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Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror

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In this informed, compelling exploration of Moslem beliefs and of the sectarian conflicts within the community, a Jewish historian paints a sympathetic portrait of mainstream Islam and exposes the centuries-old roots of Osama bin Laden's extremism.

The difficult, protracted war against terrorism has raised unsettling questions about the nature of Islam and its influence on America's declared enemies. In The Two Faces of Islam, Stephen ...
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New York, New York, U.S.A. 2002 Hard Cover New in New jacket 6 1/2 x 9 1/2. HARDCOVER with dustjacket. First Edition. Minimal shelfwear. An informed and sympathetic history of ... Islam that distinguishes its mainsstream tradition of tolerance and pluralism from the radical offshoot that is now struggling for control of the whole Muslim world. Read more Show Less

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Overview

In this informed, compelling exploration of Moslem beliefs and of the sectarian conflicts within the community, a Jewish historian paints a sympathetic portrait of mainstream Islam and exposes the centuries-old roots of Osama bin Laden's extremism.

The difficult, protracted war against terrorism has raised unsettling questions about the nature of Islam and its influence on America's declared enemies. In The Two Faces of Islam, Stephen Schwartz, who has devoted years to the study of Islam, explains its complex history and describes the profound philosophical and religious differences that distinguish traditional beliefs from the radical sects that have sprung up over the past fifteen hundred years. He focuses on Wahhabism, the puritanical sect to which Osama bin Laden belongs. Founded in the eighteenth century by a radical cleric, this intolerant "Islamo-fascist" sect became the official creed of the Saudi Arabian state and has been exported to Moslem countries from the Balkans to the Philippines, as well as to Islamic communities in Western Europe and the United States.

By setting the current upheavals within an historical and religious context, Schwartz demonstrates that Osama bin Laden and his followers are not really fighting a war against America. Rather, they are engaged in a revolution within Islam itself-a movement that parallels the turmoil within Christianity during the sixteenth century. Schwartz not only exposes the collusion of the Saudi Arabian government in the spread of radical Islam (which makes them at best reluctant allies of the West), he shows that the majority of Moslems have little sympathy for the Wahhabis and that many openly denouncetheir motivations and goals.

A riveting narrative that never smacks of propaganda, The Two Faces of Islam is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand who we are fighting, what our enemies believe, and who our friends in the Moslem world really are.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schwartz challenges President Bush's "axis of terror." "The real exporters of international Islamic extremism and terror," he says, are not Iraq or Iran, but an American ally: the Saudis. Saudia Arabia is dominated by Wahhabism, which journalist Schwartz (Kosovo: Background to a War) labels a "fascistic" cult. And the West, he goes on, has "nurtured this serpent in [its] very bosom" by supporting the Saudis in the belief that they were "moderate." (On sale Oct. 15) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A provocative entry on Islam, from Schwartz (From West to East: California and the Making of the American Mind, 1998), who lays blame on the Saudi regime for the attacks of 9/11. The main lines of Schwartz's charge are these: the governing ideology of the House of Sa'ud, the Wahhabi strain of Islam, is grounded in xenophobia, intolerance, and belief in lethal varieties of jihad; exported once at swordpoint to other parts of the Muslim world, this ideology has yielded untold misery for centuries; today, exported "from Pakistan and India to the Balkans, the Philippines, Western Europe, and America itself" at a cost of billions of petrodollars to the Saudi ruling elite, Wahhabism is the principal source of Islamic terror; and by propping up the Saudi royal family to keep Saudi oil flowing westward, the US is doing itself and the rest of the world no favors, but instead ought to be stirring up domestic revolution in the streets of Medina and Riyadh. Schwartz traces the us-against-them Wahhabist stance to the inhospitable environment of the Saudi interior, "a hotbed for early factionalists in Islam, particularly the Khawarij, known for their extreme pietism while preparing rebellion and mass murder." The interior peoples eventually grew in power, and their ways became the norm for all Saudi society-and for militant Islamic groups worldwide. Though historians may take issue with some of its oversimplifications, Schwartz's analysis is more sophisticated than much of the media punditry since September 11, and certainly more sympathetic to in-the-street Islam, for which, he says, the Saudi royal family and its allies, including Osama bin Laden, have no regard: "In the highly stratified Arab andMuslim nations, the street counts for nothing, which is the main reason people often crowd it yelling hateful slogans." A ringing condemnation of "Wahhabi obscurantism and its totalitarian state" that is sure to cause controversy-and perhaps inspire a few contingency plans in the Pentagon.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385506922
  • Publisher: Doubleday Publishing
  • Publication date: 10/31/2002
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.58 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
SNOW IN THE DESERT: Muhammad and the Message of Islam

Islam came to humanity as the third great expression of the monotheistic vision that had begun with Abraham, after Judaism and Christianity. But as we consider its history, we may also see a difference between Islam and the revelations of the One God that preceded it.

Judaism is based on the lives of Prophets separated from modern Jews by thousands of years, who are honored although their historical existence cannot be verified. Many Jews and other Westerners today view the Hebrew Prophets as mythical or symbolic creations of a literary imagination. Christianity centers on the life and works of a gentle rabbi, Jesus, who was incapable of deceit or violence. But no document proves whether or not there was a historical Jesus.

By contrast, Muhammad was a figure whose existence is undoubted except by the most extreme skeptics. Further, Muhammad’s life is much closer to that of an ordinary individual, living at any time or place, than those of Moses and Jesus. Nor are accounts of Muhammad dominated by the otherworldly, supernatural aspects that suffuse Jesus’ life. Muslims say that Moses was a mighty Prophet but did not see the Promised Land, while Jesus was a great Prophet but was raised up to heaven almost at the beginning of his mission (Muslims believe Judas was crucified in Jesus’ place). Muhammad, however, became a ruler of men and women.

Unfortunately, Muhammad has an evil reputation among Westerners that also sets him apart from Moses and Jesus. Jews and Christians reject Muhammad as the apostle of a religion they fear. Jews deny that Jesus was Messiah, but manyamong them have come to recognize him as a great religious teacher. Little such respect has been accorded to Muhammad. Rather, the Arabian Prophet has been treated with contempt, both by Jews, who have tended to ignore him, and by Christians, who load his name with insults. Islam is considered by most Westerners a hideous, bloodthirsty, intolerant, and aggressive cult, and Muhammad himself has been widely portrayed by non-Muslims as devious, brutal, and perverted. Jews carried away by outrage have fostered bestial images of Muslims. Equally biased Christians have denied that the God worshipped by Muhammad and his followers is the same as the God of Jews and Christians.

Those who ascribe such qualities to Islam and its Prophet often posit their own religions as honorable, kind, and loving alternatives. To do so, they must not only remain ignorant of authentic Islam, but also overlook uncomfortable and inconvenient aspects of their own religious histories. Ancient Judaism was deeply intolerant of idol-worshippers as well as those who resisted its rule over the land of Israel. Thus the Torah describes Moses’ destruction of the Midianites, even though that nation sheltered him when he fled Egypt, and he had married one of their women. Notwithstanding the preaching of peace by Jesus, Christian rulers were brutal in the imposition of their faith, as well as in their treatment of Jews and Muslims. With the European conquest of the New World, the Christianization of the Caribbean islands and Central and South America encompassed the massacre of whole peoples.

But conversion at sword point to the faith of Jesus did not begin with the age of Columbus. At the end of the first Christian millennium, Germans, Nordics, Slavs, and Baltic peoples were forcibly baptised and given new names by order of their rulers. Those who resisted were murdered or driven to flight. The persecutions and expulsions of Spanish and Portuguese Jews and Muslims were notable examples of Christian intolerance, including public burnings of alleged heretics and secret Jews and Muslims. Rage at the Jewish refusal of Jesus produced centuries of bloodshed and enduring bitterness between the two older branches of the Abrahamic tradition.

Fundamentalist Muslims--by no means the majority in the world, notwithstanding rhetoric on both sides of the divide after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001--may despise Jews and Christians, but they do not denigrate the Prophets of the Torah and Jesus. Rather, they honor them volubly, and many Muslims sincerely believe they understand the essence of Moses’ heroic deeds and Jesus’ sweet discourses as well as or better than the majority of Jews and Christians. Muhammad’s message included warnings not to ignore the righteous among the Jews and Christians, who are collectively known to Muslims as People of the Book. Islam, from its beginnings, banned compulsion in matters of faith and mandated the protection of Jews, Christians, and other religious believers. Yet Muslims are accused, largely falsely, of a savage forced Islamization of subject peoples, supposedly inspired by the narrow, fanatical, and ignorant Muhammad. The Prophet of Islam is typically described as a desert bandit who claimed to have invented a new religion on his own.

Where do these false Western images come from? The aftermath of September 11 shows that when civilizations come into contention, mutual understanding tends to vanish, at least in the short term. But while Islam existed for 1,400 years before the assaults on New York and Washington, little real knowledge of it has ever penetrated the non-Muslim world. Moreover, modern Westerners have inherited deep anxieties about Islam. The Western horror of Islam began with its early, rapid expansion, which seemed irresistible, and its terrifying reputation was strengthened by the later victories of Islamic arms during the Crusades, the Arab conquest and Christian reconquest of Spain, the Ottoman invasions of the Balkans and Central Europe, and maritime conflicts between Christian states and Muslim navies from Morocco to Cyprus.

These conflicts summoned a spectre of a bloodthirsty Islamic enemy at the gates of Western civilization, bent on physical destruction and religious devastation. Each of these convulsions produced, on both sides, atrocities and atrocity stories, legends, ballads, and, behind the curtain of combat, cultural exchanges and borrowings that are often overlooked or forgotten but that sometimes changed the course of human history. The situation did not improve in the 20th century, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, wars and revolutions in the main Islamic states, and establishment of the state of Israel. In 2002, after 14 centuries, Islam remains enigmatic and frightening to the West.

Nevertheless, when we examine the life of Muhammad, we discover a different reality altogether. Muhammad’s career includes militant preaching, the founding of a new religious community, battles with unbelievers, and severe decisions and judgments. But overall, the Prophet’s personality reveals a profound commitment to compassion and mercy--the qualities Muslims mainly ascribe, among many attributes, to God, praised in Islam as “Compassionate and Merciful.”

Muslims find many more practical lessons in the incidents and details of Muhammad’s biography. Because of his humanity, the force of his message, and his benevolent personality, the life of Muhammad, or Sirah, has been a model for emulation by Muslims throughout history. Together, the Sirah and the Hadith,1 comprising Muhammad’s oral commentaries, remarks, and teachings, make up the Sunna, or “example” provided by the Prophet. From the Sunna is derived the essential body of faith, morals, and doctrine on which Islam is based.

The Prophet’s full name was Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib. He was born in the year 570. The place was the city of Mecca in southwestern Arabia. His mother was named Aminah. His father had died not long before Muhammad’s birth. But as the delivery of Aminah’s child approached she felt happy, after her time mourning for her husband.

Aminah is said by the early chronicler Ibn Ishaq to have perceived a light within her as she awaited childbirth. It was so bright that one day she could see as far as Syria. A voice spoke to her. It said, “You carry in your womb the lord of this people, and when he is born, say, ‘I place him under the shelter of the One God, from the evil of any envious person’; and so, name him Muhammad.” His name means “the glorified.”
Muhammad was born into an environment of tribal paganism, in a Middle East that had long been a vessel of religious ferment. Many faiths flourished there at the time of Muhammad’s birth, including Christianity, Judaism, and various forms of idol worship. Zoroastrianism thrived in Persia, with remnants of other religions, largely forgotten today, including Gnosticism and Neoplatonism. But the Red Sea had, by then, become encircled by an expanding, militant monotheism. Though small in numbers, Jews and Christians had established colonies in Arabia. Ethiopia, a Christian domain, was fairly close to Mecca and ruled over Yemen, the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula.

The Christian Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire had become the leading power in much of the Middle East. Churches and monasteries proliferated. But the early Christians were troubled by conflicting interpretations that divided their many communities. Syria, to the north of Muhammad’s territory, was a land in which Christianity had made a deep impression and Jews were well established. In much of Christendom at that time, Hebrews labored under heavy restrictions, but Alexandria in Egypt, as well as Iraq and Persia, had long sheltered Jews. When Muhammad was born, the center of world Jewry was to be found in Babylon. Wherever the Jews went, they brought their Book, the Torah, and celebrated their holidays, dedicated to their Covenant with the One God.

Mecca, now the center of Islamic worship, is the site of the Ka’bah, a stone temple traditionally dedicated to the worship of the One God. Muslims believe it was built by Adam and reconstructed by Abraham, or Ibrahim, and his firstborn son, Ishmael, or Ismail. (The Arabs believe they are descended from Ishmael--an ancestry also affirmed by Jewish religious tradition.) In one of its walls Abraham is said to have placed the Black Stone, a rock that had fallen from the sky. Muhammad traced his own ancestry to Ismail, and soon after he was born Muhammad’s grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, caretaker of the Ka’bah, took the child there and gave a prayer of thanks.

Muhammad’s people, despite being city-dwellers, were essentially desert folk, and following custom, he was sent away from Mecca as an infant to be raised by a foster mother. Muhammad’s early childhood was filled with signs and wonders. He later recalled that when he was small, two angels came to him carrying a golden cup filled with snow. They opened up his heart and removed a black blood clot from it. Muslims interpret this as a reference to the place in every person’s heart through which Satan comes and goes. They washed his heart in the snow. Soon after he was returned to his mother in Mecca, but Aminah died when he was six.

Islam, emerging from a desert culture in which water was rare and precious, exalts cleanliness and bathing above all other customs. Muslims cannot pray unless they have cleansed themselves, and the water of ablutions gives the body a sensation of freshness at prayer. Islam values water as evidence of God’s grace, and in countries they conquered, like Spain, the Muslims worked wonders of irrigation on dry, barren lands. The cup of snow borne by the angels who cleansed Muhammad’s heart may thus be Islam’s most powerful metaphor.

Mecca is a city in a green belt near the sea, which makes it a different place from the desert interior of Arabia. But it had little fresh water or arable land and was not a settled, agricultural community--its economy was limited to the caravan trade with Syria and Yemen. Muslims describe their pre-Islamic forebears as existing in “the time of ignorance.” The One God worshipped in the Ka’bah bears the name Al-Lah in Arabic, nearly identical to Elohim in Hebrew. In addition, the Arabs, like the Jews, circumcise their sons. However, by the time of Muhammad the original monotheistic worship reputedly founded by Abraham had been diluted by paganism--chiefly the cult of Hubal, an idol brought from the land of Moab. Consequently, the Arab society of Muhammad’s day was chaotic and violent.

Muhammad belonged to an Arab tribe called the Quraysh, and a clan called the Banu Hashim. Many of the Quraysh lived without law. Theft and murder were daily activities and topics for boasting. Torture was common. Personal differences led to long feuds and tribal wars. Men accumulated wives, and on their deaths, the eldest son received them, except for his own mother, as an inheritance--thus marrying his stepmothers. The murder of female children was an established custom, one that provoked deep disgust in the heart of Muhammad. He perceived that tribal lawlessness must fall before God’s law.

The idol worship of the Quraysh was a primitive affair, unlike the elaborate rituals and temples found in Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. The desert Arabs were not known for fear of the dead, which was often a source of pagan belief. Indeed, many were doubtful about Islam, when it was offered to them, because of its preaching that the dead would be resurrected. Nor were they obsessed with natural forces: Their physical environment was static. Moreover, as traders their economic life was much less regulated by the passage of the seasons--the foundation of the pagan religions--than that of peoples more dependent on agriculture, such as the Egyptians, the Sumerians, and the gigantic, sedentary societies of India and the Far East.

From the age of 10, Muhammad had accompanied his uncle Abu Talib on the well-traveled caravan route, journeying north to Syria and Egypt in summer and south to Yemen in winter. By the time he was 20 he was himself leading caravans, and was known as a camel whisperer who could calm animals by kindly handling, stroking, and speaking to them. In his profession of merchant, Muhammad earned respect as a righteous person, and was nicknamed “the trustworthy,” or “al-Amin.”

When he was 25 a rich woman of Mecca named Khadijah hired him to take her goods to Syria. She was distantly related to Muhammad’s clan, and she also had a Christian cousin named Waraqa ibn Nawfal, who was literate--a rare achievement in that time and place. Fifteen years older than Muhammad, she was attractive and had been pursued by many men, all of whom she rebuffed. But she fell in love with the young Muhammad, and thanks to a woman friend of hers, a marriage was contracted. Eventually they would have six children: two sons that died young and four daughters who survived to adulthood. Traditional Muslims honor the family of Muhammad, and in their prayers and blessings they invoke 11 wives and a concubine, their children, Muhammad’s nephew Ali ibn Abi Talib, and Ali’s sons, whom we shall meet. In addition, traditionalists believe that although the parents of Muhammad died before the advent of Islam, they are rewarded in heaven.

Muhammad was viewed as a conciliator within his tribe, as shown by the most significant event recorded about his life before he received his divine message. When he was 35 the Quraysh reconstructed the Ka’bah. The temple of the One God had been defiled by the introduction of idols. Its roof was gone, and a snake had taken possession of its walls, coming out in the sun and frightening people away from the structure. Nothing could more dramatically symbolize the decay of Abraham’s religion among the Arabs than the presence of a serpent in the Ka’bah. The snake was the epitome of human temptation, as revealed in the story of Adam and Eve. It was also an object of pagan worship. The Quraysh dithered, deterred from their mission by the reptile. Then, one day, an eagle descended from the heavens and seized the snake in its claws, flying away with it.2

The Ka’bah was rebuilt by the Meccans, and Muhammad, respected for his fairness, was asked to be first to enter it. He was to decide which of the competing clans of Quraysh should have the honor of restoring the Black Stone to its position in the structure’s walls. Muhammad laid a cloak on the ground and ordered the Black Stone set on it. He then summoned one man from each clan to take a corner of the cloak, that the sacred responsibility be shared. Together they carried the Black Stone into the refurbished structure and placed it in the wall.

This minor event shows Muhammad avoiding disruption and extremes among his people. He was deeply opposed to the idolatry that had infected his community, but he was not a merciless fanatic. Throughout his life, Muhammad advocated peace and the avoidance of conflict. During his struggle to establish the community of Islam, he suffered much at the hands of his relatives and neighbors, the tribe of Quraysh, and the residents of Mecca. But seeking reconciliation and civility even with these, he recited a verse that has since stood as a credo of traditional Islam: “Say: ‘Unbelievers, I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship. I shall never worship what you worship, nor will you ever worship what I worship. You have your own religion, and I have mine.’”3

Muhammad was swept to his core by the revelations he received. He was possessed by the mission of bringing the message of an undiluted worship of One God to his people. But he was not, by nature, a preacher. He was judicious in both word and deed, and that was the basis of his great personal authority.

The sharp difference between the sensible, calm, humble, and kind conception of Muhammad held by traditional Muslims and the fanatical, rigid, overbearing, and puritanical manner adopted by Islamic fundamentalists today presents us with the two faces of Islam--moderation, equanimity, patience, and fairness versus separatism, supremacism, frenzy, and aggression. Traditional Muslims honor the Prophet as a pleasant and positive human being. A poem in his praise by Imam Ibrahim al-Bajuri, which was a major Muslim devotional text for centuries, ascribed to him these attributes:

A form like the soft lilies and the full moon in splendor,
A character like the ocean in generosity and time in endeavors,
Seeming, due to his majesty, even when you met him alone, to head an army or a large company,
As if the very pearl concealed inside the shell were formed in the two molds of his speech and his smile.

In contrast with this appealing description, Islamic extremists seek to remove Muhammad from Islam altogether. To Westerners, this seems impossible. But it is true: Islamic fundamentalists ignore the personality of the Prophet and oppose traditional Muslims’ love and admiration of his quest for compassion. As we will see, a wholesale purge of the Prophet’s personality from Islamic religion has been an essential goal of the “end time” cult of Wahhabism, which has made a serious attempt to reshape Islam in its intolerant image.

Copyright 2002 by Stephen Schwartz
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Table of Contents

Preface
1 Snow in the Desert: Muhammad and the Message of Islam 1
2 Fortresses and Mountain Paths: 1,000 Years of Islamic Expansion 27
3 Haters of Song: The Early Wahhabi Movements 66
4 Global Gamblers: The Wahhabi-Saudi Conquest of Arabia 92
5 The Coming of the Imam: Khomeini's Islamic Revolution 126
6 Permanent Jihad: The Shadow of Afghanistan 152
7 Sword of Dishonor: The Wahhabi International 181
8 Religious Colonialism: Wahhabism and American Islam 226
9 Whither Saudi Arabia? 256
Acknowledgments 288
Notes 292
Bibliography 295
Index 303
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2003

    Queer eye for the Wahhabi guy!

    To Schwartz Islam itself is not the problem, but the militant interpretation of Islam is, as practised and preached by the Wahhabis and the Sa'udi monarchy. This is what needs to be stopped. While admiring Schwartz's book and agreeing to almost all of what he states, there are some statements that are completely wrong or misleading. For example, Schwartz says, 'Ibn Taymiyyah also declared total war on Sufism...'(pg.55). Although Ibn Taymiyyah has never been representative of orthodox Sunni Islam (or the science of Sufism), it has been noted in his own books that he not only praised Sufis at times, but also claimed to be an adherent of the Qadiri Sufi order of Abdl-Qadir Jeelani (found in Ibn Taymiyya's 'Mas'ala at Tabriziyya'). Hamza Yusuf and Wahhabis should not be put in one and the same light of intolerance and unorthodoxy. Overall, Schwartz's book is a welcome contribution and eye-opener to both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences that I recommend without hesitation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2003

    An eye opener

    Stephen Schwartz's book does an excellent job of explaining the history of Islam and its various sects for those of us who are neophytes on the subject. He then spends plenty of ink explaining the rise of the Wahhabi sect and what hatred it has preached in the last 300 years. Not only is Wahhabism anti western civilization, it is even militant against other Muslim sects. Schwartz saw the nefarious side of the Wahhabi sect while reporting on the Bosnian conflict. He witnessed first hand the Wahhabi clerics sent to Bosnia to help rebuild the Muslim community try to take over and change the culture of Bosnian Muslims and their religious beliefs. They were sent with plenty of money from the Saudi royal family to rebuild mosques that were destroyed but only if the mosques were rebuilt using Wahhabi architectural standards and modes. He focuses in on the relationship between the militant Wahhabi sect and the Saudi royal family. Schwartz, a Moslem himself, does a good job of exposing the Saudi ruling family's efforts in using its vast wealth in promoting this militant hateful sect's teachings in Muslim day schools throughout the world including right here in the U.S. This book goes a long way to shedding light on the disturbing fact that the Saudi royal family is supporting this kind of hatred throughout the world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2002

    Schwartz Repels Myths that Wahhabis and Islam Detractors Promote

    Author Schwartz is on target when he differentiates the Wahhabis from the Sunnis. He vehemently rejects the naivete Islam-bashers and boils down to the crux of the problem -- wahhabi fundamentalists, including the Saudi government that must play a balancing act between the non-Muslim 'infidel' superpower and extremist Wahhabi scholars. Wahhabis are not only bent upon destroying the non-Muslims, but also the rest of the adherents of Islam and that's one of the many aspects that makes them different from traditional, orthodox Muslims. To condemn the 'dhimmi' part of Islam is inconsequential even if it's a genuine part of the religion because it isn't being practiced anywhere in the world today. The problem today is not 'dhimmi' status, but mutated forms of Islam like Wahhabism that are not even willing to offer a 'dhimmi' status if they were in a position to allow it. Wahhabis only desire wholesale annihilation of every religious adherent -- Muslim included -- if it doesn't agree with their mypoic, fanatical interpretation. The 9/11 attacks were not caused by the 'dhimmi' issue, but because of the Wahhabi/Salafi interpretation of Islam. And this Wahhabi call to 'jihad' cannot be construed as a genuine 'jihad' by any student of Islam because the last Islamic caliph in the Ottomon era no longer exists. An offensive 'jihad' can only be undertaken by such an authority who doesn't exist today. Calls to offensive 'jihad' today are therefore spurious and questionable and without the leadership and guidance of a legitimate caliph. Indeed, Muslim scholars are few but the ignoramuses like al-Qa'eda and Taliban are many -- and they are the imposters making self-proclaimed call of 'jihad' without the required authority and qualifications to do so. Offensive 'jihad' in its pure form is also not practiced anywhere in the world today, so it is also inconsequential like the 'dhimmi' issue. The only 'jihad' today is the 'defensive' one, such as the 'jihad' of the Chechens against the Russians, and the Bosnian Muslims' jihad against the atrocious Serb army some years ago. Schwartz rightly points these examples of jihad in his book, which are also supported by non-Muslims who champion the cause of morality, the freedom to practice religion, and the right to exist. Last but not least, a wholesale condemnation of a religion that has over a billion adherents worldwide (of which almost all adherents are peaceful) and a rich history of moderation and tolerance (as Schwartz correctly points out) is tantamount to supporting 'fundamentalism' from the opposing side. Listening to Schwartz is what will bring peace and prosperity to this world rather than the amplification of hostilities and pseudo-jihads that Wahhabis -- and Islam-bashers -- die-hardly wish to propagate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2002

    Misleading historical negationism

    In "The Two Faces of Islam" Stephen Schwartz appropriately draws the attention of policymakers and the public at large to the dangerous, unsavory interactions between the Saudi royal family, Wahhabi Islam, and international terrorism. Unfortunately, however, Mr. Schwartz identifies Wahhabism as the source of all Islamic terror and injustice. He does not mention that the twin institutionalized scourges of Islam at the crux of the violent, nearly 1,400-year relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims - i.e., jihad and dhimmitude - were already well-elaborated by the 8th century, 1,000 years before Wahhabism arose in the 18th century. Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), perhaps the preeminent Islamic scholar in history, summarized five centuries of prior Muslim jurisprudence with regard to the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad: ¿In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defense... Islam is under obligation to gain power over other nations.¿ In "The Laws of Islamic Governance," al-Mawardi (d. 1058), a renowned jurist of Baghdad, examined the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel population had to recognize Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya). Some of the more salient features of dhimmitude include: the prohibition of arms for the vanquished non-Muslims (dhimmis), and of church bells; restrictions concerning the building and restoration of churches and synagogues; inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims with regard to taxes and penal law; the refusal of dhimmi testimony by Muslim courts; a requirement that Jews and Christians wear special clothes; and their overall humiliation and abasement. Furthermore, dhimmis, including those living under "enlightened" Turkish and Bosnian Muslim domain, suffered, at periods, from slavery (i.e., harem slavery for women, and the devshirme child levy for Balkan Christian males), abductions, deportations, and massacres. During the modern era, between 1894-96, the Ottoman Turks massacred over 200,000 (dhimmi) Christian Armenians, followed by the first formal genocide of the 20th century, in 1915, at which time they slaughtered an additional 600,000 to 800,000 Armenians. Contemporary accounts from European diplomats confirm that these brutal massacres were perpetrated in the context of a formal jihad against the Armenians who had attempted to throw off the yoke of dhimmitude by seeking equal rights and autonomy. For example, the Chief Dragoman (Turkish-speaking interpreter) of the British embassy reported regarding the 1894-96 massacres: ¿...[The perpetrators] are guided in their general action by the prescriptions of the Sheri [Sharia] Law. That law prescribes that if the rayah [dhimmi] Christian attempts, by having recourse to foreign powers, to overstep the limits of privileges allowed them by their Mussulman [Muslim] masters, and free themselves from their bondage, their lives and property are to be forfeited, and are at the mercy of the Mussulmans. To the Turkish mind the Armenians had tried to overstep those limits by appealing to foreign powers, especially England. They therefore considered it their religious duty and a righteous thing to destroy and seize the lives and properties of the Armenians..." The scholar Bat Yeor confirms this reasoning, noting that the Armenian quest for reforms invalidated their "legal status," which involved a "contract" (i.e., with their Muslim Turkish rulers). ¿This ...breach...restored to the umma [the Muslim community] its initial right to kill the subjugated minority

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2002

    A Sunni Muslim's Review of Stephen Schwartz's "The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud From Tradition to Terror."

    As an orthodox Sunni Muslim who has studied Wahhabism, the Al-Sa'ud, and their favorite role model Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya who lived a couple of hundred years before the Wahhabi-Sa'ud alliance in the 1700s, Schwartz's book is informative and new material long overdue. Schwartz eloquently traces the roots of extremism in Islam and how it sprouted in the very early days of Islam to divide the unity of the Muslims. In particular, Schwartz dwells on the first extremists (or 'terrorists') in Islam, the "Khawarij," who declared both Imam Ali and Mu'awiya 'blasphemors' and heaped accusations of unbelief (kufr) on Muslims who differed with them. Using material from orthodox Sunni scholars (`ulema) Schwartz appropriately argues that the extremist approach of the Khawarij has not ceased to exist, but has continued to survive over time in many parts of the world, though isolated. These "Khawarij" were silenced by the orthodox Sunni scholars' (`ulema) condemnations and refutations against them. Schwartz rightly elaborates on Ibn Taymiyya (1200s-1300s), the foremost figure emulated by the founder of the 'Wahhabi' movement in the 1700s, Muhammad ibn `Abdl-Wahhab. Although Ibn Taymiyya was silenced and even jailed for preaching and spreading many unorthodox heresies in matters of creed (`aqeedah) and worship (`ibadat) in Islam, his unorthodox interpretations gained currency in Arabia where the Wahhabis originated (in Najd, modern day Riyadh, Saudi Arabia). Under the patronage and wealth of the al-Sa'ud -- due mainly to wealth generated by the discovery of oil in the 20th century -- the unorthodox and extremist interpretations, reminiscent of the early Khawarij, found global expression. Khawarij-like fanaticism now exists as modern day 'Wahhabism,' and, according to Schwartz is the terrorizing force that sweeps all corners of the world from Saudi Arabia across the Atlantic to the United States. 'Wahhabism' has thrived worldwide due to heavy and generous funding by Wahhabi organizations in the guise of 'charity' or 'humanitarian' groups. For instance, in reconstructing war-torn Yugoslavia and Albania, Saudi-funded 'charity' groups inhabited the regions for the express purpose of changing (and attempting to eradicate) traditional customs and practices (such as Sufism) to rigid, fanatical, pro-Wahhabi customs and practices. 'Charity' has therefore made way for Wahhabi terrorism and the attempted imposition of a Wahhabi world order. To better understand the threat of Wahhabism, Schwartz rightly points out that Osama bin Laden and his "al-Qa`eda" terrorist network is Wahhabi (also known as 'salafi'), and that many hijackers of 9/11 were nationals of Saudia Arabia -- where Wahhabism originated. To Schwartz, Wahhabism can only be stopped if its funding is stopped and when it is overwhelmed by the moderate traditional Sunni literature that most Muslims worldwide follow (the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence: Hanafi, Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali). Therefore, to Schwartz, Islam itself is not the problem, but the militant interpretation of Islam, as espoused by the Wahhabis and the Sa'udi monarchy, is what needs to be stopped. While admiring Schwartz's book and agreeing to almost all of what he states, there are some statements that are completely wrong or misleading. For example, Schwartz says, "Ibn Taymiyyah also declared total war on Sufism..."(pg.55). Although Ibn Taymiyyah has never been representative of orthodox Sunni Islam (or the science of Sufism), it has been noted in his own books that he not only praised Sufis at times, but also claimed to be an adherent of the Qadiri Sufi order of Abdl-Qadir Jeelani (found in Ibn Taymiyya's "Mas'ala at Tabriziyya"). An example of a misleading statement by Schwartz is his portraying Hamza Yusuf -- a traditional Sunni scholar -- as an example of a Muslim who preaches "intolerance" in Friday sermons (pg.241). He, in fact, is opposed to the entire Wahhabi interpretation of Islam and had been a student of a great

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