Friday, March 31, 2006

Muslims declare each other apostates--with violent results

OpinionJournal - Taste : Holier Than Thou - BY MASOOD FARIVAR : "The international uproar over the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan convert to Christianity charged with apostasy, has drawn attention away from a far more common and nefarious practice infecting religious practice in Islam: the accusation of heresy leveled by Muslims against fellow Muslims, a practice known as takfir. Historically, little more than a rhetorical device, takfir has in recent years grown into a deadly weapon in the hands of Muslim extremists bent on purging Islam of just about anyone who does not subscribe to their views. Today jihadist terrorists in Iraq have begun to use takfir as a rallying cry for violence against the Shiites.

The concept of religious censure is not unique to Islam, of course, but under Islamic law the charge of apostasy may not only condemn the person to hell but require his immediate death, if he does not repent. Recognizing the danger of such charges to the peace of the community, the Prophet Muhammad went out of his way to discourage takfir. Muhammad's recorded sayings, known as hadith, are full of admonitions against takfir. In one famous hadith, the Prophet said: "If a Muslim accuses a fellow Muslim of unbelief, the accuser himself becomes an unbeliever should the accusation prove untrue."

Of course, Muhammad's warnings did not prevent the outbreak of the "wars of apostasy" waged against rebellious Arab tribes in 632, the year the Prophet died, or the emergence in the late seventh century of a radical group known as Khawarij, whose members argued that committing a simple sin constituted heresy.

a small group of Muslims wants to revive takfir. The man many scholars identify as the father of modern takfir ideology was Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyyah, a 13th-century theologian whose edicts against the invading Mongols foreshadowed modern calls for a jihad against the rulers of the Middle East. Taymiyyah was a largely unknown figure until he was rediscovered by Sayyid Qutb in the 20th century. Qutb was an Egyptian lslamist who declared that all of Muslim society had effectively reverted to jahiliyyah--or the state of ignorance that predated Islam--and that the few enlightened Muslims left must engage in a jihad against the rest.

The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan--themselves targets of apostasy charges--have denounced the takfiris. Last year Jordanian King Abdullah hosted a conference of 180 Islamic scholars from 45 countries representing all branches of Islam. It issued a declaration condemning takfir. Saudi Arabia, where the late King Fahd had long called takfir a root cause of extremism and terrorism, launched a counseling program for militants in prison. Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have undertaken a vigorous campaign to clean their school curricula teachings that encourage takfir."

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