I was going to talk about the threat from other radical Islamic groups, but I think that we need to take a step back and look at the basic structure of Islam before putting Muslim radicals under our microscope.
First up: Mohammed
He was an ambitious, silver-tongued young man who grew up in the later part of the sixth century in the Arabian peninsula. He was born into prosperity and worked for the owner of a prosperous caravan. When aforementioned owner died, Mohammed sweet-talked his way into the affections of the wife (and heir) of the caravan owner – immediately launching Mohammed into the world of international trade.
His caravan route took him throughout the Middle East and brought him into direct contact with Judaism and Christianity. Puzzled by the often violent confrontations between these two seemingly identical religions – he went to the leadership of both groups and tried to unite them under his leadership. His resounding lack of success in this area prompted him to begin his own spiritual journey – borrowing elements of Judaism, Christianity, and bits of other religions.
The result was Islam.
The book written in his name was called the Qur’an (aka Koran). It is a jumbled collection of essays on proper religious life, written down by those who heard him. (It is doubtful that Mohammed could actually read or write himself.)
I believe that this ‘jumbledness’ is important. It has led to internal strife within Islam over the proper order of things and has allowed radical Islam to impose its philosophy on those who do not know better. By not offering a clear, coherent, and consistent message, the Qur’an has allowed the cynical and self-interested to hijack Islam to their own ends.
However, in their defense, the Muslim holy book preaches both peace and war. It also preaches friendship with Jews and Christians (towards the beginning of the book) and the genocide of Jews and Christians (toward the END of the book).
It is also a book that reflects the violent culture that held sway in the region of Arabia. Much of what Mohammed gained during his life was through the sword, and not from any true “I’ve seen the light” epiphany on the part of the peoples of Arabia.
The same of course can be said about Roman Catholic Europe, so we Westerners should be careful about throwing stones.
Anway, those that preach peace and reconciliation with Judaism and Christianity are reading from the first part of the Qur’an. Those that preach the war, death and slavery of Jews and Christians are reading from the last part of the Qur’an.
That last bit speaks to an important attribute of human pschology: we tend to forget the first thing someone tells us, and remember the last thing.
Next up: The Shia/Sunni divide