Religious Indoctrination and the Creation of Terrorists
by Samir Yousif (first published New English Review April 2015)
Few days ago, I was listening to a program on the BBC. The program purported to discuss the serious issues that lead to the murder and killings of innocent people and yet, the program was considering nothing but a TV show, the content of which was an interview with a “British” Sunni Muslim father who has sent two of his sons to travel to Syria in order to join Al-Nusra Terrorist Organization.1
The father said: “As a father I want my sons to come back” (after the death of one of them)! But during the interview the father repeatedly declared that he wished all his sons would travel and fight with Al-Nusra. His sons who were still living with him at their comfortable house in London were all “enthusiastic” and eager to join terrorism. They were all self-motivated and impatiently awaiting the day they would join Al-Nusra Terrorist Organization. The family members envied the killed son and consider him as a “martyr” who is“flying with his wings in Heaven” – how happy and privileged must he be.
The father is nothing but a blind man motivated by sectarian hatred, hatred against other religious sects, and unable to visualize the consequences of this hatred: his sons are butchering innocent civilians for no reason but that they belong to other indigenous religious or ethnic groups such as, Syriac Orthodox Christians, Shi’a, Druz, Ismailis, Alawaits or Sunni Kurds.2 His sons, on the other hand, are unaware that they are the victims of their family’s’ brain-washing. There is no way that they will ever discover that.
It is very interesting to reach such a state where a father admits publically that he is encouraging his sons to join Al-Nusra Terrorist organization and faces no legal consequences in a well-established democracy like Britain.
This is what makes the theme of this paper the statement that the terrorists are the victims of family indoctrination. Furthermore, this implies that the parents are the real criminals.
This statement has serious legal, social and political consequences.
From the legal point of view, the family should be held responsible. In this specific case, the father should be arrested and charged with aiding terrorism. The act of terrorism is the product or the outcome of family-indoctrination; the children are pushed persistently by their families towards such ends. Soon this “pushing” becomes self-motivation. This artificial “motivation” is the outcome of the daily indoctrination. Al-Qaeda, Dai’sh (ISIL), Al-Nusra, Taliban, Boko Haram, Askar Islam and Al Shabab, all belong to the Sunni Sect. They all grew up within Sunni families and failed to see beyond them.
While all the terrorist groups mentioned are Sunnis, no attempt has been made by any Sunni Scholar to discuss this issue or to understand its background and the factors causing it.
When this issue is looked at from a different angle, one might wonder if British society ever had any influence on the upbringing of this new generation. The sons who are potential terrorists or time-bombs, were fully influenced by the family’s brain-washing with little if any influence from society as a whole and the British education system in particular. What complicates this issue further is the availability of Muslim private schools in Britain. Such schools provide a very serious environment for indoctrination and the spread of extremism and fanaticism. Religious education deprives the students from the chance of having open minds and critical ways of thinking. It prevents them from accepting different points of view, and turns them into nothing but dogmatic fanatics. This picture becomes extremely serious under the Islamic education syllabus. The children will consider the teachings of the Quran as true and will accept the practices of Da’ish as legitimate. All the crimes committed against humanity by Da’ish are fully justified by Islamic doctrine. An un-refuted example is the reaction of the famous Egyptian Al-Azhar University in Cairo. Sheik Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Head of this institute, confirmed publically that he cannot consider Da’ish to be apostate.3 Looking at this statement upside down, it shows clearly that Sheik Ahmed Al-Tayeb considers ISIL (Da’ish) to be Muslims and their practices are indeed very Islamic.
One of the very interesting questions to ask, in this regard, is why have we witnessed the rise of such terrorist movements during the 21st century? These Sunni communities were there all the time, so what are the special circumstances that led to such development now? The statement that Sunni extremism is the product of Shi’a extremism is the most acceptable explanation available. This statement is derived from the following historical developments.
After the First World War the political picture prevailing throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world was characterized by secular and nationalist political movements. The reaction to the defeat and disintegration of the Ottoman Empire during the First World War was not only visible in Turkey with Ataturk taking power and turning Turkey into a modern secular state, but also throughout the Ottoman colonies, especially the Arab Middle East, where the trend to move away from the Turkish Caliphate was overriding. During the period of independence from classical colonialism, religion was nearly absent and played little part in such movements. This was valid not only for the Middle East countries, but also for countries in both continents in Asia as well as Africa. Third world independent movements were guided by national political parties and strongly backed by the Eastern Bloc as part of the prerequisites of the Cold War. Communist and different Left-Wing groups played significant roles in the independence movements after the Second World War. In 1952 a young army officer called Gamal Abdul Nasser4 managed to take power in Cairo after a successful military coup. The ideology adopted by Nasser was that of “Pan Arabism” strongly backed by a socialist agenda. Later his ideology became to be known as “Arab Socialism.”
During the 1950’s and the 1960’s Jamal Abdul Nasser and the ideology of Arab Socialism monopolized the political arena in the Middle East. Military takeovers took place in different Arab countries following the guidelines of Nasser. Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Mauritania and Libya are good examples of that legacy. The same picture continued after the 6-Day War of 1967. The different Palestinian groups were either nationalist, like the PLO, or Marxist-oriented organizations.
This picture of national plus leftist groups dominated the politics of the “Third World.” Rebel organizations in different countries also adopted one form of Marxism as their official ideology. A person with religious background had no place within such circumstances for he was considered to be backward, uneducated and was despised by the elite, and by the politically-motivated masses.
In the Third World, Marxism became the modern stream of “scientific” thinking and it was the most popular expanding ideology. This phenomenon represented the main challenge to Western Europe and the US during the Cold War.
I believe that both the US and Western Europe encouraged religious centers and movements in both Asia and Africa as part of the imperatives of the Cold War. Religion was one of the main tools against the spread of Communism. It was under such circumstances that Grand Ayatollah Khomeini5 declared his revolt against the Shah of Iran at the end of the 1970’s. This declaration marked the birth of modern Political Islam6 since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The success of the Khomeini Revolution in Iran was followed by several attempts to export the Revolution leading to the 8-year long Iraq-Iran war. Across the borders and into Afghanistan, the Soviet Army was fighting fierce Western-backed guerilla warfare with the Mujahadeen. The international balance of power faced serious disequilibrium in that region. Khomeini and his Islamic Revolution received high levels of international publicity.
All these developments provided the Shiite version of Islam with International publicity at a time when this sect represented less than 20% of the total Muslims worldwide, the rest were Sunni Muslims. This is the central theme of my argument.
The success of Shiite Muslims in Iran pushed to the limits Sunni Muslim traditional organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and led to the formation of new extreme movements, especially fundamentalist groups. Fierce competition between the Shiite and Sunni groups continued throughout this process. Regional conflicts further increased the formation and development of such groups as was seen during the Lebanese civil war, in Chechnya and the civil war in the Balkans caused by the dismantling of Socialist Yugoslavia. But the world had to wait until September 11, 2001 to witness the reply of Sunni Muslims to Khomeini’s Revolution of the late 1970’s.
Sunni Islamic groups and organizations were formed in all Arab countries and were banned in one way or another. The suppression of these well-organized groups during the late part of the twentieth century in countries suffering from high levels of corruption and political mismanagement helped push the popularity of these groups. Islam is the Solution was the slogan of these groups that spread strongly throughout the poor classes of society. The general political atmosphere during the last decades of the twentieth century excluded the participation of Islamism, and prevented them from taking power, as happened in Algeria. This exclusion further strengthened such groups and increased their popularity. Islamism had to move underground and to wait until the arrival of the so-called “Arab Spring” for legitimacy. The so-called Arab Spring created a legal framework for the previously-underground groups to participate in general elections – as was the case in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt. As for Libya, the Islamic groups entered into the first general elections under secular platforms that deceived the public and opened the door for a bloody internal conflict.
ISIL (Da’ish) and Islam7
Serious and widespread discussions are ongoing all over the Muslim world regarding the behavior of the Islamic State (Da’ish). Is Da’ish behavior alien to Muslim history? Is Da’ish an Islamic State? Does history confirm Da’ish practices or reject them? Can we find answers to such questions by examining Islamic history, especially the conduct of “Mohammed”?
Many contemporary Muslims reject the very idea that Da’ish represents true Islam. Their understanding of Islamic history is one sided where they see nothing but “victories,” thinkers, philosophy, in other words: Islamic history written by a biased Muslim. Actually, Islamic history before the Umayyad Caliphate,8 which is known as the Rashidun9 is significantly different from the history of this Caliphate and may be as much mythological as historical. During the days of “Mohammed” and the Rashidun one can find ample examples of similar incidences as committed by Da’ish. Killing of POWs, burning people alive, taken women as slaves, and destroying ancient temples and statues. In addition, and during the days of the first Rashidun Calipha Abu Bakr who had to engage in the so-called Ridda Wars10 also known as the Wars of Apostasy. Under these circumstances Abu Bakr ordered the killings of all the men of Ridda tribes without mercy, while their families were taken as slaves. That included even the tribes which accepted Islam but refused to pay taxes to Abu Bakr. Da’ish considers these events as guidelines for their daily practice in the 21st century.
On the other hand, the Umayyad Caliphate was founded by Muawiya ibn Abi Sufian, long-time governor of Al-sham, after the end of the first civil War in 661 (year 41 according to the Islamic Higeri Calender). Muawiya was the descendant of a wealthy family that was in charge of running the City of Mecca. He possessed strong insight, was flexible and his style in politics represents a separate school. His family never accepted “Mohammed’s” claim that he was the messenger of God, and kept firm until the Muslims controlled Mecca. This piece of information is vital to the understanding of the events that occurred after the year 661. Muawiya, whose wife Maysum was a Christian, started to establish a modern state (very alien to the Arabs who lived in the desert un-controlled by any central establishment). To do so he used the expertise of the Persian as well as the Roman Empires. In simple terms, he managed to establish a modern state through his famous religious tolerance.
Under this modern state, the various ethnic and religious groups, like the Christians, enjoyed self-rule and a great degree of prosperity. The society was very multi-cultural. Alcohol and music had a central place in the social life of this new Empire. In other words there was nothing that indicated that this new Empire was Muslim. This took place just 41 years after the supposed death of “Mohammed.”
The indigenous Christians in Syria today are facing extermination by Da’ish. Churches which were built 2000 years ago are been blown up or stolen. It is clear that Da’ish considers itself to be a continuation of the original Muslims, the Rashidun, and not the Umayyad Caliphate or what came after that.11
This short history provides an answer to our central issue: is ISIL a true Islamic state? And the answer is yes. Modern Muslims today who claim that Dai’sh does not represent Islam are unaware of the realities of their own religion and what it actually calls for.
 Terrorist because it declared its loyalty to AL Qaeda and it is classified as a terrorist organization according to the US State Department.
 Both Syria and Iraq are multi-cultural societies. Syria was a Christian country during the Roman Empire and was the first Christian country to be ruled by Muslims. Actually the first Muslim Empire (The Umayyad Caliphate) had its Capital in Damascus. Wikipedia has detailed links on this matter.
 This statement by Sheik Ahmed Al-Tayeb, issued on 11.12.2014, led to huge demonstrations and protests in Cairo. For details, go to the following Link: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/02/azhar-egypt-radicals-islamic-state-apostates.html#
 At this point I disagree with many scholars who claim that Political Islam was a product of Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement, especially the works of Hassan Al-Bana (1906-1949) who established the Muslim Brothers organization in March 1928, and Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) who published a number of works calling for the return to basic Islamic values and Sharia. It is of vital importance that we realize that this political movement had the Hanbali School of religious thinking as its central ideology.
 Charles Lister, “Profiling the Islamic State,” Foreign Policy at Brookings, Number 13, November 2014.