Despite Donald Trump’s constant fear-mongering, the people who are most likely to be killed by militant religious radicals are not Christians or Americans, but other Muslims. This was born out earlier today in a horrific attack reported by the New York Times, where at least 235 Sufi Muslims in Egypt were slaughtered at a mosque while praying by members of ISIS. Hundreds of others were wounded in the attack.
Here are some things to consider. ISIS, along with Al-Qaeda and other radical sects of Islam sprang from a fundamentalist group of Sunni Muslims who call themselves Wahhabis. This group was formed in and is supported by our “ally” Saudi Arabia in the early 20th century. It is still prevalent and taught there today. The one thing that the Wahhabis have in common with fundamentalists of every other religion in the world is their belief that their interpretation of their religion is the only correct one. Anyone who does not share them is a heretic and therefore should die.
The Christian church went through this phase during the Reformation of the 16th and 17th century. Remember “Bloody Mary” the Tudor queen who tried to wipe out Protestantism in England after she came to the throne, and burned hundreds at the stake for their beliefs. She doubtless would have killed many more had she not died and been succeeded by her protestant half-sister Elizabeth I. Or the Inquisition in Spain?
Islam, like Christianity, is not a monolithic religion and it split into two separate groups shortly after it began. The largest number of Muslims in the world are called Sunni, but the group that split from them, over the question of who should succeed the Prophet Muhammed, are known as Shia. There are numerous other smaller groups of Muslims in the world, but perhaps the next most famous group are the Sufi. You may know them as the “whirling dervishes.” They are a mystical branch of Islam and one of their founders was the renowned poet/philosopher Rumi, who lived and wrote in the 12th century in what is now Iran.
Many Sunni and Shia Muslims also consider the Sufi Muslims to be heretics, but without the fanatical driving force that would lead them to slaughter these people. However, the Wahhabis have no such inhibitions, as was demonstrated today. In a well-coordinated military operation, the mosque was attacked with bombs and fleeing worshippers were sprayed with gunfire as they fled the carnage. Some of the attackers remained behind and opened fire on first responders to the scene. One Muslim cleric from a nearby town was quoted in the Times article as saying “I can’t believe they attacked a mosque.”
Until recently, Egypt was a nation that considered itself religiously tolerant. Egyptian Muslims have even invited Christians to their country so they could proudly show them the Christian Coptic churches, long considered a part of Egyptian heritage. Sadly, thanks to ISIS and other like-minded fanatics, it is no longer safe to do so.
These radical, militant fundamentalists are not just at war with Christians or America, they are at war with any other Muslim who does not adhere to their narrow, defined version of what they consider to be “true” Islam. Like other fundamentalists, they “cherry pick” the verses of their holy book the Qu’ran to fit their narrative. Their relationship to Islam is no different than that of Jim Jones’ and the Peoples Temple to Christianity.
Muslims don’t “hate” Christians. Wahhabis do. Muslims don’t kill Christians. Wahhabis do. Groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban don’t represent Islam, they represent Wahhabism. This is why our former leaders like President Obama refused to call them “Islamist” terrorists. Because they are not Islamists. And anyone who tells you differently doesn’t understand the current situation in the Middle East one bit.