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May 31, 2016

Islamist Ideology Goes Missing in Post Report

Professor Bernard Haykel

The Washington Post’s “Hezbollah blames Sunni extremists in recent killing of top commander? (May 15, 2016) by reporter Hugh Naylor failed to define an Islamic extremist term central to the news it reported.

Naylor, in a dispatch on fighting between Sunni Muslim terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Lebanese-based, Shiite Muslim terrorist organization Hezbollah, wrote:

“Hezbollah uses ‘takfiri,’ an Arabic word, to describe its extremist Sunni Muslim enemies, including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.?

But The Post, unjournalistically, doesn’t explain the term “takfiri? for its readers.

Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University, has noted that takfirism is the practice—often by adherents of the radical Salafist brand of Sunni Islam—of declaring a fellow Muslim to be an infidel, or non-believer. By declaring another Muslim to be a takfir, the Quranic prohibition of a Muslim killing a fellow religious adherent can be sidestepped. Islamic terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS have employed the doctrine of takfirism, derived from the teachings of Ibn Taymiyyah, a 13th and 14th century Islamic scholar to justify their killings of countless other Muslims, combatants and non-combatants alike.

Yet, extremist Shi’ite Muslim groups, such as Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terror movement, also use the term takfiri to describe Sunni Muslims. Fighting between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims dates back to a seventh-century split over who should succeed Mohammed, the founder of Islam. This smoldering intra-Islamic conflict has exploded, once again, across the Middle East in recent years, as is evidenced by fighting in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank:

“Iranian officials, Iraqi politicians, and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, routinely describe their Sunni opponents as takfiris (referring to the doctrine embraced by al-Qaeda of declaring fellow Muslims apostate) and Wahhabis (referring to the puritanical Saudi sect).?

In labeling their Sunni opponents takfiri, Hezbollah implies its adherents practice true Islam while their rivals amount to heretics.

By failing to define takfirism for readers, The Post, if unintentionally, downplayed a religious element that remains central to understanding fighting between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Posted by SD at May 31, 2016 02:16 PM


i agree that it's important to define "takfirism", but i think you could have elaborated a little more. or provided a link or two, such as .

Posted by: shloime at May 31, 2016 08:30 PM

This points to a singular reason why Islam is stagnant and cannot help itself or the people of Islamic states make "progress". Is it possible, Islam could function as a religion, instead of becoming the anti-religion of others, if the literacy level of its advocates ever rose above 15% in Muslim Revolutionary States like Afghanistan. The teaching of the Koran by rote recitation permits the Miktahs and Mullahs to indoctrinate their "believers" with a limited interpretation and knowledge of the Koran.
If you are Jewish you can not tell me that learning to read Hebrew and gaining access to the Torah does not have greater effect than choosing to never read the book at all, which is optional in English at least. Such access and ease of facility is a great asset.
The same is true of Christianity, the Bible excited me, it was a "Sacred" book, The desire to learn to read came from wanting to be able to read the Book on my own. That lead to my reading more secular publications ad broadening my knowledge in general and creates the possibility for more democratic freedoms through tolerance of criticism and ridicule of my beliefs.
It seems to me the Islamic religious leaders have their followers right where they want them, and because we are too liberal to "interfere" on religious grounds we have lost many great opportunities to befriend Islam. For example, when a Baptist minister threatened to burn a Bible, Obama's response was to call him and tell him, under no duress? not to, he even had the Theater commander call because it made the Afghanistan tribes violent. Instead of our media fanning those flames of violence by reporting this inane expression, they should have sat on the story but once it broke we should have offered those Muslims so offended copies of the Koran by bulk. They burn Bibles in those countries all the time without comment, the Gideon's just print thousands more. So unless the Koran that the Pastor threatened to burn was a thousand year old relic that was the pride of an Islamic community, instead of the generic one you buy off the shelf, this should have been better handled, but religion seems to get in the way with that religion. If we had sent Korans and teachers so people could learn to read the Koran under the eye of their Mullahs would they even accept the gesture? Or, Is it about control and minimizing the knowledge of Muslims so it may be used as a weapon?

Posted by: jeb stuart at June 6, 2016 09:48 AM

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