Muftic: Colorado’s jihadist roots
Fareed Zakaria of CNN has a must see hour special that seeks to explain why “they hate us”, to answer a puzzle. Why are the jihadi Muslims killing mostly Muslims as well as some of us? He concludes that these radical terrorists are at war with the modern world and all who embrace it. This also might explain why nightclubs in Paris and the gay night club in Orlando were chosen for terrorist acts. Embedded in Zakaria’s special is that it all began in Greeley, Colorado, and the top Al Qaeda English language recruiter was a student at Colorado State University and a former resident of Denver.
The modern seeds of a revolt had already been planted in Greeley in 1947 per Zakaria. An Egyptian foreign student with beliefs firmly immersed in traditional Islam attended a church dance was appalled by all the bare skin, tight fitting dresses, and close up dancing. He returned home, and wrote a series of books which exhorted a return to Sharia law and traditional Islamic values as practiced in the 8th century. That resonated with an older Islamic movement of Wahhabism. Its clerics cherry picked verses in the Koran (which had contradictory passages, as well) to foster a belief in a return to Islam as practiced in medieval times and exhorted killing those who did not follow their religious interpretation, including Muslims . Zakaria believes that a small percentage of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are followers of this interpretation. The movement became the driving ideology behind ISIS , al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
A New Mexico born Muslim student at Colorado State University visited post- Soviet invasion Afghanistan and was appalled by the poverty and conditions. He became the American voice of al- Qaeda recruitment, Anwar al Awlaki. While he was killed in Yemen by US strikes, as was his Denver born son, his voice lives on in al -Qaeda’s recruiting videos.
I am not surprised with Zakaria’s conclusion. In 1959, during spring break travels in my junior year abroad in Berlin, I took a trip throughout all of what was then Yugoslavia, and I became fascinated with a culture, the moderate, westernized Turkish oriented Muslims in Bosnia, once a province of Turkey and later a separate country. On my return to Northwestern University in spent my senior year learning more about the modernization of a secular Turkey, on Islam, and the impact on people who were struggling within themselves to become part of the modern world. We concluded the religion was locked into very conservative traditional values. Sometime in the future, there would be a revolt against all things Western.
But Islam is not the only religion in revolt against modern society. So are fundamentalist movements in Christianity and Judaism, as Karen Armstrong wrote in 2000 in “A Battle for God”. Donald Trump, who wants to make American Great Again, has tapped into that yearning for the old order while using bigotry and racism to make his point.
American security depends upon cooperation of the 3.3 million Muslims in the United States and our Arab allies abroad. We should not fall for hate speech that paints all Muslims with the same brush. Such rhetoric is harmful for our national security as former CIA director Michael Hayden said, Trump’s rhetoric has “already made America less safe”.
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