The misguided puritans of Islam [Archives:2002/09/Focus]

February 25 2002

Hassan Al-Haifi
Even when the Moslem Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Walls of China and even when Islam expanded throughout the civilized world, one of the most important things to take note of was that Islam obtained its adherents by voluntary conversion. Perhaps Islam is the only religion that can rightly claim to have gained its adherents by its convincing logic and the example shown by its adherents. Islam, by virtue of not having a clergy or an ecclesial order, did not have an institutionalized missionary activity until recently.
When the Islamic puritanical movement surfaced in some parts of the Arabian Peninsula, this movement made strong efforts to assert itself over all the other individual and small-organized efforts to advocate for Islam. This puritanical movement was enhanced by gaining ground in some of the oil rich states and thus was given access to substantial funding resources. Unfortunately, these resources were not used to help spread Islam in new territories as much as they were used to challenge the other sectarian versions and to place its organizers at the top of all Islamic activities within Islamic societies. Not only that, these puritans sought to become the sole trustees for all religious activities in the Islamic world by alienating any other established sects that disagreed with the puritanical version they insisted upon as being the only acceptable form of Islam, while others are considered as infidels!
Of course this religious monopoly was alien to the Moslem world until these puritans appeared and seldom did you have any violent sectarian strife in Islam. These puritans armed with petrodollars were able to recruit sizable constituencies in several Moslem countries, especially poor and underdeveloped Moslem societies that were easily swayed to send many of their children to the religious institutes, which were covertly run by these puritan movements. On the other hand they were able to take advantage of the Cold War, by taking on an anti Communist platform on the basis of religious beliefs. In these Moslem Scholastic institutes they were able to breed a sizable following that they were able to mold into only accepting the fundamentalist views of these puritans and to reject all other Moslems outside their constituencies as infidels or untouchables.
The reason for this was that in the beginning the movements took on an innocent well-intentioned image, where their primary goal was to serve Islam, which seemed convincing to most people, even this observer. Further probing into the past of these movements, however eventually showed them to be a peculiar lot, with unclear goals and non transparent approaches.
Furthermore, the leaders of these movements often had access to considerable resources from which they were able to amass substantial fortunes, which is unusual for missionary work or religious advocacy, especially in Islam, as Moslem advocates in Islam usually are pious and reject the mundane world. Furthermore these so called fundamentalists developed paramilitary units among their constituencies and began to use this new muscle by forcing themselves into communities were they had no foothold in and threatening any protagonists by the use of terror and other means. In the meantime, they also obtained footholds among Moslem communities that developed in the non-Moslem West and East instigating friction with those who did not agree with their methods or their philosophy.
By now, these puritanical movements have proven to be not only a menace to Islam but the whole world as well. But in the end only the Truth will prevail, for that is the will of God!