By Mohammad Mazhari

Western powers have exploited takfiri groups to divide Islamic world: academic

May 19, 2021 - 15:18

TEHRAN – An Indonesian researcher says extremist forces have been used as foot soldiers of Western powers since the Cold War.

"These extremist forces were used by the British to fight against the Ottomans," Dina Y. Sulaeman tells the Tehran Times.

 "In the Cold War era, the West again used this ideology of takfirism for their benefit."

For decades West Asia failed to experience stability and peace, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. Besides tyrannical regimes that suppress peoples' liberties, the Islamic world endures a long-term sectarian division, ignited by takfiri extremists.

But who supports sectarian conflicts and who benefits from destabilization in the region?

"There needs to be political awareness among Muslims themselves so that they can detect the evil intentions of the West that want to divide Muslims for their interests," the lecturer of international relations at Padjadjaran university remarks.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are the roots of conflicts in the Islamic world, especially sectarian conflicts?

A: From a political perspective, the root of conflict in the Muslim world is the political greed of a few parties. They use religion for political gain and power. If we examine the sectarian conflicts in Muslim World, we can see that the cause is the ideology of takfirism. Many countries have clearly stated the name of the doctrine, namely Wahhabism. But the question is, who spread this ideology with huge funds? What's in their interest to pass it on? The answer to this question was conveyed by the Prince of Saudi Arabia himself, Mohammed Bin Salman, in his interview with the Washington Post in 2018. He said that the Saudi government was spreading Wahhabism by building mosques and schools around the world at the request of the Western powers to prevent the influence of the Soviet Union in Muslim countries. 

“Thank God, Indonesia has two major organizations, namely Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhahmadiyah, which have a total membership of around 80 million people. These two organizations are like solid pillars that keep Indonesia from falling into extremism and sectarianism.”If we look far back, in the 18th century, in the Middle East (West Asia), especially the Hijaz and Iraq, there were massacres carried out by the Wahhabists. Their jargon was religious purification, but we also saw that they worked together with the rulers, and the goal was territorial control. Then, these extremist forces were used by the British to fight against the Ottomans. In the Cold War era, the West again used this ideology of takfirism for their benefit. It continues to the present. The Syrian war clearly shows that takfiri groups are only being used by the West for their interests. The proof is that the U.S., which has so far claimed to be fighting against terrorism in Syria, has supplied weapons to militias affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Q: What are the main challenges that threaten the unity of the Islamic world?

A: As I explained in the first question, the root of conflict in the Muslim world is power politics. I have already said that the West takes advantage of the ideology of takfirism for their benefit.  Muslim people need to recognize that takfirism is not the true teaching of Islam. It is necessary to disseminate what true Islamic teachings are. We must spread the values of tolerance, compassion, and brotherhood in Islam because this is the core of Islamic teaching.  Furthermore, there needs to be political awareness among Muslims themselves so that they can detect the evil intentions of the West that want to divide Muslims for their interests.
 
Q: How can takfiri groups gain influence in some Islamic countries? 

A: Mainly because of the significant funds and political protection provided by the West. The big question is, why are the figures who divide Muslims always protected by the West? For example, Yaser Habib, who claims to be a Shia figure, makes various behaviors that deliberately anger the Sunni community. Ayatollah Khamenei has issued a fatwa that is forbidden to commit acts that insult Sunni figures. Why was Yaser Habib even facilitated by the British broadcasts? Of course, because the West has an interest in continuing to divide Muslims.

Q: How do you describe Islamic thought in Indonesia when it comes to confronting extremism? 

A: As I have quoted earlier, Prince MBS's statement, Saudi Arabia spread its ideology throughout the world, at the request of the West in the Cold War era. Indonesia had also received a flow of those funds. Recently there is an increase in radical attitudes and even acts of terror, such as the bombing of churches. But, thank God, Indonesia has two major organizations, namely Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhahmadiyah, which have a total membership of around 80 million people. These two organizations are like solid pillars that keep Indonesia from falling into extremism and sectarianism.

Q: How can Muslims reinforce women's role in politics and Islamic activities? Could you update us about women's role in Indonesia's social sphere?

A: We in Indonesia have no problem regarding women's activities. Indonesian women have the freedom to choose their activities in society. Mainly because the two prominent organizations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhahmadiyah, have always been moderate and supported the involvement of women in the life of the country. Learning from Indonesia, we can conclude that women's role in politics and Islamic activities should be encouraged by scholars and community leaders.