Every single one of us perfectly remembers where we were and what we were doing on September 11th 2001, when the news reached us that some airplane crashed into the World Trade Center (I was cleaning beans on the kitchen table at my parents’). This attack and the ones that followed in the minutes and hours following, brought us very close to, what Samuel Huntington once described as the next big thing, “The clash of civilizations”.
Suddenly the talk of the town became Muslims trying to defeat Western supremacy. All of them (most of them) suddenly became suspicious, a possible threat to our civic society based on equality, democracy, tolerance and what have you more. Islam became the doing of those men with long beards and short trousers.
What followed ? Some wars, sometimes being righteous, most of them just strategic (or as seen by the Muslims, just evil). The Taliban got (almost) defeated, Usama bin Laden (the ultimate bad guy) was driven out of Afghanistan, the military structure of al-Qaeda dismantled, … But it happened again, London, Madrid, Bali, … attacked by extremist Muslims.
The West brought in the cavalry. The USA pulled it’s NATO allies into the quick sand of the Middle East. It would not take that long before we were fighting Islam. Extremist Islam of course, but what makes Islam extremist ? In the following paragraphs I’ll try to explain what defines Islam, Islamism, Salafī and Jihādī.
Anyone who declares the Shahāda (there is no God but God and Muhammad is his Prophet -لا اله إلا الله و محمد رسول الله) is Muslim. There are just five basic rules in Islam (أركان الدين:
1. Shahāda ~ quoted above
2. Salāt ~ prayer
3. Zakāt ~ helping the needed (in short)
4. Sawm ~ fasting during the holy month
5. Hajj ~ pilgrimage to the city of Mekka
Anyone following these rules (or some of them) is considered being a Muslim. No political ideas involved here
This movement in Islam aims at a higher goal. Islamists are the ones promoting politics to be lead by the principles of Islam. These should not only guide an individual’s personal life, but should be taken in account on a political level. The state should be lead by Islam; but Islamists tend towards the idea that such a state could only exist by support of it’s population. Thus, they are considered to be Muslims with a political agenda, but democratic nonetheless.
The Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt is an excellent example of political Islam or Islamism.
Salafī Islam is driven by the rules, principles and laws as posed by the Qur’ān and Hadīth (simply put; some guidelines given by the Prophet Muhammad). But in a very extreme way. Only these trusted sources and consensus of Islamic scholarship brings stability to society, both on micro- as on macro-level. Whereas Islamists are to be considered tending towards democracy; these guys are a bit of the opposite. Equal rights for example are not the agenda.
But then another faction pops up. The Salafī movement in Islam became divided as well. Nowadays we see Salafī Islahī (reform Salafī) on the one hand and Salafī Jihādī (the once who like violence) on the other. The former just try to persuade people by preaching, the latter by terrorism ..
Al-Qaeda is the best example here. By attacking the United States they made it clear. The 9/11 attacks are, so far, the ones with the biggest impact. Several wars only created more Jihadists
. In the aftermath of 9/11 we have witnessed terrorist attacks in London, Bali, Madrid, Marrakech, … Well, about everywhere. The organization al-Qaeda (if there ever was one) may have disappeared virtually since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Usama bin Laden’s death; the ideas survive. Al-Qaeda has proven it’s continuous existence (as an idea) in the killing of USA ambassador Christopher Stevens. In Syria, Jabhat an-Nusra (Nusra Front) is fighting the regime, imagine they win …