CHARLOTTE, NC, October 9, 2014 – The question frequently arises why so-called “moderate” Muslims do not speak out against Islamic extremism. There are many reasons, which at times are complex, but a look at the history of Islam may help answer the question.
Islam traces its origins to the year 622 when the Prophet Muhammad and his small, but loyal, band of followers migrated to Medina in Arabia.
When Muhammad died in 632, he was succeeded by his father-in-law, Abu Bakr who became the first Muslim Caliph.
Abu Bakr’s duties as Caliph were to continue the political and administrative functions of Islam that began under Muhammad’s leadership.
The succession of Muhammad did not go undisputed however. The religion split into two factions known as Sunni and Shiite or Shia.
That division continues today, and though both denominations follow the teachings of Muhammad, each faction believes that it follows the faith as the prophet intended. Therefore, neither recognizes the other as “true” Muslims.
The majority of Muslims throughout the world today are Sunni, with the Shia making up only about 10 to 15% of the religion.
Those who claim that the Islamic State is not Islam, should take notice that the current leader of ISIS is a man named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In other words, the Islamic State clearly believes it is following the tenets of Islam as taught in the 7th century.
As Islamic expansion moved westward in the mid-600s, Muslim armies conquered vast areas of what is now Africa and Europe. Captives were given a choice that has become familiar to the Western world as a contemporary practice, though it traces its roots to the 7th century.
The choice Muslims gave their captives was to pay a heavy tax known as jizya, accept death as a penalty or to convert to Islam. Those who converted, which was a high percentage of the victims, became known as dhimmi.
Over time, Muslim’s controlled vast amounts of territory, but, at the same time, many, if not most, of the defeated people were Muslims in name only because they converted to Islam out of fear.
Christians made no attempt to fight back until 1096 when the first of several Crusades were an attempt to recapture lands that had been overrun by the Islamic expansion.
From 632 until 1096, a span of 464 years, the West made virtually no attempts to fight against their conquerors.
Compare that to what is happening in the Middle East today in Syria and Iraq with the Islamic State and the statement that “the Islamic State is not Islam” has little meaning.
Everyone can relate to personal influences in their own lives as they were growing up. Children often initially lean Republican or Democrat based upon their parents beliefs. The same is true of the religion they choose or even the sports teams they like.
Now take those same influences back in time to the conquered peoples of Islam who became Muslims in order to preserve their own lives.
Over a span of nearly 500 years, millions of people claimed to be Muslim without knowing or understanding anything about the religion. These people, though large in number, comprise a high percentage of what we call “moderate Muslims” today.
Simply said, many Muslim have no allegiance to the religion in the truest sense of the word. These “Muslims” may recite scripture from the Koran without any understanding of Arabic. Though they may say the words by rote, they probably do not know what they mean.
The word “Koran” means recital. It is intended to be spoken rather than read. It is said that only a Muslim cleric can truly interpret the Koran as written. Muslim authorities say the Koran cannot be translated and cannot be only be understood when read in Arabic.
Large numbers of “Muslims” remain Muslim because conversion to another religion is called “apostasy” and is punishable by death under the strictest codes of Sharia law.
The result is that a vast majority of “moderate Muslims” cannot, or do not, speak out because they are, in many ways, not true advocates of the religion as taught by the Prophet Muhammad.
That leaves the most passionate followers of Muhammad as the strongest believers, and they, like the Islamic State are, in a sense, adhering to the purest form of Islam.
Of course, the is far more complex than the above outline, but it does explain in a nutshell why moderate Muslims do not come forward when Islamic extremism is at its peak.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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