Tuesday, July 26, 2005

On The Political Roots of Islamist Violence - Islam's Schisms

This extract is taken from Thomas Keightley's Secret Societies of the Middle Ages (1837) - and describes how Islamist violence is rooted in the earliest schism of the Muslim faith. The schism (between the Shias and the Sunnis) first arose from a political, not a religious dispute. It was solely about achieving power:

"It must be steadily kept in mind, in every discussion respecting the Mohammedan religion, that Mohammed and his successors succeeded in establishing what the lofty and capacious mind of Gregory VII attempted in vain - the union of the civil and ecclesiastical powers in the same person. Unlike the schisms of the eastern and western, of the Catholic and Protestant churches, which originated in difference of opinion on points of discipline or matters of doctrine, that of the Mohammedans arose solely from ambition and the struggle for temporal power."

When we try to assess the nature of the Al Qaeda threat, we have little firm information as to its true ambitions, and those of its allied groups. A multiplicity of competing aims is articulated by a multiplicity of spokespeople.

However, it is clear that international violence (similar to Al Qaeda's) has been associated with the spread of Islam since its beginnings in the 7th century. And the springs of this violence have consistently been political, not religious.

Put another way, to extricate political from religious aims, when dealing with
Islamist violence, is to miss the point: the Islamist's religious aims can only
be met through the assumption of political power.

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