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Islamic World Studies

Professor Rahman calls on Muslims to reject Isis ideology

Fatima Rahman, assistant professor of politics and chair of Islamic World Studies, calls on Muslims to reject extremism in the name of their faith. She was interviewed by Daily North Shore, by Steve Sadin.

Fatima Rahman, specializing in the politics of the Middle East and Islam believes the most effective long-term weapons against the Islamic State and its supporters like the San Bernardino shooters are ideological ones coming from the governments of Muslim-dominated countries.

Admitting the fight against the Islamic State is a deeply complicated struggle, Fatima Rahman, an assistant professor in the Lake Forest College Department of Politics, does not think terrorism in the name of Islam will be contained until Muslims reject extremism in the name of their faith.

“Leaders of mainly Muslim countries have to speak out as the rest of the world is doing,” Rahman said using language similar to that used by President Barack Obama in his speech to the country Dec. 6 on the San Bernardino shootings Dec. 2. “You have to speak out against the ideology they follow. Condemnation is a minimum. They have to use force. The United States should pressure them to do that.”

Rahman said the terrorist attack Dec. 2 in San Bernardino, Calif., is an example of the leadership failure because it is possible the shooters were radicalized in Saudi Arabia. While Syed Farook was an American, his wife and co-terrorist, Tashfeen Malik, was born in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia where she and Farook met.

“It’s likely she was radicalized there,” Rahman said. “The extreme Wahhab ideology there has to be eradicated. They operate mosques and schools and leadership has to close them down.”

The San Bernardino attack was particularly disturbing to Rahman who grew up in San Diego where she earned her undergraduate degree and got her masters at the University of California in Riverside, not far from San Bernardino. She said she was nervous as she waited to learn the name of the shooter.

“It hit really close to home,” Rahman said. “When I heard the shooter’s name my stomach sank. I felt sick.”

Rahman said this most recent terrorist attack reinforced what she felt in the wake of the attack by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Paris and the downing of a Russian airliner over the Sinai desert. She said the West must become more involved but still puts the onus on Muslim countries in the Middle East and beyond.

Rahman said followers of ISIS, as well as members of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other extremist groups, are a tiny minority of the world’s 1.5 to 1.6 billion Muslims.

“ISIS is not true to the message of the Quran or the Prophet’s (Muhammad) teachings,” Rahman said. “What ISIS is, is a political ideology which is known as political Islam. This is toxic political Islam.”

With three degrees including a Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine, Rahman is currently teaching Understanding Islam and has also taught Politics of the Middle East, Political Systems of the Islamic World and Political Islam.

Islam was a faith steeped in prayer and doing good works from its founding by the prophet Muhammed in 610 until the rise of Wahhabism in the 18th century, according to Rahman. Followers of the sect account for three percent of the world’s Muslims. She said a Muslim preacher, Wahhab, introduced a form of political Islam that spawns the terrorist groups of today.

“They are an extreme, violent sect and they subjugate women,” Rahman said. “Political Islam is the use of the faith for a political purpose,” she added giving her definition of political Islam.

Making women second class citizens was never part of the plan, according to Rahman. Muhammed’s wife, Khadijah, was a wealthy business person who asked the Prophet to marry her.

“She was the breadwinner,” Rahman said. “She proposed to him. Women have the right to agree to who they marry. This was very revolutionary at the time.”

The fight is not only a military one, according to Rahman. She said countries like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States need to eliminate the breeding ground for future terrorists.

“The governments should close down the (extreme) religious institutions,” Rahman said. “They should close the schools where they are learning Wahhabism. If you don’t they’ll just continue to breed more terrorists.”

Rahman said she discounts the faith of ISIS fighters. She has a different name for them.

“They are thugs with a criminal background,” Rahman said. “They use religion as a cover to murder. ISIS lets them do it with a higher calling.”

Rahman said the solution in Syria has to be a political one with Muslim nations in the region playing a key role and the U.S., France, Russia and other Western countries pushing them in that direction.