Leaving Islam



Growth of Islamic radicalism addressed at Rutgers Camden conference 

By David Portnoe

When terrorists hijacked four airliners and slammed two of them into the World Trade Center towers on 9/11, they did so in the name of Islam and advocates of Jihad, holy war, against the West, according to Kim Shienbaum, associate professor of political science at Rutgers-Camden. Shienbaum said that after 9/11 she began to wonder how representative of Islam were Osama bin Laden and his followers. To help answer that question, she and two other experts on the Islamic world gathered recently at Rutgers-Camden for a symposium, "Has Islam been Hijacked?" 

"Has someone within Islam taken control of all or part of Islam?," asked Walid Phares, a professor of Middle East studies at Florida Atlantic University . "That is the central question," he said at the Mar. 5 conference on the Rutgers-Camden campus. The event, which was sponsored by the Rutgers-Camden Political Science Dept. and several student groups, was attended by approximately 50 students and professors. In addition to Shienbaum, who served as moderator, and Phares, the conference also featured Jamal Hasan, a native of Bangladesh and a vocal critic of radical Islam. 

Phares, who is a frequent guest on MSNBC, said that Jihadists, those within Islam who have adopted an ideology of holy war, have been around since the very beginning of Islam 1,400 years ago. Phares noted that soon after the founding of Islam, the religion spread from the Arabian peninsula, into North Africa , Spain , throughout the Middle East, and into Asia through a series of bloody conquests. Osama bin Laden and other radical Islamists, according to Phares, are continuing their holy war and see themselves in this expansionist tradition. 

A pivotal event in the current Jihad movement, according to Phares, was the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan . The Mujahedin [sic] succeeded in forcing the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan . Soon after, the Soviet Union collapsed. "We know about Gorbachev and the internal implosion of the Soviet Union, but they saw the Soviet Union collapse, and then groups like Al-Qaeda decided to go after the United States ," said Phares. 

Hasan's view of the current state of Islamic affairs was particularly dire. He said that Bangladesh was once a tolerant place, but all that has changed. "Islamists have taken over," He said, adding that liberal writers are physically attacked and the Madrasses [sic], Islamic schools, are turning out "Talibanists," referring to the former rulers of Afghanistan . 

"Modern Muslims should not give in to the fundamentalists," said Hasan. He said Muslims, like modern Christians and Jews should take their religion "with a grain of salt." Hasan said that Bible states that a woman who commits adultery should be stoned, "but even in Israel , no one is stoned." He said that Muslims "should join the modern world." 

Following their prepared remarks, the panelists took questions from the audience. In response to a question, Hasan said that even in the United States , he hears Muslims demonize the West. He said that he has met Bangladeshis who use "convoluted logic." They enjoy the fruits of living in America , including huge bank balances and homes in Palm Beach , while at the same time they attack the U.S. , according to Hasan. 

One questioner asked whether the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had made the situation worse. Phares said that President Bush was right to topple Saddam Hussein, but he used the wrong reason. Instead of putting forward the idea that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, Bush should have pointed out that Hussein's regime murdered 400,000 Shia Muslims and 100,000 Kurds. 

Phares added that the United States would never have received support from the United Nations for the Iraqi invasion no matter what reasoning it used. "The Arab regimes would never have supported intervention, because they themselves are repressive regimes," he said. 

Both Hasan and Phares said that the war against terror and the Iraq invasion were the right moves. Hasan said that Iraq may be a mess for awhile, but that both Libyan leader, Moamar Khadafi's decision to give up his weapons of mass destruction and Pakistan-India negotiations were direct results of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Phares said that the positions, "which you find on campuses," that 9/11 was caused by American policies and that Iraq should not have been invaded are wrong.






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