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Thread: Losing my Jihadism

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    Losing my Jihadism

    washingtonpost.com

    Losing My Jihadism

    By Mansour al-Nogaidan
    Sunday, July 22, 2007; Page B01

    BURAIDAH, Saudi Arabia Islam needs a Reformation. It needs someone with the courage of Martin Luther.

    This is the belief I've arrived at after a long and painful spiritual journey. It's not a popular conviction -- it has attracted angry criticism, including death threats, from many sides. But it was reinforced by Sept. 11, 2001, and in the years since, I've only become more convinced that it is critical to Islam's future.

    Muslims are too rigid in our adherence to old, literal interpretations of the Koran. It's time for many verses -- especially those having to do with relations between Islam and other religions -- to be reinterpreted in favor of a more modern Islam. It's time to accept that God loves the faithful of all religions. It's time for Muslims to question our leaders and their strict teachings, to reach our own understanding of the prophet's words and to call for a bold renewal of our faith as a faith of goodwill, of peace and of light.

    I didn't always think this way. Once, I was one of the extremists who clung to literal interpretations of Islam and tried to force them on others. I was a jihadist.

    I grew up in Saudi Arabia. When I was 16, I found myself assailed by doubts about the existence of God. I prayed to God to give me the strength to overcome them. I made a deal with Him: I would give up everything, devote myself to Him and live the way the prophet Muhammad and his companions had lived 1,400 years ago if He would rid me of my doubts.

    I joined a hard-line Salafi group. I abandoned modern life and lived in a mud hut, apart from my family. Viewing modern education as corrupt and immoral, I joined a circle of scholars who taught the Islamic sciences in the classical way, just as they had been taught 1,200 years ago. My involvement with this group led me to violence, and landed me in prison. In 1991, I took part in firebombing video stores in Riyadh and a women's center in my home town of Buraidah, seeing them as symbols of sin in a society that was marching rapidly toward modernization.

    Yet all the while, my doubts remained. Was the Koran really the word of God? Had it really been revealed to Muhammad, or did he create it himself? But I never shared these doubts with anyone, because doubting Islam or the prophet is not tolerated in the Muslim society of my country.

    By the time I turned 26, much of the turmoil in me had abated, and I made my peace with God. At the same time, my eyes were opened to the hypocrisy of so many who held themselves out as Muslim role models. I saw Islamic judges ignoring the marks of torture borne by my prison comrades. I learned of Islamic teachers who molested their students. I heard devout Muslims who never missed the five daily prayers lying with ease to people who did not share their extremist beliefs.

    In 1999, when I was working as an imam at a Riyadh mosque, I happened upon two books that had a profound influence on me. One, written by a Palestinian scholar, was about the struggle between those who deal pragmatically with the Koran and those who take it and the hadith literally. The other was a book by a Moroccan philosopher about the formation of the Arab Muslim way of thinking.

    The books inspired me to write an article for a Saudi newspaper arguing that Muslims have the right to question and criticize our religious leaders and not to take everything they tell us for granted. We owe it to ourselves, I wrote, to think pragmatically if our religion is to survive and thrive.

    That article landed me in the center of a storm. Some men in my mosque refused to greet me. Others would no longer pray behind me. Under this pressure, I left the mosque.

    I moved to the southern city of Abha, where I took a job as a writer and editor with a newly established newspaper. I went back to leading prayers at the paper's small mosque and to writing about my evolving philosophy. After I wrote articles stressing our right as Muslims to question our Saudi clerics and their interpretations and to come up with our own, officials from the kingdom's powerful religious establishment complained, and I was banned from writing.

    The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave new life to what I had been saying. I went back to criticizing the rote manner in which we Muslims are fed our religion. I criticized al-Qaeda's school of thought, which considers everyone who isn't a Salafi Muslim the enemy. I pointed to examples from Islamic history that stressed the need to get along with other religions. I tried to give a new interpretation to the verses that call for enmity between Muslims and Christians and Jews. I wrote that they do not apply to us today and that Islam calls for friendship among all faiths.

    I lost a lot of friends after that. My old companions from the jihad felt obliged to declare themselves either with me or against me. Some preferred to cut their links to me silently, but others fought me publicly, issuing statements filled with curses and lies. Once again, the paper came under great pressure to ban my writing. And I became a favorite target on the Internet, where my writings were lambasted and labeled blasphemous.

    Eventually I was fired. But by then, I had started to develop a different relationship with God. I felt that He was moving me toward another kind of belief, where all that matters is that we pray to God from the heart. I continued to pray, but I started to avoid the verses that contain violence or enmity and only used the ones that speak of God's mercy and grace and greatness. I remembered an incident in the Koran when the prophet told a Bedouin who did not know how to pray to let go of the verses and get closer to God by repeating, "God is good, God is great." Don't sweat the details, the prophet said.

    I felt at peace, and no longer doubted His existence.

    In December 2002, in a Web site interview, I criticized al-Qaeda and declared that some of the Friday sermons were loathsome because of their attacks against non-Muslims. Within days, a fatwa was posted online, calling me an infidel and saying that I should be killed. Once again, I felt despair at the ways of the Muslim world. Two years later, I told al-Arabiya television that I thought God loves all faithful people of different religions. That earned me a fatwa from the mufti of Saudi Arabia declaring my infidelity.

    But one evening not long after that, I heard a radio broadcast of the verse of light. Even though I had memorized the Koran at 15, I felt as though I was hearing this verse for the first time. God is light, it says, the universe is illuminated by His light. I felt the verse was speaking directly to me, sending me a message. This God of light, I thought, how could He be against any human? The God of light would not be happy to see people suffer, even if they had sinned and made mistakes along the way.

    I had found my Islam. And I believe that others can find it, too. But first we need a Reformation similar to the Protestant Reformation that Martin Luther led against the Roman Catholic Church.

    In the late 14th century, Islam had its own sort of Martin Luther. Ibn Taymiyya was an Islamic scholar from a hard-line Salafi sect who went through a spiritual crisis and came to believe that in time, God would close the gates of hell and grant all humans, regardless of their religion, entry to his everlasting paradise. Unlike Luther, however, Ibn Taymiyya never openly declared this revolutionary belief; he shared it only with a small, trusted circle of students.

    Nevertheless, I find myself inspired by Luther's courageous uprising. I see what Islam needs -- a strong, charismatic personality who will lead us toward reform, and scholars who can convince Islamic communities of the need for a bold new interpretation of Islamic texts, to reconcile us with the wider world.

    Mansour al-Nogaidan writes

    for the Bahraini newspaper Al-Waqt.
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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    That poor writer has signed his own death warrant a dozen times over.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    That poor writer has signed his own death warrant a dozen times over.
    What courage the man has! He is an inspiration.
    Semper in excretum. Solum profunda variat.

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    An t-aimiréal chléthúil Senior Contributor crooks's Avatar
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    Fair play to him, even if he is bound to end up beheaded .
    Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative.
    - John Stuart Mill.

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    Banned Defense Professional Bluesman's Avatar
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    I so admire that kind of quiet courage of conviction. He seeks an INNER life, and he epitomizes the concept of fidelity.

    Good luck to him.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Muslims need more brave souls like him to speak out for them.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Well said by that guy, I only wish it would come true.

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    What An Article!

    Astralis,

    That man is a revelation. Great find! He should be hired by USAID and sent to Pakistan to help reform their public school system and Madrassas. Doesn't sound like he ought think about home anytime soon, though.

    P.S. I suppose it's o.k. if we hire him. He's already got a death warrant, it seems. Working for us can't make that much worse...unless the salafi irhabists whack his extended family too.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
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    FreeGeneral Senior Contributor Big K's Avatar
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    "Nevertheless, I find myself inspired by Luther's courageous uprising. I see what Islam needs -- a strong, charismatic personality who will lead us toward reform, and scholars who can convince Islamic communities of the need for a bold new interpretation of Islamic texts, to reconcile us with the wider world."

    "religious leader" is a very dangerous concept. it can be a sword with two sharp edges.

    i want to remind that AQ. terrorists were once "freedom fighters" against Russians...

    btw,

    a "leadership" in Islam is not acceptable due to "anybody can enter between man and Allah"

    i agree that a reform is needed in these countries but we have to find another way
    Last edited by Big K; 26 Jul 07, at 10:15.
    Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none; be able for thine enemy rather in power than use; and keep thy friend under thine own life's key; be checked for silence, but never taxed for speech.

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    FreeGeneral Senior Contributor Big K's Avatar
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    incorrect or faulty applications does not make the whole system inaccurate.

    it just indicates that human factor is in the circuit...

    in this exemple i think that the problem is not the Islam.

    but

    the problem is surely the way of understanding/practising/enforcing(which is totally wrong and against Islam) Islam...

    infact

    freewill is the key feature of Islam.

    imagine that theres Allmighty God which has all the capabilitys

    and

    which also has not the ability of influence your choices....

    is it possible that Allmighty God (if wanted) can not create a "perfect programmed man-kind?"

    i dont think so...

    God gave us the freewill and ability of choosing everthing about being a "sinful" or "religious"

    he gave us the capability of thinking and judging things...

    so...

    "Enforcing" something means "Playing God".....isnt it??

    it is the worst sin ever...

    but it is just me...
    Last edited by Big K; 26 Jul 07, at 10:39.
    Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none; be able for thine enemy rather in power than use; and keep thy friend under thine own life's key; be checked for silence, but never taxed for speech.

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    WAB Resident Historian Senior Contributor Kansas Bear's Avatar
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    Considering all the problems religions have brought.........


    Bertrand Russell was a well known British philosopher of the 20th century. He was arrested during World War I for anti-war activities, and filled out a form at the jail. The officer, noting that Russell had defined his religious affiliation as "Agnostic" commented: "Ah yes; we all worship Him in our own way, don't we." This comment allegedly "kept him smiling through his first few days of incarceration."

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    Liberté, Unité, Egalité Senior Contributor Tronic's Avatar
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    Big K, the first step towards improving the condition in those countries is getting those people to realize that their ideology is a bit faulty. Saying that Islam is not at fault, well, I do not know how to put that. I think that Islam faces the same defining problem as communism. Communism in theory leads to Utopia, but through practice, its followers have not achieved that. Similarly, Islam itself might be flawless in its design to create Utopia but that again is only in theory. The way Islam is being practiced is an entirely different face then what Islam is claimed to be in theory. So is Communism at fault or its followers? Is Islam at fault or its followers? Or rather, lets start off by asking, when implying "Islam", are we implying the Islam as its suppose to be? or are we implying it as it is? I think the latter is true. So, when it is said that Islam needs a reform, in essence, it means that its followers need a reform as it is only they who make up the religion for what it is.

    Your nation is perhaps the most secular Muslim nation in the world, but why is that so? Sole reason being ofcourse that Ataturk realized that to lead towards a civilized, progressive, secular and a modern society, he should keep religion as far away from national affairs as possible; and he did. Now you tell me a single nation which has adopted Islam as their guidebook to run the nation and succeeded in creating a progressive society like Turkey? The answer is none. Wherever Islam has risen to power, it has provided oppression not only upon people of other faiths, but even upon its own people! Heck, Iran happened to be a free, liberal society under the Shah and now just over 2 decades after its "Islamic revolution", the people are being flogged to death, or being send to the gallows in public displays, simply because they did something which the government thought was "un-Islamic". So now do ask, is Islam the problem? I think that question answers itself.
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    Big K, you are perhaps, and please don't think I am being critical of you or yours in saying this, in a very interesting place in terms of this issue.

    At the heart, inter alia, of successfull Western societies is the seperation of church and state. Part of the genius of Kemal Ataturk ( did I spell that correctly? ) was his attempt at an islamic "reformation". Turkey, in my humble opinion, is a much better place for his efforts. I am not saying that Turkey is less "devout", just that it is better for the seperation effected.

    The struggle will be to keep religion out of politics and that struggle never seems to end if Australian political history is any guide.

    Jonathan

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    Senior Contributor smilingassassin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tronic View Post
    Big K, the first step towards improving the condition in those countries is getting those people to realize that their ideology is a bit faulty. Saying that Islam is not at fault, well, I do not know how to put that. I think that Islam faces the same defining problem as communism. Communism in theory leads to Utopia, but through practice, its followers have not achieved that. Similarly, Islam itself might be flawless in its design to create Utopia but that again is only in theory. The way Islam is being practiced is an entirely different face then what Islam is claimed to be in theory. So is Communism at fault or its followers? Is Islam at fault or its followers? Or rather, lets start off by asking, when implying "Islam", are we implying the Islam as its suppose to be? or are we implying it as it is? I think the latter is true. So, when it is said that Islam needs a reform, in essence, it means that its followers need a reform as it is only they who make up the religion for what it is.

    Your nation is perhaps the most secular Muslim nation in the world, but why is that so? Sole reason being ofcourse that Ataturk realized that to lead towards a civilized, progressive, secular and a modern society, he should keep religion as far away from national affairs as possible; and he did. Now you tell me a single nation which has adopted Islam as their guidebook to run the nation and succeeded in creating a progressive society like Turkey? The answer is none. Wherever Islam has risen to power, it has provided oppression not only upon people of other faiths, but even upon its own people! Heck, Iran happened to be a free, liberal society under the Shah and now just over 2 decades after its "Islamic revolution", the people are being flogged to death, or being send to the gallows in public displays, simply because they did something which the government thought was "un-Islamic". So now do ask, is Islam the problem? I think that question answers itself.
    Well said tronic.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnut View Post
    Muslims need more brave souls like him to speak out for them.
    what about Robert Spencer? he speaks out loudly.
    know him?
    Jihad Watch

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