Distortion of Islam by Muslim extremists

Distortion of Islam by Muslim extremists

Michael G. Knapp

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the people of the United States (and her allies) became much more aware of the goals, methods, and motivations of Islamic terrorist groups. However, we in the West need a clearer picture of the ideologies of these groups, as well as an understanding of how radical extremist militant fundamentalist (“REMF”) Muslims have distorted some essential traditional Islamic concepts to justify their campaigns of terror. This understanding is important, especially in light of the anticipated length and complexity of the newly begun campaign against terrorism. We are still vulnerable to attacks, but we must ultimately be successful to maintain our form of government, way of life, and ideals.

Very few people, non-Muslim or Muslim, agree with the increasingly violent methods REMF Islamic groups employ against innocent noncombatants and the symbolically important facilities and personnel of what they perceive as “secular” societies. These radical Muslim ideas not only have endured during most the 20th century and into the 21st but also have resonated increasingly in the last 30 years. The new believers are often the disaffected and disadvantaged masses in crucial states of the Middle East and Southern Asia, since these societies still appear to offer little hope for real reforms, or broad political, social, and economic participation in those societies. These disadvantaged people tend to believe what they are told about what is wrong with their world, and how strict REMF interpretations of Islam can correct these ills.

This article builds upon previous research into radical Muslim groups’ philosophies and practice of violence contained in my report, “Jihad In Islam,” published by the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) in October 2001. The goal here is to enable the reader to “get inside the adversary’s head” to discern why these groups act the way they do, as well as what they may do in the future.

The Setting: A “Boiling Cauldron”

The environment from which REMF Muslim groups grow includes conditions both inside Muslim societies and perceived threats from outside the ummah (nation or community). Within secular Islamic states, especially if a government is overwhelmingly authoritarian, it is viewed as “corrupt” and “illegitimate” by the fundamentalists. These fundamentalists speak to the rest of the population, mainly the increasingly educated youth, who have little opportunity for meaningful employment. Interestingly, many members of the Islamic extremist groups have received extensive professional training in areas such as engineering, science, medicine, and law. Many governments in the Middle East and Southern Asia are attempting to cope with persistent economic failure by repressing even mild forms of dissent, disallowing any legitimate means of political participation or the addressing of grievances by any other than the sociopolitical elite. Most of these secular nations derive their beliefs not solely from the shari’a (Islamic la w), (1) but rather a mixture of Islamic and Western law. When combined with the perception that they are promoting impure forms of Islamic beliefs and practices, the fundamentalists see these regimes as “apostate” and therefore not worthy to rule. A secular government will certainly never lead the “struggle” (jihad) against the continued political, economic, and cultural assault from “the West” and Israel. Thus, radicals see violence as the only way to effect real societal change.

Islamic radicals see Western reliance on oil and subsequent negotiations for oil resources as exploitation, or even a “Crusade” (in the true medieval sense) by “the Jews” and “the Western neocolonials,” to continue “domination” of all Muslim states. The radicals feel this negotiated economic agreement comes somehow at the expense of their livelihoods. Concepts such as secularism and “human rights” imported from (or, as they see it, imposed on them by) Western nations have not worked in Muslim societies, and these “foreign ideas” are a primary reason for the ummah’s continuing disadvantaged condition. The “nonbeliever regimes” of the West continue to support Israel’s “terrorism” against the Arabs (and all Muslims, for that matter) while propping up unpopular (i.e., secular) regional governments. These perceptions, however unrealistic and inaccurate, provide fertile soil for Islamic extremism.

Radical Islamist Groups and Their Beliefs

Historically, radicalism existed as part of a wider Islamic resurgence movement that seeks to implement some form of reform (islah) and renewal (tajdid) at least once in every century. Relatively recent attempts at change occurred in reaction to the challenges to Islam that have been building since the middle of the 19th century but reached a crisis point during the last 30 years. This sense of crisis grows from the inability of Muslims to overcome their “backwardness” and “weakness” (when compared with the West), as well as the many challenges from modernization. (The West underwent the same fundamental transformational pain in the era commonly referred to as the Industrial Revolution, but the Islamic radicals fail to acknowledge that fact.) Islamic states are not blind to the need to gain some improvements in their societies, but they do not want the “alien values” that come with these advances.

Radical Islamist thinking capitalizes on widely held beliefs in various Muslim countries (such as conspiracy theories) resulting in blaming regional problems on others (the West) and a culture of victimization. Other ideas exploited by REMF Islamists include–

* The world is a perpetual battlefield between competing opposites (good versus evil; truth against falsehood, belief (or faith) versus disbelief (or apostasy, etc.) in which there is no coexistence or compromise. (2)

* Islam is a revolutionary movement charged with altering the unjust political, economic, and social status quo. (3)

* Current secular regimes are apostates (or kafirs, unbelievers). “True” Islam-based, Allahoriented governments predicated upon Shari’a must depose and replace them. (4) Creating this change requires active jihad–which the radicals claim is the most effective and divinely sanctioned method of reform–an urgent required duty for all Muslims that, until recently, they had neglected. (A radical will also, after enumerating the faults of his audience, state something like “May Allah be merciful,” to reinforce the sense of guilt, shame, and need for active repentance in the minds of the listeners.)

* Armed struggle (or jihad bil saif, jihad by force) is required until the restoration of all Islamic lands to pure Muslim control (e.g., the reestablishment of the early unified Islamic caliphate and the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel). (5)

* Muslims must carry out a staged process (manhaj) in accordance with Sayyid Qutb and other REMF Islamists, and focus on building the ideal society, one governed only by the Shari’a. This process includes–

* Formation of the jama’ah (vanguard) of the movement and beginning to sound the call (da’wah) to “true” Islam.

* Persecution of the movement from the disbelieving (jahili) society of which it is a part, so the movement separates itself (hijra) spiritually–and if necessary physically–to “purify” itself and build up the movement’s strength in preparation for the next stage.

* Conduct of a jihad by force to establish a “just” and purely Islamic society.

When they have finished the process, the movement will declare victory and will finally establish the desired utopian “Pax Islamica.”

Radical Reinterpretation of Concepts

The basis of many of the ideas for reform and renewal of the Islamic faith and practices derive from Islam’s sacred textual sources (the Qur’an or Koran and hadith) or from interpretations by Muslim scholars and jurists. However, REMF Islamists are adept at distorting the traditional, widely accepted understandings to support their violent and non-Islamic actions. There are seven primary radical interpretations.

Jahiliyya. Traditionally used in a pejorative sense to describe the prevailing state of pagan ignorance and barbarity of pre-Islamic Arabia. Muhammad lbn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1691-1787), founder of the Wahhabi movement that later gave birth to the Saudi Arabian state, first expanded this concept to include Muslim societies of his time that had diverted from pure Islamic practice to sin. Sayyid Qutb redefined this concept to mean the modern, pervasive, willful secular state of disbelief and foreignness that seized Muslim societies, which are not based on the original Muslim holy sources and not operating under the Shari’a.

Takfir. Originally used during the seventh century rebellions by Muslim Kharijites to condemn Muslims who disagreed with them as kafirs, Thkfir was proscribed by the ulama (Islamic scholars) against professing Muslims. Al-Wahhab reintroduced the concept and used it against other Muslims he defined as hypocrites; labeling Muslims in this manner opened the way for proclaiming jihad against them. Contemporary radicals have similarly widened the use of the idea of takfir against Muslim governments seen to be too Western or not pure enough in Islamic beliefs and practice.

Hakimiyya. Ideally, this is the concept of the lordship of or governance by Allah but, according to Qutb, man has “de-throned’ Allah from his rightful dominion by establishing the sovereignty of man over men. True” Muslims must, therefore, strive through jihad by force to reestablish the supreme sovereignty of Allah. In practice, this is a call to destroy all secular nations and replace them with Islamic states (the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, etc.).

Hijra. This was the early physical migration of Muslims to Medina to escape persecution from the pagan inhabitants of Mecca who had felt increasingly threatened by the Prophet’s success in attracting followers. Mawdudi, Qutb, and other radical Islamists reinterpreted this to mean the spiritual (and physical if necessary) separation from the jahili society required by the “true believers” to increase the strength and organization of their movement. However, Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) and some other extremist groups have interpreted hijra to mean spiritual and moral separation only, while trying to penetrate the jahili society and its institutions so that they can initiate jihad as soon as possible. In practice, this is a precondition for brainwashing and indoctrination.

Jihad. Most Muslims have traditionally understood this as the internal, greater struggle (jihad al-akbar) to purify oneself spiritually and lead a good life. The lesser jihad (jihad al-asghar) is the physical (external) struggle, a shared communal obligation for some Muslims (fard kifaya), on behalf of all, to defend the ummah from aggression. However, radicals such as Hasan al-Banna and Abdullah Azzam insist that the “greater” jihad is the forceful struggle, which they label as defensive (but which is actually more offensive in nature). Furthermore, they state that it is the duty for all Muslims (fard ‘ayn) to not only return all territories to Muslim control but also to destroy “injustice” (secular law, as opposed to shari’a) and “disbelief’ (anyone who does not believe and practice as they do) wherever they are.

Questions of Strategy. The internationalization of this struggle and the linking of such efforts after the initial jihad in Afghanistan poses two important questions regarding the strategy to radical Islamists.

* Should they follow the ideals of Abd al-Salam Faraj, who advocated destroying the “near enemies” within their own societies first, in his pamphlet The Neglected Duty written as the ideologue for the EIJ?

* Should they follow the ideals of Ayman al-Zawahiri of the EIJ and Al Qaeda, to strike the “far enemy” first (e.g., the United States and other “oppressive” powers of the West)?

Ayman al-Zawahiri urges the latter course of action in his book, Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, smuggled out of Afghanistan in December 2001.

Istishad (martyrdom). In Islam, istishad historically meant making the “ultimate sacrifice” in conventional combat against armed foes. Radical Islamists, however, twisted this concept to allow suicide operations (or intihar)–forbidden in traditional Islam–against innocent noncombatants, as well as against personnel or facilities of the secular governments (for which suicide actions are permissible). Interestingly, this distortion of mainstream Muslim thought revives the tradition of suicide killings as a legitimate method by the extremist Kharijites and Assassins(6) in early Islamic history–a methodology frowned upon by most Muslims, regardless of the age in which they lived.

Significant Islamist Ideologues

There are eight major articulators of radical Islamic thought and they are the most effective reinterpreters of traditionally accepted concepts. They significantly inspired other extremists.

Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) was executed by Nasser’s Egyptian Government for advocating violent societal change in his 1964 book, Milestones (Ma’alim fil tariq, or “Signposts Along the Road” in Arabic). This publication is considered crucial for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and remains the great inspiration for most Sunni Muslim radical groups. Besides his reinterpretations of jahiliyya, takfir, and hijra, and his emphasis on the perpetual battle of competing ideas, Qutb also held up jihad as permanent conflict that is an essential part of the phased process to remake Islamic society. His writings also rekindled anti-Semitism as a part of radical Islamic thought and practice. This prolific Egyptian Islamist writer’s reinterpretation of traditional Islamic concepts was the catalyst for the rise of radical Islamic groups.

Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi (1909-1979) was the founder and leader of the Jama’at-l Islamic group, and was a significant voice in the negotiations to remake Pakistan as a true Islamic state after its partition from India in 1947. Like Qutb, he was a prolific writer on many issues of concern to Muslims in areas of religious faith, and the proper relationship between Islam and the political structure, law, and practices of the state. Besides his major works, Islam and Jahiliyya (believed to have inspired Qutb) and Towards Understanding Islam, Mawdudi wrote Jihad in Islam. His writings became available in Arabic in the i 950s and are known to have inspired Qutb and other Islamist radical thinkers. Mawdudi’s Jihad in Islam analyzed what this concept “really” means for those Muslims attempting to reform their societies, as well as insisting that jihad must continue until the whole world is the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam) or belief (dar al-iman).

Hasan al-Banna (1906-1949), the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was assassinated by the Egyptian Government for his anti-regime views. His contribution to Islamist thought was his redefinition of jihad (a part of his Five ‘Tracts of Hasan al-Banna) as an Allah-ordained defensive requirement for all Muslims, as long as unbelievers rule any Muslim lands. He also forcefully denied that the greater jihad was the internal spiritual struggle, but rather that it was the armed physical struggle against injustice and disbelief.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989) of Iran, though he was a Shi’ite cleric, his writings (such as Islamic Government, the best known of this works) and life example have ironically been a significant inspiration to Sunni Muslim extremists. Khomeni motivated radical Islamics to persist in their goal to establish similar Islamic governments in all nations of the Middle East and beyond. This was due to success of Iran’s revolution in 1979 to establish a “true” Islamic state (governed by the shari’a), and Khomeini’s insistence that Muslims must resist the “domination” by and dependence on the “decadent, infidel” governments of the West. Khomeini, like Qutb, also added to regional antiSemitic sentiments by painting “Jews” and “the West” as “enemies of the faith” who want to distort and destroy Islam.

Muhammad ‘Abd al-Salam Faraj (?-1 982) was the founder and ideologue of EIJ. Following Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s assassination on 6 October 1981, the Egyptian Government imprisoned Faraj. In October 1982, the Government executed him with Sadat’s other known, captured assailants. Faraj was the author of The Neglected Duty, which combined his ideas with those of lbn Taymiyya (1263-1328), a medieval Islamic scholar, and of Sayyid Qutb. Faraj agreed with them in advocating the overthrow of Muslim rulers he saw as having become “un-Islamic” by not actively pursuing jihad against “the occupiers of Muslim lands.” (In practice, this meant that since Sadat made peace with Israel, Sadat would have to be eliminated.) Faraj expanded on the concept and practice of jihad, stating that the “sixth pillar” (7) of Islam–which he claimed Muslims have forgotten–is a “required duty” for all to destroy corrupt local regimes so that they can then wage an effective campaign against all unbelievers.

Abdullah Azzam’s (1941-1989) significance to radical Islamist thought, as contained in his two fundamental works, Join the Caravan and Defense of Muslim Lands, is his expansion of the ideas of al-Banna and Faraj Azzam was assassinated in Pakistan in 1989, possibly by Usama bin Laden, over differences in the strategy of the Afghan jihad that both had been supporting. His writings (heavily influenced by Qutb’s ideas) are the primary source of inspiration for the proclamations of jihad against Jews and the Western “crusaders” by bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (al-Zawahiri was orginally a member of the EIJ and later a member of the transnational Al Qaeda terrorist network too). Azzam, like al-Banna, repudiated the idea that the spiritual form of jihad was more important than armed struggle, and insisted that jihad by force is the greatest religious obligation for Muslims after faith (iman) itself. He also seconds al-Banna’s and Faraj’s notions of jihad as required for all and immediately, in light of the Muslim s’ “state of crisis” vis-a-vis their (“defensive”) struggle against “the campaign to destroy Islam.” Of course, this alleged campaign is, they claim, led by Israel and the West. Azzam highlights the importance of support by the mujahiden to the jihads in Afghanistan (1980-1989) and the Palestinian territories, and also advocates expanding the Islamic jihad beyond current nationalist borders (e.g., promotion of pan-Islamic jihadist solidarity).

Ayman al-Zawahiri (1951-2002), besides recycling many of the major Islamist ideas mentioned above in his most recent book, Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner, provides some interesting thoughts on how the transnational extremist movement should develop. He counters the traditional radical strategy of targeting the “near enemy” first, saying that the great oppressive powers will not allow the mujahiden to achieve power in their own societies; thus, they must strike the “far enemy” first. Zawahiri states that for the worldwide jihad to be successful, the battle must move to the enemy’s territory. He says further that the effort should focus around small suicide teams (since these are the most cost-effective), and must establish a fundamentalist “base of operations” in the Middle East to support and coordinate the various jihad movements. Zawahiri also indicates that jihad movements must better define their message to Muslims; then the mujahiden will attract more support by providing needed services to the soci eties they are defending. This thought process appears to mirror the success of other groups (e.g., Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad) which provide health clinics and schools in the Palestinian territories, thereby attracting support. (It is also important to note that the Palestinian Authority has been unable to create these health clinics and schools.) People have a natural tendency to feel obligated to those who assist them.

Usama bin Laden (1957-present), unlike his fellow Islamist radicals above, although an impassioned revolutionary, is not implementing original ideas. Rather, even more than Zawahiri, he has simply borrowed the thoughts of Qutb, alBanna, Faraj, and Azzam, and added his own charismatic spin to them. (See his 1996 “Declaration of War” and 1998 “Fatwa” in Figure 1.) Bin Laden is really more a product of Saudi Arabian Wahhabism (8.) He focuses on an active, “defensive” jihad to rid his homeland of what he sees as a corrupt government and the continuing occupation of the “land of the two holy places,” by the “U.S. crusaders” since the end of the Gulf War. Bin Laden’s other claims of solidarity with, and a desire to assist, the Iraqis and Palestinians in their struggles against the United States and Israel, have proven hollow. His support in men, materiel, money, and more, is virtually nothing compared to what he has pumped into other causes (e.g., the attempted control of all Afghanistan, funding REMF Islamist grou ps in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Bosnia).

Toward A Better “End State”

Governments in the Middle East and Southern Asia that are friendly to the United States, and whose societies have been under attack by radical Islamist groups, have not responded effectively against these ingrained and persistent threats. To effectively meet the threat and eliminate the sources of discontent would require fundamental changes in their internal political, economic, and social structures. The fact that these nations have, so far, been successful in preventing takeovers by radical Islamist groups gives them little impetus for change. Three of the nations most important to U.S. foreign policy deserve more study.

Egypt. Egypt is a secular state that serves as the intellectual center of both the Sunni faith, and Sunni extremism. The Egyptian Government continues to avoid making the kind of significant political and economic reforms that would weaken the sympathy for its homegrown radical groups, such as the EIJ and alGama’at al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group, or IG). As an indicator of social, political, and economic discontent, note that many of the primary radical Islamists mentioned in this paper are of Egyptian origin.

Saudi Arabia–a Muslim monarchy that is the birthplace and religious center of Islam–is also an exporter of Salafi (9) (also pejoratively called “Wahhabl’ to denote its Saudi variant) extremist thought. Saudi Arabia is also a worldwide bankroller of Islamic charities, financial activities, and schools and movements sympathetic to radical causes. While its ruling family members are the guardians of the “two holy places,” they allow persecution of the country’s Shi’ah minority and ignore centers of disaffection, such as the disadvantaged southwest corner of the Kingdom (from whence 15 of the 19 September l1 airplane hijackers came). As in Egypt, Saudi Arabia’s rulers also have avoided making any difficult but meaningful societal reforms.

Pakistan is a center of separatist radicalism (a legacy from its anticolonial and partition days) with an active military jihad in Kashmir. In the past, elements of the government gave tacit support to the radical groups fighting against Indian troops in the disputed Kashmir region. Since September 11, however, Pakistani leadership is under great pressure, due to Pakistan’s support of the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan. This situation has forced Pakistan to curtail military support to radical groups such as Jaish-e Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LT). Additionally, India’s political and military reaction to the December 2001 attack on its parliament building by Pakistani-based jihadists, has forced President Pervez Musharraf’s regime to crack down on these groups even further. Pakistan’s leader must continue to walk a careful line to keep his society from fracturing any further.

Unfortunately for the United States, most of what really must be done– but has not yet been attempted–to resolve the long-festering societal problems in Middle Eastern and Southern Asian states must be accomplished by these states themselves. These regimes must–

* Be able to look inward, and start to take responsibility for their own shortcomings and mistakes.

* Begin comprehensive, painful but meaningful reforms that will really address the underlying problems that continue to sustain radical groups.

* Expand opportunities for all citizens, and ensure that even the poorest members of society have the necessary services, as well as a “safety net,” once reforms have started.

* Speak out more widely and forcefully on the part of both political and religious leaders–on behalf of tolerance and against radical distortions of the Islamic faith.

The United States, for its part, can attempt to–

* Better understand the cultures of crucial friendly states in the Middle East and Southern Asia.

* More carefully balance its foreign policy toward all states in these regions.

* Be willing to lean on its allies, when necessary, to ensure a balanced, nonconfrontational approach.

* Demonstrate, with time and significant resources, real commitment to helping to solve the problems with which these governments are wrestling.

Editor’s note: Mr. Knapp is graciously permitting us to include his extensive Glossary of Islamic Terminologyon our website for use by our readers. It will be available at http://huachuca-usaic.army.mil. mipb.mipbhome/welcome.html in a month or two.

Figure 1

Recommended Sources On This Topic.

Yvonne Y. Haddad, “Sayyid Qutb: Ideologue of Islamic Revival,” in John L. Esposito (Editor), Voices of Resurgent Islam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).

Charles J. Adams, “Mawdudi and the Islamic State,” in John L. Esposito (Editor), Voices of Resurgent Islam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).

Sayyid Qutb, Milestones, translated by S. Badrul Hasan (Karachi: International Islamic Publishers (Private) Limited, 1988). Also available on the Internet at www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Books/SQ_Milestone/default.htm.

S. Abul A’la Maududi, Jihad in Islam (Lahore: Islamic Publications Limited, 1976).

Hasan al-Banna, “Jihad,” Five Tracts of Hasan al-Banna. Available on the Internet at www.youngmuslims.ca/online_ library/books/jihad.

Ruhollah al-Musavi Khomeini, Islamic Government (Hukumat-l Islami), translated and annotated by Hamid Algar; available on the Internet at http://khomeini.hypermart.net/hukumat/right.html.

Johannes J. G. Jansen, The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East (New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1986).

Abdullah Azzam, Join the Caravan (London: Azzam Publications, 1996) and Defense of Muslim Lands (Ahle Sunnah Wal Jama’at, not dated); both formerly available on the Internet from www.azzam.com.

“Maudoodi on Takfir,” translated by Zahid Aziz, in The Light and Islamic Review, November-December 1996; available on the Internet at www.muslim.org/light/96-6.htm.

Usama [Osama] bin Laden, “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” 26 August 1996, formerly available on the Internet at www.azzam.com/html/articlesdeclaration.htm.

Usama [Osama] bin Laden, “World Islamic Front Statement Urging Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders,” 23 February 1998. Available on the Internet at www.fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner: Meditations On the Jihadist Movement. Excerpts are available through the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) as “AI-Sharq Al-Awsat Publishes Extracts from AI-Jihad Leader AI-Zawahiri’s New Book,” 2 December 2001.

David Zeidan, “The Islamic Fundamentalist View of Life as a Perennial Battle,” Ramat Gan Middle East Review of International Affairs, December 2001 (available through EBIS as “Academic Says Fundamentalists Reinterpret Islamic Concepts to Justify Violence,” 27 January 2002).

Robert Worth, “The Deep Intellectual Roots of Islamic Terror,” New York Times, 13 October 2001.

Robert Marquand, ‘The Tenets of Terror: A Special Report on the Ideology of Jihad and the Rise of Islamic Militancy,” Christian Science Monitor, 18 October 2001.

Abd al-Salam Faraj’s pamphlet, The Neglected Duty, an ideologue for the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) group.


(1.) “Shari’a” is islamic law, derived primarily from the Koran and the Sunna (custom, way of acting, “the trodden path”; literally “the way to the water hole’).

(2.) Egyptian Islamist writer Sayyid Qutb.

(3.) Indo-Pakistani Islamist writer Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi. This idea occurs not only in Sunni radical thought but also in Shi’ism. According to ‘All Shari’ati (1933-1977), the primary ideologue of the Iranian Revolution, active revolution is seen as necessary even in the absence of the Hidden (12th) main of the Shi’ites (who is in mysterious hiding but will return as the Mahdito lead the Islamic ummah back to greatness).

(4.) Egyptian Islamist Muhammad ‘Abd alSalam Faraj.

(5.) Egyptian Hasan al-Banna and by the Palestinian Abdullah Azzam.

(6.) The Assassins were an order of Muslim fanatics who were active in Persia and Syria from about 1090 to 1272. Their chief objective was to assassinate Crusaders.

(7.) True Islam recognizes five pillars of faith: public conversion, prayer at the prescribed five times per day, fasting during the month of Ramadan, the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and charity, especially to widows and orphans.

(8.) Wahhabism is a puritanical brand of reform Islam concentrated in the Arabian Peninsula that focuses on removing all traces of idolatry, forbidding the veneration of saints (as Sufis do), and severely punishing all who go against its strict interpretations of the Koran and hadith.

(9.) Salafi originally meant “early Muslim” or someone who died in the first four years after the Prophet. Followers of Muhammad Abduh revived this term for later-day Muslims who advocate a return to the Shari’a-minded orthodoxy that will purify Islam from unwarranted accretions.

Michael Knapp has worked in Military Intelligence for more than 20 years. In that time, he has served in the U.S. Army on active duty (as Battalion S2, Division G2 and Force Development Staff Officer, and Brigade S2); in the Virginia Army National Guard (as an All-Source Production Section Chief, Division Tactical Operations Center Support Element Chief, and Brigade S2); and in the U.S. Army Reserve as a Military Capabilities Analyst. Mr. Knapp spends most of his time as a civilian Middle East and South Asia analyst at the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC). Readers can contact him via the Internet at frknamg@ngic.army.mil and telephonically at (434) 980-7479 or DSN 521-7479.

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