Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl: "What Goes Into Making a Terrorist," Friday Khutbah, 7.8.2016
Reflecting back on the events of the month of Ramadan just ended, Dr. Abou El Fadl addresses the making of the atrocities that have taken place during this sacred month, and asks how it is possible that those who claim to be Muslim could commit such profoundly immoral acts at the opposite extreme of what should be a month of self-reflection, purification, and refrain from all that is negative or harmful. He explains the word hiraba, a word often used to refer to terrorism but which is most often not used according to its correct Islamic jurisprudential definition--hiraba is a criminal act in which the perpetrators: 1) strike by stealth; 2) do not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants in carrying out such acts; and 3) strike under circumstances where people are helpless to defend themselves--such as were the acts committed this past month. There is no disagreement among any jurists or any schools of thought that those who commit such crimes of hiraba are considered to be the lowest of all criminals and have reached the point where they are considered to be committing crimes against all of humanity. At this level of criminality, there is no acceptable justification for such crimes, regardless of the cause, motivation or reasons. Dr. Abou El Fadl further discusses in detail the three critical factors that combine to make a lethal combination for motivating impressionable youth -- particularly those who have led impious lives and are prone to mistakenly believe that one major act of self-sacrifice will wipe away their sins -- to engage in terrorist acts. It is not enough to say that ignorance is the cause. He explains that above and beyond ignorance, there is a three-part argument used by terror recruiters to convince impressionable minds -- each individual element alone would not be enough to move someone to commit hiraba, but when put together, the end result can be disastrous. The three pieces include: 1) the belief in a global conspiratorial war against Islam, for which there is an abundance of examples, not the least of which include the anti-Muslim rhetoric rampant in the recent Republican presidential debates in the U.S., for instance; 2) the general imperative of struggle or jihad (which in itself is a call for engaging in the striving to improve oneself generally, and not sufficient motivation on its own to convince one to commit hiraba); and 3) the extremist argument that there is only one true Islam (espoused by those who follow the extremist teachings of Wahhabism in which Sufism, Shiism and even Sunni Islam do not conform). According to this view, if a Muslim does not subscribe to their (extremist) view, then that Muslim is deemed to be a kafir (or infidel and outside of the fold of Islam) and should either repent and return to the "true Islam" (i.e. join the extremists) or be killed. Thus, the steep numbers of Muslim casualties in such crimes of terror. This summary does not include the important details and nuances of Dr. Abou El Fadl's original arguments and the viewer should not take this summary as a full and complete representation of Dr. Abou El Fadl's views.
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