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Young Minds, Root Causes

I’ve mentioned Tawfik Hamid before and his latest article, a first hand account of the development of a jihadist worldview, is well worth reading. Hamid explains how his own religious education laid the ground for his later involvement with the terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiya. Here’s a brief extract:

I attended the private Al-Rahebat primary school in the area of Dumiat, which is about 200 kilometers north of Cairo, when I was six years old… Before each Islamic lesson began, the teacher would dismiss the Christian students, who were then obliged to linger outside the room until the lesson was over… it was the first time I perceived that my Christian friends were not my equals… In secondary school I watched films about the early Islamic conquest. These films promoted the notion that “true” Muslims were devoted to aggressive jihad… 

I remember one particularly defining moment in an Arabic language class when I was sitting beside a Christian friend named Nagi Anton. I was reading a book entitled Alshaykhan by Taha Hussein that cited the Prophet Muhammad's words: “I have been ordered by Allah to fight and kill all people [non-Muslims] until they say, ‘No God except Allah.’” Following the reading of this Hadith, I decisively turned toward Nagi and said to him, “If we are to apply Islam correctly, we should apply this Hadith to you.” At that moment I suddenly started to view Nagi as an enemy rather than as a long-time friend…

These doctrines [of jihad] are not taken out of context, as many apologists for Islamism argue. They are central to the faith and ethics of millions of Muslims, and are currently being taught as part of the standard curriculum in many Islamic educational systems in the Middle East as well in the West. Moreover, there is no single approved Islamic textbook that contradicts or provides an alternative to the passages I have cited.

The whole thing.

A flavour of the school textbooks to which Hamid refers can be found in an essay I posted here last year:

During a recent visit to San Francisco, the Dalai Lama told a group of religious leaders that “[Islam is] like any other tradition – same message, same practice. That is a practice of compassion.” Certainly compassion and horror can be found among adherents of any religious ideology. But there is a difference between monstrous acts that ignore or invert the exhortations of a religion’s founder and monstrous acts that are entirely in accord with that founder’s stated vision.

For instance, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood directs young believers to a children’s website that celebrates homicidal ‘martyrdom’, just as Muhammad is said to have done, and exhorts young Muslims to imitate a prophet who “waged jihad against the infidels.” The site also informs youngsters that “the Jews” are responsible for all of the “corruption and deviance in the world” and that “murdering children” is “part of the Jewish religion.” It’s not clear how this message is to be reconciled with the Dalai Lama’s statement, or with the claims of the Brotherhood’s vice-president, Khairat el-Shatir, who, in an article titled No Need to be Afraid of Us, informed Guardian readers that “the success of the Muslim Brotherhood should not frighten anybody; we respect the rights of all religious and political groups.”

The Dalai Lama is presumably unaware of the severe limits to compassion demanded by several Islamic schoolbooks. One Egyptian textbook, Studies in Theology: Traditions and Morals, Grade II (2001), cites Muhammad and reminds children of their duty to “perform jihad in Allah’s cause, to behead the infidels, take them prisoner, break their power and make their souls humble…” (pp 291-22). Young readers are also reminded that “the concept of jihad is interpreted in the Egyptian school curriculum almost exclusively as a military endeavour… It is war against Allah’s enemies, i.e., the infidels.” Another cheering gem, Commentary on the Surahs of Muhammad, Al-Fath, Al-Hujurat and Qaf, Grade II (2002), warns youngsters against being “seized by compassion” towards unbelievers.

Contempt for non-Muslims is also commonplace in Saudi school textbooks. In July 2004, the Guardian reported the persistence of supremacist indoctrination, despite assurances to the contrary from the Saudi foreign minister. Six-year-olds are instructed that “emulation of the infidels leads to loving them and raising their status in the eyes of the Muslim, and that is forbidden.” Similarly xenophobic instructions have been found in contemporary schoolbooks in Palestine, Jordan and Pakistan, and in judicial texts endorsed by Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the nearest thing to an Islamic Vatican. Again, the size of an extremist ‘fringe’ and its relationship to mainstream conceptions of the faith have to be considered as they actually are, not as one might wish, or assume.

Andrew Bostom has more.

Tawfik Hamid is the author of The Roots of Jihad. His writing and audio material can be found at his website.

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