Qatar University Dean Against Fanatic Islamists

05 December 2001

‘Abd al-Hamid al-Ansari, the Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at the University of Qatar, recently addressed the homicidally absolutist attitudes of the Islamist factions in the Arab world. Writing in the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat, al-Ansari prefaced his analysis by finding a parallel in Moslem history and went on to note the ease with which Islamist factions today are spreading their murderous absolutism using modern technology.

The Islamic Law dean saw in the modern Islamist fanatics a modern version of the Khawarij, which he calls the first terrorist organization. The Khawarij were a Moslem sect that challenged the authority of the fourth “replacement” leader following Mohammad, ‘Ali Ibn Abu Talib, “claiming that his rule was man-chosen,” writes al-Ansari, “and that no [Moslem] rule should be obeyed unless it was the rule of Allah.” Furthermore, al-Ansari describes the Khawarij as having demanded that ‘Ali “either mend his ways or face war. From this, they moved on to accusing the entire society of heresy.” An important aspect of al-Ansari’s analysis is that the Khawarij, like the modern Islamist fanatics, “saw anyone with an opinion different from theirs, and anyone who was silent and refrained from joining them, as a heretic; as a result, they permitted the blood of Muslims...”

Also enlightening is the Qatar University dean’s approval of ‘Ali’s response to the Khawarij challenge. According to al-Ansari, “The imam ‘Ali and his friends did not hesitate to meet them head-on. He did not clarify his ideas with false explanations, and did not invent deceitful formulas, but fought the Khawarij and thoroughly routed them at Al-Naharwan, in the 37th year of the Hijra [659].” In contrast, continues the al-Hayat article, “we are facing the modern Khawarij, and behold, fortune has smiled on them… They have satellite channels… and that makes them into popular stars… Religious leaders volunteer to issue religious rulings demanding [that believers] stand by them, and determine that remaining silent or refraining from supporting them is a sin.”

One of the main goals of the “modern Khawarij,” al-Ansari points out, is, like their spiritual predecessors, “to incite the Arab public against its governments, who stand by America, the enemy of Islam. Most unfortunately, there are those who believe in this deception, hold demonstrations, and become involved in acts of stupidity against [those] whom they call the enemies of Islam.” The great sin, implied in al-Ansari’s article, is that “the imams, who pushed them to the edge of the precipice… continue to live a life of ease, without being held accountable in any way!” The Qatar University dean asks rhetorically, “Do they have the right to incite the public to become involved in acts of sabotage, that victimize innocents and damage state interests? Or should this right be restricted, so that the public interest is unharmed?” In a similar confrontation to that between the Khawarij and ‘Ali, “Saudi clerics fulfilled their duty by declaring that no one had the right to issue a religious ruling calling for Jihad except the ruler.”

Al-Ansari strongly criticizes the lax attitude in the Arab world to satellite channels that “broadcast terrorist opinions and incitement…” He writes that allowing the channels to broadcast freely “on the pretext of the ‘principle of freedom for all’” allows them to disseminate “hatred in the [hearts of] the viewers, who then [carry out] harmful acts of stupidity…” According to al-Ansari, “As a result of this false incitement, 83% of the participants in a survey on the Internet site of the Al-Jazeera satellite channel think that bin Laden is a Jihad fighter, not a terrorist, and that his incitement against Western and American interests constitutes a Jihad...”

In the view of the al-Hayat columnist, “There is a big difference between granting freedom of speech for people who have opposing political opinions [and express them] peacefully... and between leaving the microphones to [be used by] armed groups that commit murder to advance their ideas...” In fact, al-Ansari writes, the Khawarij “were more merciful than the Khawarij of our generation, as they permitted the blood of Muslims but not of the ´dhimmis´ [Jews and Christians], because they wanted to preserve the protection pact given to them. In contrast to them, [the Khawarij of our time] have permitted the blood of everyone…” At the same time, al-Ansari claims that the “platforms of the various Jihad organizations, and of Al-Qa´ida, do not include fighting Israel.” Rather, the terrorists desire power, but when they were not able to achieve it through terrorism against Arab regimes, “Satan told them that the Arab regimes were a product of the West… They decided to fight America on its home turf, so America would leave Arab lands, thus enabling them to disseminate their corruption.”

While stating affirmatively that “the human soul, and primarily the Muslim soul, is repelled by terrorism,” al-Ansari also points out that “terrorist ideas fall on fertile ground when societies are ruled by a fanatic culture that the people absorb in doses. Opponents are accused of religious heresy; opposition is accused of political treason. This is a culture of terrorism, which is [easily] absorbed by those who have been exposed to inappropriate education… that leaves no room for pluralism.” The fight against terrorism, therefore, must start with a reevaluation of “our curriculum… our educational methods… our education and our media.”

[Translations courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)]

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