‘But this is NOT the real Islam!’
When confronted with the above moderate Muslims will often reply by arguing that these groups do not represent the real Islam. This is a nonsense. There is no such thing as a real Islam. Rather, there are multiple Islams. In fact the situation is quite absurd. There is no central authority in Islam and rival groups compete with each other to attract followers. As I write this a council of American Muslim scholars has issued a fatwa condemning terrorism. Yet, at the same time a council of orthodox scholars in Indonesia has issued a fatwa condemning moderates. Fatwa at twenty paces!
Authority for interpretation and judgement is usually given to the ulemma, a council of recognised imams or mullahs. However their judgements are only binding on their community. Each sect and each country can have its own ulemma. This means that there can be a range of judgements made, some of them contradictory, with rival ulemma in the same country issuing fatwa against each other .
It is also possible for charismatic teachers to arise and to create their own following. There is actually no formal process by which teachers and clerics can be officially recognised. Some modern sects were created by a single charismatic figure.
The fact is that there are many rival interpretations of Islam. These rival interpretations are in a state of civil war. The Islamists believe that moderates are apostates who have betrayed Islam and have been corrupted by the Western doctrines of democracy, capitalism and also, socialism. A great many bombings and assassinations have actually been directed at moderate Muslims and those governments that have adopted non-Muslim political principles. The West has become a target because they are seen to support the moderates.
The cry that this is not the ‘real’ Islam is actually completely and dramatically irrelevant. What matters is that sufficient numbers of Muslims continue to choose to follow the radical fundamentalist interpretation.
Nor is it a question of the radicals being a minority, for even if they are a minority they are an influential minority. In fact they are actually a majority in some countries (the majority of any population are usually not involved in politics anyway and tend to passively follow political groups who promise a better future). They are able to punch above their weight because they have financial and ideological support from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Perhaps the question that should be asked of moderates is this, if the radicals are a minority and if they do not represent the ‘real’ Islam how is it they have been able to carry on a global jihad on several fronts, jihads that include civil wars, secessionist movements, revolutions, assassinations and global terrorism? The list of countries that have been affected by this global jihad is quite long.
As I write this incidents have occurred in England, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Kashmir and Bangladesh. The simple fact is that there is broader private support for the Islamists objectives than is ever admitted to publicly and a number are sitting on the fence, waiting to see which way things turn out.