A federal court in Cincinnati has given the order to allow local television station WXIX air an exclusive interview with Christopher Cornell, the suspect arrested for his plot to assassinate President Obama, go on a rampage on Congressional members and eventually on to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC.
Originally bound by gag order from contact with the outside world, Cornell made a collect call to the station who gave an on the spot telephone interview.
“I would have put it to Obama’s head. I would have pulled the trigger. Then I would unleash more bullets on the Senate and House of Representative members. And I would have attacked the Israeli Embassy and various other buildings full of Kafir who want to wage war against us Muslims.” ~Christopher Cornell
Absolutely shocking! Or, maybe not.
Over a decade ago, many times as a reverted Muslim and activist for the rights of Muslims, I have felt the same tug testing my loyalties. Many ask the question how a person can get this far gone, but it really isn’t that difficult to radicalize.
It has little to do with religion, though it is deeply shrouded in religion.
Shortly after I converted to Islam, I was invited to a charity event in Chicago. My new Muslim friends and I were sitting together as they spoke in Bengali among themselves. Next they turned to me and asked what I thought about the Israeli/Palestinian crisis. I wasn’t more than a month into the religion of Islam. I had not even thought about politics and had no interest in it. I replied, “I don’t know. I try to keep politics out of religion.” They kindly explained why it is such a concern for Muslims to stand for justice for each other even in other countries. We are all one brotherhood and have a duty to defend Muslims worldwide.
All of this made sense and to this day I agree with it. However, the level of getting involved in “defense” is a highly charged topic with some Muslims. I found this out when I attended an Islamic conference in Detroit in 1998, when it was disrupted by 3 individuals pronouncing takfir (declaring not-muslim) on all Muslims who do not fight for the establishment of the Khalipha (Chaliphate). The instigators were soon ushered out of the conference hall.
For many millennium Muslims have had to confront Christian extremism and war from Europe in the form of “Crusades”. After the Crusades ended European governments had total colonial control of every Muslim land in the world except Iran and Afghanistan. Upon the end of colonial rule, European governments (the west) had granted independence to their former colonies and installed “puppet” governments. These governments were headed by locals who were more interested in making money and holding on to power through brutality and exploiting local resources to sell off to western nations. Locals rarely saw the benefits of foreign companies in their countries. Fast forward to today.
In Muslim populated countries lie vast populations that are not happy with their livelihood, governments, freedom, economy, etc. Their anger spans generations and is not only directed at their own governments, but former colonial powers and eventually on to the “west” in general. The media dubbed “Arab Spring” was not an enlightenment of discovering the glories of western civilization. It was an “Arab Uprising” against the dictators propped up and supported by the west.
Generational anger has also included America due to it’s support for another colonial state, Israel, a nation created strategically, and in part, for the west (mainly the USA) to have a foothold in the middle east against Soviet allied nations (Arabs) during the Cold War. Most Arab states were allied with the USSR and had populations hostile to the west.
The root of the issue is not religious, but political and spans generations before a new convert like myself. It is one reason that I told my friends that I didn’t concern myself with politics and a reason people want to separate politics and religion in Islam. I soon found out that separating politics and religion isn’t as easy as it seems. In the west, one can separate religious control of the state but religion is still an integral part of politics. The notion to separate Islam and politics is perhaps a topic for another article as it is a hotly contested topic in the community.
As the Christians in the west are discovering, politics and religion must intersect at some point. Jews as well know this. Hence, while living in societies that largely keep religious control out of politics, they recognize that they have to still stay involved in order to survive. The Christian Coalition and American Israel Public Affairs Committee are some examples of methods of involvement that garners large support form a religious base, though not all of their members are religious. Beyond these organizations, even in America, Presidents have often used Bible verses to support their public speeches while in office and George W Bush often commented on how he is guided by his Christian faith. In response to the September 11, 2001 attack he quoted a verse from Scripture (Psalms 23) and in his announcement of the Iraq war he even quoted the Bible and called it a “Crusade“.
Add to these facts, the war in Iraq which was based on lies by the very President that said he was guided by his Christian faith. It appears the ends justifies the means according to the west.
To accompany US military troops in Iraq, Franklin Graham, a Christian Televangelist known for hateful comments about Muslims and Islam, announced his campaign to flood Iraq with Missionaries under the guise of offering relief aid. ~ABC News
“American Christian missionaries have declared a “war for souls” in Iraq, telling supporters that the formal end of the US-led occupation next June will close an historic “window of opportunity”.
Organising in secrecy, and emphasising their humanitarian aid work, Christian groups are pouring into the country, which is 97 per cent Muslim, bearing Arabic Bibles, videos and religious tracts designed to “save” Muslims from their “false” religion.” ~Guardian UK
It sounds very much like the Spanish Inquisitions instituted by Pope Innocent III. Once a thriving multicultural country under Islamic rule (New York Times), Christians waged a holy war against Jews (the cursed) and Muslims (the infidels) to retake Spain. Many were murdered in the streets, forcefully converted or exiled. ~SimpleToRemember
“The notorious hatred between Jews and Christians led the inquisitors to believe that their actions actually saved Jews from the hideous fate awaiting them in the underworld; since the Jews were dying at the hands of God’s children…” ~Don Quijote Spanish School
The Christians even hunted those who converted to Christianity and relapsed, killing them on the spot.
With this short snapshot of history (old and new), is it now so hard to see how ISIS and Al Qaida supporters have developed the narrative that the west is on a Crusade to exterminate the Muslim people or convert them?
Enter new convert to Islam or a lapsed Muslim rediscovering his faith. We want to discover everything about our adopted faith. The problem is that we have no guide to help us wade through this sorted history, except our own devices.
In a large Mosque, I struggled to find a program designed to help me along in my religious learning. I was familiar with organised religious learning programs for new converts in the Synagogues or Churches and expected similar programs to exist in our Mosques. In the United States, these programs just do not exist in the Mosques. In fact, I had suggested the idea of a new revert integration program on a number of occasions to two large Islamic organisations and their eyes just glazed over and the idea fell flat. It’s just not something Muslim institutions (mostly 1st generation immigrant controlled) are geared to do at present.
I’m not talking about the once a week talk with the Sheikh on random topics that is often done or the random group that is trying to establish such a thing, but a comprehensive curriculum for new or rediscovering Muslims funded and supported by the Mosques who have the best means to reach the masses.
Organised and controlled religious programs can be done if Islamic organizations change their philosophy. It is important in the fight against radicalism for them to change from being a religious support for immigrant Muslims offering charity and a place to pray, to adding a comprehensive integration program to help new converts and people rediscovering their faith sort through the dogma, history, religious doctrines and generally find their way through the community and it’s services.
Once someone coverts, people are very friendly and there is constant encouragement to ask questions, learn about the faith, but no organised program for any set period of time to help integrate us.
Often what you will find is that outside groups notice you are new and approach you to join their talks and learn Islam from them. If the Mosque does not allow them to have their talks in the Mosque (because their ideology doesn’t agree with the Mosque ideology) then you are invited to peoples homes or out for a meal. This provides fertile ground for radicalization, after which when the new or rediscovering Muslim (immigrant Muslims becoming more religious) commits a crime or act of terrorism everyone is up in arms on how they were such a good person but not realizing what they have been involved with outside of the Mosque.
I cannot count the times I’ve been approached by random groups or individuals to learn Islam or attend a special khalakah (talk).
Christopher Cornell may sincerely believe in his cause now. It’s possible he may change with a lot of deprogramming. The problem of extremism is not new. It has existed for thousands of years and exists in every faith. Without proper guidance, the history of Muslim countries and the west, cherry picking verses of Qur’an and out of context or obscure hadith, it is very easy for us to be radicalized in this way.
Islamic organizations have a duty to their religion, their institutions, the people that frequent them and the world to design comprehensive integration programs. It is the best way to “clarify” the religion to people so they can be rightly guided and not sheep among wolves that either happen by to take advantage of them or stalk them on the internet.
If you don’t allow Allah to rightly guide them through you, Shaytan is there to fill the gap. Fisabilillah (for the sake of Allah), consider this in the light of the following verses.
“It is You we worship and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path – The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.” ~Qur’an 1:5-7
“Have you not seen those who assert that they believe in what has been revealed to you [Muhammad] and what was revealed before you? They desire to summon one another to the judgment of the Shaitan, though they were commanded to deny him, and the Shaitan desires to lead them astray into a remote error.” ~Qur’an 4:60