day basis to better ones spiritual connection God and guide them towards moral actions in every aspect of life. Many Muslims say that this is the greatest form of Jihad anyone can take part in. External Jihad can take many forms, many of which are not at all related to war, such as bettering ones community through charity. Jihad in the form of war is only prescribed in the Quran and Sunnah as being necessary when certain criteria are met, specifically oppression of Muslims (e.g stealing their land and impacting their ability to practice Islam.) Jihad is not to be aggressive, meaning without the specific criteria being met and God condemns transgression and transgressors, which can be those who make war unjustly. An infinitesimal percentage of Muslims in the world take part in external war Jihad and most have no intention to ever.”

Jerry: “Another concept that freaks people out is the concept of Sharia law, and over the last weekend there were protests in many cities against Sharia law. Fortunately there were more people on the streets supporting Muslims. In this country religious legal systems are prohibited and the legal system is a secular civil law. What upsets people are the very harsh punishments like cutting off hands for stealing and stoning to death for adultery that are enacted in some Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia. They are afraid when they read about the rules of Sharia law.” See:

“Most of these harsh punishments are also found in the Torah/Old Testament, but they are not enforced. I think Jews don’t enforce those laws because they have been the victims of violence so often, and Christians went through 350 years of violence and cruelty during the inquisition. The Reformation put an end to most of that cruelty. So the question is why do some Muslims still exhibit such cruelty and things like honor killings?”

Drew: “Shariah law is almost exactly analogous to Halakah in Judaism. Shariah literally means “Path or way” and is the principles, laws, precepts and teachings that govern the day to day lives of all 1.7 billion Muslims around the world. It is derived from the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and It covers everything from business law, contracts and marriage to how someone cleans themselves. The western world is obsessed and for the most part completely ignorant of what it is and are concerned about the aspects of capital punishment it covers. However, capital punishment is an extremely small part of the Shariah and is actually rarely implemented in the Muslim world. Islamic scholars have stated many times around the world that Hudud punishments (e.g stoning and other executions) are only possible if 1.) the crime happens in a part of the world that has an Islamic court/legal system so the defendants can be properly tried and the evidence can be examined and 2.) there is an Islamic principle that states that Muslims are required to “ward off the Hadud punishments with the slightest of doubt). Sheikh Mufti Ismail Menk’s video on this topic is really informative. Here is the link:”

“With regards to Honor Killings, Islam condemns honor killings and requires all disputes go through the Islamic court system. A lot of the honor killings you see in the news are done in places that have the remnants of British common law from the 18th and 19th centuries that allows for honor killings in cases of adultery. Pakistan is a major example of this. But I must reiterate that honor killings are not in any way a part of Islam.”

Jerry: “When the prophet received the Qur’an, Christians treated women very badly, and so the Qur’an declared woman as equals. Why then do so many Muslims treat women so badly today? Westerners believe that women are forced to cover up, but I understand that most Muslim women vie covering up as a protection against being ogled. Many Westerners think that genital mutilation (cutting) is a religious thing but I think it is cultural and doesn’t have anything to do with Islam. What do you think?”

Drew: “I think it is a gross generalization to state that all Muslim men out of the 1.7 billion Muslims in the world treat women badly. For one, there have been more female Muslim heads of state in the Muslim world than there has been in the western world and certainly the united states. With regards to the Hijab, as you said it is a commandment from god and a sign of piety for Muslim women to wear the Hijab. Also, you are correct in stating that the vast majority of Muslim women wear the hijab completely out of their free will and preference and would be extremely offended if anyone told them they could not wear it. Only 2 countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia, require women to wear the Hijab in public by law. In All other parts of the Muslim world, women wear the hijab purely out of religious piety alone. Linda Sarsoor has a lot to say about this.”

“The vast majority of Islamic scholars consider Female Genital Mutilation un-Islamic and Illegal. As you stated it is a cultural thing that is practiced most heavily in Sub-Saharan African countries that are majority Christian.  Reza Aslan gives a famous explanation of this on CNN. Also, the studies of FGM in several sub-Saharan African countries have shown that Elder women or mothers of daughters are the ones who make their female children get FGM as a cultural practice. Men almost always are barred from the entire situation altogether.”

Jerry: “If you listen to Trump and many in the military they say that Iran is the greatest exporter of terrorism in the world but the fact is that 94% of radical Islamic terrorist attacks come from Wahhabist/Salafist Sunnis, and the Shiites are only responsible for 6%. Iran does support Hezbollah which is active in defending the Palestinians and in Syria where they mainly attack ISIS. Iran also supports the Houthies in Yeman, but I consider those to be that other type of Jihad, which is coming to the aid of other Muslims that are under attack.”

“I think the greatest exporter of terror are the Wahhabists because they have declared all non Wahabists, takfir or apostates, and thus can be killed. As far as I know this is the only sect that has allowed the killing of innocent civilians since the Qur’an says that innocent civilians should be spared and the ” people of the book” which includes Jews, Christians and other Muslims, should be protected.”

“I think that almost all terrorist groups including Al Queda, ISIS, Al Shabaab, Boko Haraam and the Taliban are all Wahhabist/Salafist. While there are only about 5 million Wahhabists (out of 1.6 billion Muslims) They have undue influence because they are the official religion of Saudi Arabia. They control Mecca and the Haaj, and their oil money funds Maddrassas all over the Middle East and Africa that spread hatred of the West, and they are now spreading this radical extreme view of Islam to Indonesia which is the largest Muslim country.”

“Of course this is complicated because AL Queda and ISIS want to overthrow the Royal family in Saudi Arabia because they cooperate with the US and other Western countries.”

“I think it helps to point out that something like 95% of the victims of Islamic terrorism are other Muslims, and that the main force fighting ISIS are also Sunni Muslims. I think most people including our President are unaware of the proxy wars between the Persian Shiites and the Arab Sunnis, and that in my opinion we are supporting the wrong side in those wars. I have read and talked to people in Iran that say the people their love Americans more than any other Middle Eastern Country.”

Drew: “Last few questions regarding Wahhabism is dense but I’ll try my best to answer what I am able to. Wahhabism is derived from the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab who lived from 1703-1792 in the Nejd region of what is now Saudi Arabia. His teachings were at the time and even today not even remotely controversial. He began preaching against and educating people to stop certain completely un-Islamic practices such as the veneration of saints, the seeking of their intercession, and the visiting of their tombs etc. These practices are universally condemned by the vast majority of Islamic Scholars around the world but were still practiced somewhat in the sparsely populated and isolated region of the Nejd. He only advocated that people stop these practices. However, many Islamic scholars and Muslims in general are critical of how the Saudi government has used his name to justify their authoritarian rule of Saudi Arabia. Yes, the Saudi government has exported their adapted version of Wahhab’s teachings that were primarily created to fit their own political needs. The creation of terror groups and violence in the region can traced backed to European imperialism and its side effects that are still being felt today such as (ethnic and religious strife, poverty and authoritarian regimes.) All of these factors have vastly more to do with the rise of groups like Al-Qaeda than any religious doctrine. Also, not everyone who follows Wahhab’s teachings have declared all other people kuffar. Only an extremely small minority have. Most Sunnis and Shi’is have absolutely no problem with each other or Westerners. Also, to point out, there is an enormous amount of Muslims who are “westerners” and infect you are talking to one right now. Tens of millions of Muslims are thoroughly part of the west and are a part of the society.  Almost all of the Muslims are against the authoritarian regimes that exist in the middle east and wish to see peace their as much if not more than any others around the world.”

Jack asked: “I notice that Jesus is mentioned many times in the Quran, far more times than Mohammad. There is even an entire chapter on the family of Jesus and on the virgin birth. What is the place of Jesus in Islam? How is Jesus viewed by Muslims? What do Muslims see as the relationship between Islam and Christianity–not politically or militarily, but historically and in terms of overlapping beliefs (for example, in the god of Abraham)?”

Jerry commented: “Maybe you can correct my own understanding of this. My understanding is that the Muslims, Christians, and Jews all worship the same God of Abraham and they all revere the same prophets. I think the idea is that God gives us a message through a prophet and then over the period of a few hundred years that message gets corrupted and changed through misinterpretations and mis-translations so then he has to send another prophet to straighten everyone out again. Jesus was the next to the last and Mohammad was the last prophet and he got it right with the Qur’an which is why it is supposed to be read in the original Arabic.”

Drew:   “Jesus is mentioned by name in the Qur’an 25 times and referred to 187 times as compared to 5 times for Muhammad. He is a mighty messenger of God and as you stated, born of the Virgin Mary who is the considered the greatest woman to ever live in Islam. Islam rejects the trinity and considers Jesus to be a mighty messenger and a prophet who performed miracles through the allowance of God much like Moses. Also, as you stated, he is the Messiah and was the second to last Prophet before Muhammad (SAW) and will return to earth near the Day of Judgement to restore justice on the earth and defeat the Dajjal (anti-Christ).”

“Regarding the connections between Christianity and Islam, there are many similarities between the two faiths as they are considered Abrahamic. The Jews and Christians are considered People of the Book and share many of the same prophets. Your explanation is pretty much completely correct.”

Jerry: “You mentioned the Imperialism of the Western countries, and I can understand why so many Muslims are angry at the Western powers. During the Ottoman Empire there was 500 years of peace and Islam was known as the religion of Peace. I think they were able to do that by allowing each cultural, ethnic, or religious population to maintain autonomy. Then after WWI England and France carved up the empire with no consideration of competing or rival cultures. Indeed in many cases they set a minority ruler in a majority country like the Sunni leaders in Shiite Iraq or the Shiite leader in Sunni Syria.  They set up minority tyrants because then that puppet would be dependent on the imperial powers to stay in power. I can understand the Iranians anger when in 1953 our CIA overthrew Mosedech the democratically elected president because Iran wanted to nationalize a British oil company so they could benefit from their own resources.”

“So my question is what do you see as a path to peace?  Vice President Byden thought that partitioning Iraq would be the best. In Iraq the Kurds would get their own area, the Shiites their own and the Sunnis their own land and then they could remain autonomous but could still trade etc. with each other. Would that work in Iraq and Syria?

Drew: “As for the other questions, you posed about the path for peace. This is a million-dollar question! However, I will try to give my opinions as coherently as possible. I would partially disagree with vice president Biden about partitioning Iraq. That seemed like an easy fix to a much more complicated situation. Iraq is majority Shiite at 64.5% and much of the economic wealth as well as the social and political center of Iraq are in and around the capital of Baghdad where it is roughly split between Sunni and Shia. There would not be an easy line to draw anywhere and of course the Kurds have claims as well. This partition would have similar negative effects as the ones done at the end of world war 1.”

Jerry: “Why not allow the Houthis to succeed in Yemin? They were doing a good job fighting Daesh and AQAP?”

“With regards to the Houthis in Yemen the Saudi Arabian government does not want to see the Houthi retain control as they are considered Iranian puppets. The Saudis want to prevent a hostile government from forming under the border and being a base of operation for Iranians in the case of war. I thoroughly disagree with the way in which Saudi Arabia has conducted its war in Yemen and know many people who are personally effected by it. Thousands of innocent men women and children have died because of Saudi Arabia’s air raids. However, I understand politically why they are doing what they are doing. It is a zero-sum game where if the Saudis lose the Iranians gain in their eyes.”

Jerry: “I have heard that ISIS (Daesh) believes that Muslim nations are not doing as well economically as the Western countries because the people are not living according to Sharia. They think that if they set up their own caliphate and can enforce sharia then Allah will smile on them again. What do you think of that?”

Drew: “With regards to the Islamic states belief about shariah in Muslim countries. I think that from what I have studied about them, they see Sharath as an integral and inseparable part of Islamic society. Also, they as well as many other groups and scholars, regularly reference back to the Islamic golden age where Muslims were united under one Caliphate and were the regional hegemons, leading the world economically, politically, religiously, scientifically etc.”

“All Islamic scholars and Muslims would agree that Shariah is an integral and inseparable part of Muslim society however many of them would strongly disagree with the way in which the Islamic State has been implementing its return.”

“Hopefully I answered some of your questions and I apologize again for anything I left out or did not state clearly.  Please let me know if there are any other questions I can answer.” Best Regards, Drew

Here are some videotapes you can watch to learn more about Islam and radical Islam. Jerry

Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars All Without a Flamewar: Crash Course World History #13 12:52 min.

Islam and Politics: Crash Course World History 13:26 min.

Why Do Saudi Arabia And Iran Hate Each Other? 3 min.

How Saudi Arabia Support ISIS in The world

How Saudi Arabia Exports Ultra-Conservative Islam

What Do ISIS & Saudi Arabia Have In Common? 3 min.

What Does It Mean To Be A Feminist In Islam?

What Is Sharia Law?

The Best Muslim Countries For Women’s Rights


About altruist1

I am a raging progressive and a writer. I received Bachelors degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Arts with a Secondary teaching certificate and a minor in Physics. I taught for about ten years, then did various jobs including welding,fabrication and traffic engineering, and am now retired. I am interested in science, energy, the environment, and architecture.
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