Lies of the ‘Puritans’ [Archives:2002/50/Focus]

December 9 2002

By Hassan Al-Haifi
The puritanical sects that took on many names and covers, spread throughout the Moslem World, under a loosely tied network, with icons of the movement rapidly catching media attention. The spread and prestige achieved by these various dubious institutions that emerged gradually began to take on the image as being representative of Islamic thought and doctrine.
Furthermore they took on the shape of political movements in the various states that made up the Moslem World, taking full advantage of whatever marginal political freedoms were made available in these states. In many areas, they also took on a paramilitary presence, with established training grounds and with their icons roaming around the country with heavily armed escorts.
Once these puritanical institutions established firm grounds in any country, they began to forcefully put their will upon the Moslems of these countries demanding that only their views on all matters of religion be accepted by all, and anyone who refuses shall be considered as a heathen or a heretic. Thus another factor that worked against the development of the other rational, traditional Psalmists, who painstakingly sought to protect what they could of the tolerance and compassion which Islam truly conveyed. It is noteworthy to mention that the major factors that helped these puritanical sects gain rapid momentum over the last three decades were as follows:
Widespread illiteracy and ignorance among most of the populations of the Moslem World and the inability of the prevailing regimes in these states to provide widespread educational and other social services to the populations of these states.
The substantial funding that the propagators and organizers of these institutions had access to, most of which came from the followers of these puritanical sects in some of the rich Gulf States.
The seemingly innocent and excessive religious character of these movements appealed to innocent followers of Islam, who could not characterize these movements properly. Many Moslems saw in the active excessive adherence portrayed by these groups as more attractive to the spread of vice and corruption that prevailed in many Moslem states, which faithful Moslems saw as rightly being anathema to Islam.
The ample media sensations created by the propagators of these puritanical, so called orthodox sects.
Their tight net organizational and clandestine nature of their activities, which lacked any transparency, and thus were not subject to questioning even by the mass constituencies that have fallen under these movements.
The ability of the followers of these creeds to convey to the United States and other Western allies that they can guarantee victory against Communism. This led to substantial clandestine military as well as tactical support for these movements, in areas like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Central Asia.
The tendency of some regimes in the Moslem World to ally themselves politically with these movements, with a mutual tacit laisse-faire attitude of the regime and the proponents of these movements, as long as each stayed within agreed lines limiting the attacks against the respective side. The Sudan was one of the first to declare itself free from such clandestine political arrangement.
There are many other reasons why these movements began to take on the position of the leading Psalmists in the Moslem states, but it is clear that these movements have done great harm to the image of Islam and to the future hopes of the Moslem Nation. It is the challenge of trying to offset all this damage that has been caused that true Moslem activists must work to achieve, if Islam is to regain its true face in the world as a creed that insists on peace and human rights for all citizens of the world and values human life and works to spread welfare and prosperity for all human beings.