The Nature of Extremism in the Lives of Contemporary man (3/3)

4- Is It a Homegrown Problem or Is It of Foreign Origin and Instigation?

Some secularists insist on attributing the extremist problem to some foreign source. They try their best to establish some relationship between the groups accused of extremism and Iran, for example.[1] Some even go to the extreme of saying that these extremist groups are related to the United States.[2] Others claim that it is the Gulf money that is financing these groups.[3]

These statements are not based on any scientific proof. In fact, some writers have started to write about this problem as if those accused of extremism came from outside of the Islamic societies.

This led one sociologist specialized in this field to cry out; “The radicals are not from Mars!”[4] He explains that the media talk about the radicals and extremists as if they descended upon us from Mars or as if they had no roots in the society or were strangers who have come across our lands. He wrote, “I say pleading for help: Those radicals are from the soul of Egyptian society. Indeed, it is most appropriate to say that they descended from the most important cross section of the middle class.”[5]

That author himself did a field study and concluded that the people accused of extremism had the following characteristics:

(1) They are fairly young, in that almost 90% of them are in their twenties or thirties.

(2) They have had higher education, as close to 80% of them were either college students or college graduates.

(3) They are above average students.

(4) They belong to the middle class of society.

(5) They have rural roots.[6]

This supports the statement that it is a homegrown problem and disproves the theory that it is an imported problem. Yes, it is possible that there is some limited influence by an external phenomenon, such as the Iranian Revolution; however, one cannot attribute extremism to such phenomena and say that it is the result of those external incidences without evidence or proof. Indeed, what further denies this relationship is the fact that the groups accused of extremism are the most stringent when it comes to differentiating between the beliefs of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-jamaah and those of the Shiah. It is true that the extremist Shiah groups have some relationship with the Iranian Revolution. But as for those accused of extremism among the Sunni groups, it is still a baseless claim that they have any connection with Iran.

5- Is the Problem an Individual Problem or a Group Problem?

What seems apparent to this researcher is that the type of extremism determines whether it is an individual or group problem. If the extremism is of the general, belief-related nature, it is a group problem. If the extremism is of a partial, deed-related nature, it is an individual problem. This is the case most of the time. The extremism in the lives of contemporary Muslims is most apparently of a group nature. Indeed, the domain of this study and research is the group-oriented, comprehensive, belief-related extremism. This is not to deny that there is individual extremism. But since the group-related extremism is more dangerous, it is more appropriate to be concerned with it and seek its cure.

6- Is this Problem an Educational, Social or Political Problem or Is It More General Than That?

Some of the secular writers summarize the approaches of the writers and divide them into different categories with respect to their opinions about the nature of the problems. 

The five directions or approaches are:

The first approach views the problem as a legal problem.

The second approach views the problem as a religious problem.

The third approach views the problem as an identity problem.

The fourth approach views the problem as a cultural problem.

The fifth approach views the problem as a political problem.[7]

In reality, the issue has different dimensions to it as the factors that help in producing it are many and various, with great effects. It is not propped on one side alone. It is an identity problem because those accused of extremism are trying to affirm the Islamic identity in the face of the extreme Westernization and secularization that is sweeping the Muslim lands. It is a cultural problem because those accused of extremism appeared as a reaction to the adopting of the Western civilization, with its positive and negative aspects “extremism will persist as long as the alienation exists.”[8] 

It is a religious problem because the main foundation for those who are accused of extremism is the religion itself, which acts as the axis for every request that they call people to. 

The religion of Islam is too comprehensive for it to be limited. It is a religion that covers every aspect of life. It is also a political problem as politics is a part of the completed, well-founded religion. Furthermore, extremism represents a danger to society in a political sense more than in any other sense. Indeed, most of the demands of those accused of extremism are related to the law and government.

Therefore, I can say that contemporary extremism is a multidimensional phenomenon, and it cannot be looked upon from one perspective only.

[1] Majallah Fikr, Nadwah al-Tatarruf, No. 8, p. 74.

[2] Ibid., p. 80.

[3] Ibid., pp. 74-80.

[4] Saad al-Deen Ibraaheem, Misr Taraaji Nafsahaa, p. 13.

[5] Ibid., p. 13.

[6] Saad al-Deen Ibraaheem, al-Sihwah al-Islaamiyyah al-Muaasirah, Amman Conference, p. 400.

[7] Faraj Faudah, “Al-Tatarruf al-Deeni,” Majallat al-Fikr, No. 8, pp. 35-36

[8] Taariq al-Bishri, Sayabqa al-Ghulu ma Baqi al-Tag hreeb, p. 58

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